Sauber F1's new C32-Ferrari made its public début at noon on Saturday at the team's Swiss base in Hinwil, with the team's new drivers Nico Hülkenberg and Esteban Gutiérrez present to do the honours.
In a season where it seems changes are so small as to be barely noticeable, the new Sauber made a pleasant surprise with its brand new livery and significant changes to the bodywork, including major changes to the sidepods immediately discernible.
“I'm very excited," said Monisha Kaltenborn, presiding over her first car launch event as Sauber's team principal. "The roll-out of a new car is a very special moment every year. It's something you've been working towards for almost a year and then you get your first impressions of how good a job you've done."
After Kaltenborn made some prepared comments and the event host had interviewed the two drivers, there was the unveiling of the C32 - which has completely changed its livery from last year's rather basic white bodywork with dark blue/black front and rear ends, and instead features a much more stylish grey look with some red sponsor accents. (See more pictures from the launch here
But beyond the livery, the car itself looks very different from last year's model, as Sauber's chief designer Matt Morris explained.
"In summary, the regulations for 2013 haven't changed a lot, actually," he said. "But as you can see, we've created a visually very different car from last year.
"Starting at the front, one of the regulations that has changed is the allowance from the FIA for a 'vanity panel', if you wish to call it that. It's a non-structural faring that allows you to hide a step-nose," he continued. "It's one of the big questions that everybody's been asking all the teams, 'Will you or won't you have a step nose?' I think we've got something in between: we've still got the step nose in the centre, but we've used the panel for further optimisation."
Morris said that the idea for the new compact sidepods which are almost half their previous width came from an unfortunate incident in the past for the team's former driver Sergio Perez.
"I don't know if you can all remember, but Checo had quite a bad accident in Monaco a couple of years ago. When we got that car back and saw all the sidepods squashed in, we wondered if we could really do that for real!
"It's obviously aerodynamically driven, and it's been a huge challenge for us both structure-wise and packaging-wise in terms of all the radiators, electronic boxes, and also ensuring that we still pass all the mandatory FIA safety tests," he added.
"The sidepods are a bold move, a bold design, but we are pretty confident," Morris added. He also revealed that the car would feature a new braking system that had been under-development through 2012, and a new structure for the front wing to meet new FIA compliance tests.
While the exhaust system on the C32 is largely unchanged from last year, Morris confirmed that the team was still looking into the possible introduction of a passive DRS system.
With its stylish good looks and innovative features, the new car will be very much an unknown quantity right up until this week's first four days of pre-season testing at the Circuit de Jerez in Spain.
"Actually I am just looking forward to finally sitting in the car," admitted Hülkenberg. "It takes a couple of days until every detail is right; usually the adjustment process is completed when the first race is about to start!"
"In the beginning the most important task is to solve all the car's reliability issues so we can put in a lot of laps in the tests," explained Gutiérrez, who received the call-up to the Sauber F1 team to replace his Mexican compatriot Perez who has since departed for McLaren."Then, of course, another important factor is to get to know the car in race and qualifying conditions, which mainly comes with experience during the first races."
After the formalities, there was time for a quick 'gag' reel of light-hearted moments from behind the scenes at the factory to show how the new team mates were getting used to one another, although both men admitted that there had been little time for socialising so far.
"We have not got to know each other very well so far, but we met in the paddock every now and then and I value him as a team mate," said Hülkenberg.
"I know that Nico has a similar working mentality to mine as prior to making it to F1 we have raced in the same teams for a similar amount of time in the lower categories," added Gutiérrez.