MF1 Racing, which will be the first entry in the F1 championship to race under the Russian flag, became the latest team to present its 2006 challenger when it launched the Toyota-powered M16 at Silverstone on February 3rd. The car features red, white and grey livery and, while knowledge of the previous Jordan EJ15B chassis helped the development, it is described as a completely new car.
Jordan confirmed in January 2005 that the Midland Group would take over the team, although it still raced as Jordan last year. Due to third and fourth place finishes in the controversial US Grand Prix, the Silverstone based squad finished ninth in the constructors' standings and it was a difficult year. Unsurprisingly, MF1 intends to improve upon that.
"We have restructured the company and refurbished our headquarters as the first stage of our long-term plans," said managing director Colin Kolles. "The M16 car is 100% a product of MF1 Racing -- solid proof of our serious intentions. But even though we have invested a great deal into building a brand-new car, we remain realistic about the challenge we face as a private team against the world's top motor manufacturers."
Technical director James Key commented: "The M16 is a completely new car. Obviously, the information we have gained from developing the EJ15B has gone into building the M16, but it is significantly improved in so many ways - mechanically, aerodynamically, even the way it is packaged. We are very optimistic about the progress that lies ahead."
MF1's race drivers for 2006 are Christijan Albers and Tiago Monteiro. In the test roles are a varied line-up of hopefuls, including Markus Winkelhock, Roman Rusinov and Giorgio Mondini, who has just been announced as the third driver in Friday practices for nine race weekends this season. In addition there is newly confirmed official junior driver Adrian Sutil.
Albers came from German touring cars to his rookie F1 season in competition with Minardi last year. Monteiro, who had previously been a Minardi test driver and Nissan World Series competitor, did likewise with Jordan. Winkelhock raced in the World Series by Renault in 2005, as did Mondini, who also took part in GP2 in the second half of the season. Rusinov was Le Mans Endurance champion in 2004 and Sutil was runner up in the 2005 F3 Euroseries.
"Both Tiago and Christijan had outstanding rookie years in 2005 and we believe this tandem forms a strong, competitive partnership that will benefit us in our first season as MF1 Racing," said Kolles. "Our three test drivers have all achieved considerable success in other formulae and we are confident they have the potential to develop into successful F1 drivers."
Alex Shnaider, chairman and co-founder of the Midland Group, which owns MF1, said: "I am very proud of the passion and ingenuity demonstrated by our workforce and partners, who are the lifeblood of this team. Everyone has worked extremely hard to make this car a reality and I am confident that if we maintain this level of commitment, we will continue to make further and more frequent leaps forward in the years to come."