There’s a game which takes place every year between auto manufacturers and car publications and both know the rules well.
The car maker is soon to launch a new model, but first it requires a fairly exhaustive final test. The tests are often held at private testing facilities – some of which have guard posts every 200 metres around the perimeter walls, similar to those used in the Second World War – and in certain countries with guards who have guns.
The skill of the spy photographer is to get into position with his long lens, shoot a few exclusive pictures for his publication and get out before he is discovered.
The problem for the manufacturer is, the first picture they want the world to see of their new creation is with it in pristine condition, sparkling like a million diamonds – and not the dusty and battered mule used for pounding round and round a test circuit.
To ensure this is the case, the car maker shrouds their precious baby as best they can. Some methodologies are cheap quick fixes – like a jacket held together with velcro – whilst others are a lot more sophisticated.
The current methodology is to wrap the car in a camouflage vinyl. This disguise is mostly in black and white and whilst described as Zebra like, the modern variations would make a zebra from the plains of Africa most envious.
The ‘dazzle’ camouflage has another purpose. It is designed to prevent the autofocus from the long lens camera’s being able to get a proper fix on the new vehicle. This prevents the ‘new lines’ of the prized secret being fully comprehended.
The drama of the official launch is then hopefully preserved.
Yet the game afoot is not easy for the auto manufacturer as experienced automotive spy photography Brenda Priddy revealed to AutoGuide.com
“Frankly, I find the new breed of camo (swirly lines and sometimes colorful patterns) very photogenic!” She mocks the attempts to confuse her camera’s focus too.
“They haven’t interfered with my camera’s focusing abilities, and they help make the photo even more interesting. It seems the camouflage changes every year. I can’t wait to see what they come up with this year.”
Ferrari Prototype thought to be a possible LMP1 entrant
So what has all this got to do with Formula One?
Most people may remember Monza 2014 for the enactment of the Mercedes team ‘Deutschland discipline” on driver Nico Rosberg, who repeatedly throughout the weekend re-designed the first corner by omitting to drive around the chicane. Yet Monza last year was a defining moment in the modern Formula One livery era.
It was in Italy where Sebastian Vettel was tapped on the shoulder by Marco Mattiacci and the serious business of finalising a deal was done, which would see the German quadruple world champion move to Ferrari this year.
During that weekend, Sebastian Vettel was sporting a most interesting helmet.
The sniggers in the paddock were plentiful. Vettel was having a terrible year by his standards and hiding from the camera lenses behind camouflage was probably not a bad idea. Whilst Seb qualified one place ahead of Ricciardo in 8th, he came home again behind the Australian on Sunday when it really matters.
Yet, it may be this helmet design was part of a longer term plan.
TJ13 can reveal, Vettel’s old team are going to ‘Dazzle’ the world of Formula One at their car launch. Further, as the photographers line up in the pit lane -in the cold and before the 08:30 sunrise in Jerez – they will not be seeing the predictable sight of Danny and Dan peeling back a sheet to reveal the RB11.
The car will eventually roll out to complete an installation lap – and WOW!!! This is what we’ll see.
So Adrian, what exactly are you hiding? The fact that the RB10 aero will be on display in Jerez?