Key says Stake C44 'virtually a completely new car'

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Stake F1 technical director James Key has hailed the arrival of the team's new contender the C44, which he says is almost a totally new design compared to last year's car that raced under the Alfa Romeo marque.

At a launch event at London's Guildhall on Monday evening, Key said that a slew of changes has been introduced – some very visible, some more subtle – to bring improved performance to the package and open up new areas of development.

A new pull-rod front suspension replaces the push-rod system used in the C43, and there is also an aggressively redesigned aero package with marked development evident in the sidepods, engine cover and a completely new floor.

Key joined the team during 2023 after leaving McLaren. It means that a large part of the development work of the C44 had been completed before he arrived at the team factory in Hinwil.

But the 52-year-old British engineer was unmistakably very proud about what his team had achieved. and how much progress had been made compared to the team's predecessor.

“It's always great to see a new car coming out," he said on Monday. "The C44 project was already running before I joined the team, of course: I joined in the middle of it so I have to give credit to the team who have done a fantastic job.

"The team had to take an ambitious direction well before I joined: there are many mechanical changes, some of which you can't see at all, but some are very visible," he explained.

"The C44 is virtually a completely new car, with a few carry-over areas at the rear of the car," he continued. The front suspension is completely new, a tough and ambitious project for a team of our size.

"There are many aerodynamic changes, too, as would be expected given that this remains the primary area of development. So overall the car will really look quite different to last year's car.

"We took a lot of new, exciting directions, all of which appear to hold quite a bit of potential, so we're looking forward to seeing them on track.”

The C44 will get its first test of track action this Friday during a shakedown in Barcelona, before travelling to Bahrain for three days of official pre-season testing just a week before the first Grand Prix of 2024.

Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu will once again be the two drivers at the wheel of the car, in their third season for the squad.

"The new C44 definitely feels different," said Bottas. "We need to perform as a team and extract the most out of this package, which has some impressive potential. Nothing else matters!

"Personally speaking, going into the third season together with a team, the objectives need to be lofty. My own expectations are high, we definitely need to make a good step and see good progress from last year, a season in which, in all honesty, we didn't meet the targets that we set for ourselves.

"We need to fix that now," he insisted. "We need to step up our game and do better. But I have seen some real enthusiasm back in Hinwil, and I am confident we can do it."

"A lot of effort went into the new car and I'm excited to drive it soon," contributed Zhou. "We've been putting in a lot of effort since the last season, especially in the second half of the year, after the summer break, just to make sure that we're understanding exactly where we had to improve as a team.

"Now is the time to put everything together and get the car on track. The expectations are high. But at the same time we won’t know where we really stand until we start competing against our rivals."

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