With less than five days to go to the start of the Bahrain Grand Prix, Lotus team principal Tony Fernandes says ensuring its cars finish the race will be the squad’s main target for its maiden grand prix this weekend.
The Norfolk-based outfit, which has revived the Lotus name in Formula 1 after a 16-year absence, only joined the group testing fray from the penultimate test at Jerez following a whirlwind five months in which it had to design and build its 2010 car, hire staff and get prepared for the season.
Like fellow new boys Virgin and Hispania (The unfortunately named “HRT”), Lotus is likely to be cut adrift from the established squads at the back of the field having lapped around four seconds off the pace at the final test.
Outside of this though, Fernandes is still eagerly anticipating the start of the season. He is certain that the team will eventually catch up to the rest of the field. We are all looking forward to Bahrain,he said.
To have Lotus Racing on the grid will be a momentous occasion for all involved and, indeed, for our fans, whose support has been absolutely fantastic since we launched just under six months ago. Yes we are a little slower than the major leading teams, however we will get there, with passion, hard work and a clear vision our aim for this first Grand Prix will be to finish and steadily but surely improve, race by race.
Lotus Technical chief Mike Gascoyne, who designed the T127, was pleased with the team’s progress at its two test appearances and feels it is well prepared for its competitive track bow. Formula One’s new boys have so far not delivered the pace of the established Teams. Gascoyne believes that Lotus’ form has been affected by the fact that the outfit has had its focus on reliability from the outset.
Our test season was extremely productive – in general we’ve had very good reliability, and the team is in very good shape going to the first race,” he added
Lotus is planning a major aerodynamic upgrade in time for the start of the European season in Spain – with Gascoyne expecting big leaps forward in pace.
“Normally you are chipping away and finding tenths, but now we are looking at updates that will bring us a second,” he said.
“You have to bear in mind that when we were finalising the design of this car, doing the crash structure and radiator inlets, it was still a month away from going in a wind tunnel. The basic radiator configuration had to be designed with no cooling figures, and no data.
“People have said the bodywork at the rear is a bit chunky, and it is – because when we were deciding on cooling figures we didn’t have any engine data. And when we took the route that we want to finish the first few races – we had to make sure that it cools, and does all the right things, so we had to do it like that.”
These factors are often over looked. There are so many facets to consider. Just bringing a modern Formula One team to the grid is a significant achievement.
The adage of “To finish first, first you have to finish” is a legendary quote. The reality though, is that you have to be there in the first place. Ask USGP or the Stefan organisation!
In addition, Gascoyne is of the opinion that the greatest opportunity for the new teams may well be in the first four races. He acknowledged that they are unlikely to achieve a points finish so early on, on merit alone, following such a short and aggressive period of infancy for the new Team.
We look forward to the start of the new season with significant interest.