With the new cars being unveiled up to a month and a half before the first race in Bahrain, the teams have been quite obsessed with hiding important elements of their design from other teams, journalists and photographers. We saw it every time a car stopped on track and had to be transported back to the pits: the first thing the teams were doing was to cover the diffuser as quickly as possible. Engineers were frequently used as human shields and when Mark Webber's car stopped on track on his first day of testing at Jerez, he used his helmet and gloves to cover the diffuser while waiting for help!
Surely it wasn't always like this. There's this lovely story on the F1 Badger about Niki Lauda letting his good friend James Hunt jump into his Ferrari and have a play. A few mechanics are standing around having a laugh while Hunt is climbing into his championship rival's car. Can you imagine something similar happening these days? Me neither.
On the contrary, teams now go to extreme lengths to hide their designs from their opponents. It was discovered that Red Bull put fake exhaust stickers on their engine cover to detract attention from the real exhaust, which has been moved lower.
Mercedes are going one step further and they're not testing their diffuser at all! Their new diffuser wasn't part of the upgrade package they took to Barcelona and they have announced that the first time the car will run with it will be the Bahrain Friday practice. It sounds risky but if the diffuser is really that good you don't want to give your opposition a couple of weeks before the season starts to study and copy the design, right?
To some extent, all the secrecy just adds to the excitement. Come Bahrain, we will see all the diffusers (although I'm sure engineers will still try their best to hide them!) and we will know who's fast and who's slow. Until then, it's good that some people can still see the funny side of it all: