The new car itself is a significant departure from the 2008 car, thanks primarily to new aerodynamic and powertrain regulations. The well-known rule changes regarding the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) and slick tires are being joined by strict limits on aerodynamic elements, engine durability and more.
The 2.4L Mercedes-Benz FO 108W V8 engine spins to a FIA-mandated maximum of 18,000rpm - down 1,000rpm from last year, though with assistance from the KERS system and sufficient mechanical trickery by the engineers, power output should be the same or higher. Though the front wing is lower to the ground and not as complex as last year's the design is intended to aid in overtaking by reducing overall downforce on the cars, thereby reducing the differential when closely trailing another car.
But the car is only part of the equation. The drivers that will be taking Mercedes' wheels this year, Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen, though confident, are also cognizant of the challenges that lie before them. "I’ve been busy training and working with my engineers to ensure we start the season as strongly as possible. With so many new rules, adapting quickly will be essential and I feel more prepared than ever for the new season,” said Kovalainen.
Hamilton echoed similar sentiments. "I believe this year’s world championship is open, given the new rule changes and that’s a great prospect for every Formula 1 fan. Personally, I’m hoping for another successful season and the chance to once again fight for the title – until the final race if necessary, but preferably before!”
Things will be different at the top, as well, with Ron Dennis announcing at the car's unveiling that he plans to hand over the reigns as team principal to McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 CEO Martin Whitmarsh. Dennis insists the change is "one hundred percent" his decision, adding, "I will always be part of McLaren. I just want to have the odd longer weekend."