Car launches now are pretty much all the same – they’re usually either low-key events from the factory or simple photo shoots in the pit lane before testing. And thanks to the internet we can watch them all live on social media and look up photos of them instantly.
But as you can see in this clip taken from the 1997 season review video, 20 years ago things were a bit different. Launches were still big media events (for most teams anyway), and teams were always up for doing something a bit different – although for the Arrows team I don’t think doing a shakedown in the dark was what they were after!
Despite them being big events however, the average fan had nothing like the access they do now. Your best chance of seeing the new cars before the season was either a short clip on the news (usually only of the major teams), some pictures in the newspaper, or in a dedicated F1 magazine. And if you missed all of those, you’d probably have to wait until the pre-show for qualifying of the first race on TV to not only see what the cars were like, but often who the drivers were too!
There’s some great stuff in here. Damon Hill driving his Arrows in the dark, Michael Schumacher drifting his Ferrari, Olivier Panis doing some winter testing at Monaco, and Nigel Mansell testing for Jordan when he was thinking about making yet another comeback.
How was this even 20 years ago though?! Max Verstappen and Lance Stroll weren’t even alive yet, the closest thing there was to a Tilkedrome was the A1 Ring, and McLaren used an orange livery. I mean, a McLaren with an orange livery? You just wouldn’t see that in F1 nowadays.
That new Lola team looks impressive though. Expecting big things from them in the future.