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Vodafone McLaren Mercedes to Debut New Formula 1 Car in February: Fan's View

Only a day after the Sauber F1 Team announced the debut of their 2012 Formula 1 car with a very funny Christmas-themed press release, it was Vodafone McLaren Mercedes' turn to be creative with the announcement of their new 2012 Grand Prix car.

Sauber demonstrated their sense of humor by talking about their technicians constructing an official Christmas wreath from carbon fiber and ensuring it met all the stringent Formula 1 rules, a funny dig at FIA and their many regulations. Vodafone McLaren Mercedes used one of rock's most important icons, John Lennon and quoted liberally from his amazing song "Happy Christmas (War is Over)".

Vodafone McLaren Mercedes will debut their hot new 2012 F1 car, the MP4-27, first to the automotive press on February 1, 2012 and then to the public February 7-10 at the Jerez testing series in Spain. Sauber will also debut their 2012 car at the Spanish tests. The new McLaren car replaces this MP4-26 car, which has done well for the team in 2011.

I think Vodafone McLaren Mercedes had a great 2011 season, on the strength of their two superstar drivers Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton. Had it not been for robo-driver Sebastian Vettel, I think either Button or Hamilton would have won the championship. Button finished second, right behind Vettel, and Hamilton finished in fifth place in the F1 driver rankings. As a team, McLaren-Mercedes finished in second place in the team rankings, behind the powerhouse of Red Bull Racing - Renault.

It will be interesting to see what technical changes McLaren makes to the 2012 car. There are some rules changes they will need to deal with, including the ban on blown diffusers. The team opted not to use forward facing exhausts this year and although the team did well, they didn't come in first, so we may see an exhaust change next year.

With Formula 1 restrictions, teams may only track-test their new cars during the official pre-season test days, like at Jerez. FIA has added a single three-day mid-season test for the 2012 calendar, a change from 2011 that I think will help teams make mid-season changes. Another rule change for 2012 is that cars must pass the safety crash-test first, before track testing. This means teams must have more finalized, complete cars to crash-test, leaving less time for track testing, as they will have to have cars almost finished just to safety test. I think it adds another layer to the strategy required to win Formula 1 championships. It doesn't just take a fast car or good driving to win, there's a lot more involved.

A lifetime auto racing fan, Freddy Sherman collects vintage muscle cars and attends races and rally events in the U.S. and around the world. You can follow him on twitter -@thefredsherman

More from this contributor:

Is Red Bull Racing spending too much money?

DRS is a good thing for F1: A fan's view

With Sebastian Vettel Out, Lewis Hamilton Wins in Abu Dhabi: Fan View