Tag Archives: Lotus

F1 2012 season opener preview

There’s only a few days to go until the Formula 1 season kicks off again – the off-season really does fly by.

But there’s no time to waste. With everyone gearing up for a much closer title fight this year, it’s time to take one last glance at the pack, and try to predict how the teams will fare in Melbourne:

Red Bull

Red Bull may well battle with McLaren for 2012

Red Bull may well battle with McLaren for 2012

Nobody can deny that Red Bull will be at the front this year – it’s almost a given.

However, that’s not to say that the Adrian Newey-designed RB8 will run away with the title again. The ban on exhaust-blown diffusers has cut their advantage to the other teams, and further restrictions on front wing flexibility put them under greater pressure over the winter.

Sebastian Vettel is still the team #1 after back-to-back world titles. While Mark Webber is gearing up to challenge his teammate, I don’t think the Australian is up to the challenge. The best indicator of Webber’s performance will be in Australia, where Mark has never finished higher than 5th. If he can break his streak of bad luck, then he may be in with a chance.

Still, I predict a Vettel pole position in Australia – after that nobody can be certain.

McLaren

The MP4-27 may well being McLaren back to winning ways

The MP4-27 may well being McLaren back to winning ways

Pre-season testing has indicated that the Woking squad are back in top form in 2012.

However, they have a mighty challenger in the form of Red Bull. Both teams have tested out radical innovations on their cars, and it is still unclear who possesses the faster car. While Red Bull appear to have good qualifying pace, McLaren have performed well in long-fuel runs, similar to the 2011 season.

Lewis Hamilton’s well-publicised problems from 2011 appear to be behind him. The Brit has admitted he spent many nights partying during the 2011 season, which may well explain his loss of focus. There’s no doubt that Lewis is a fantastically talented driver, but there is also no excuse for underperforming in 2012.

His teammate, Jenson Button, will be looking to capitalise on a relatively successful 2011 season, and is hoping to beat Lewis again. However, if Hamilton has tackled his personal issues, then there may well be a brilliantly tight battle between the two this year.

Ferrari

Ferrari are yet to understand their F2012

Ferrari are yet to understand their F2012

While the front two teams have already established themselves as title contenders before the season opener, Ferrari are still unsure as to their pace. How they react to their radical F2012 will be fascinating.

Fernando Alonso will continue to push the team – and the car – to the limits, and there is little doubt that Felipe Massa will be left trailing behind. Ferrari have a perfect team leader in Alonso, and Felipe’s #1 spot at the team (inherited in 2007) has been well and truly taken away from him.

With such a differing driver line-up, the constructor’s title is already out of reach for Ferrari. However, depending on how Ferrari react to developing their F2012, Alonso may challenge for the driver’s title later on.

Mercedes

Mercedes will be looking to challenge the top 3

Mercedes will be looking to challenge the top 3

If Ferrari even stumble, Mercedes appear poised to snatch 3rd place in the constructor’s table from them.

After two disappointing years following the Brawn GP fairytale, things appear to be coming together for Mercedes. Team principal Ross Brawn has assembled some of the sport’s finest engineers to work on the W03, which showed good pace in pre-season testing.

Despite his age, Michael Schumacher may still be a force to be reckoned with. Nico Rosberg meanwhile will be looking to take his first ever race victory – compared to Michael’s colossal 91 wins.

It is unlikely that the team can challenge for the titles this year, but nobody can fully rule them out. Starting the season at the front is absolutely crucial.

Lotus

Lotus will be looking to establish themselves

Lotus will be looking to establish themselves

With a new name and new driver line-up, Lotus are the midfield team to keep an eye out for.

The Enstone squad have one of the most exciting driver combinations on the grid – a former world champion and current GP2 title holder. It is more than likely that Kimi Raikkonen will assert himself as #1 in the team, but Romain Grosjean may well keep him on his toes.

What’s of more importance to the team is moving up the grid. After the frontal-exhaust disaster last year, the E20 appears to be much faster and more reliable, despite the chassis issue that ruled the team out of 4 testing days.

Like Mercedes, they are unlikely to make a massive jump up the grid, but I would be very surprised if Lotus were to finish any lower than 5th.

Force India

Force India are looking to stay on top of the midfield

Force India are looking to stay on top of the midfield

Lotus aren’t the only team looking to make progress in 2011. After several impressive performances last year, Force India will be looking to push their way to the top of the midfield.

Adrian Sutil has been ditched after 5 years of faithful service, and his F1 career appears to be over. He has been replaced by Nico Hulkenberg, who gets another shot in F1 after a good 2010 campaign with Williams.

The team have recently received a $32m cash injection from owner Vijay Mallya, so finances aren’t an issue. What the team want is a progressively faster car than last year – the VJM05 appears to be delivering so far.

Alongside Paul di Resta, this is another exciting driver line-up. This battle is much more difficult to call, but I think Di Resta will stay just on top.

Sauber

Sauber may struggle in 2012

Sauber may struggle in 2012

Another midfield team looking to make progress, Sauber may find themselves squeezed out this year.

While their driver line-up of Kobayashi and Perez is an impressive one, I fear the team has not kept up with the development of the rest of the grid. The team saw a massive slide in pace during the second half of 2011, and the loss of James Key was a massive blow.

With teams like Force India and Lotus looking to move up the grid, there may be no improvement from Sauber in 2012.

Toro Rosso

Ricciardo and Vergne will battle it out at Toro Rosso

Ricciardo and Vergne will battle it out at Toro Rosso

The latest batch of Sebastian Vettel wannabes are in, and look set to provide an exciting battle for 2012.

Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo are in, ousting Sebastian Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari, who had well and truly overstayed their welcome. With little to no F1 experience (several races for HRT doesn’t do much for Ricciardo), we have no idea who will end up on top.

The STR7 looks solid, but doesn’t seem to be pushing the team up the order. Most of the focus this year will be on the driver pairing, to see can either of them join Vettel at Red Bull.

Williams

Williams look set for another dismal season

Williams look set for another dismal season

After a dismal 2011 season, it appears unlikely that Williams will recover this season.

The Fw34 has been disappointing in testing, frequently ending up at the back of the pack. Bruno Senna brings a fresh face to the team, but Pastor Maldonado stays on, and frequent readers of this site know how I feel about him.

They may prove me wrong, but I see little improvement for Williams this year.

Caterham

Caterham must make progress in 2012

Caterham must make progress in 2012

After two years stranded in F1′s no-man’s-land, Caterham will be looking to push forward and join the midfield.

Failure is not an option for this team – they have spent way too much money to continue to fall behind teams like Williams and Sauber. Unlike HRT and Marussia, Caterham invested financially according to where they thought they would finish in several years, not where they would end up in the beginning. Banking their future on FIA payouts is risky, but it’s been done in F1 before.

Vitaly Petrov replaces the direly slow Jarno Trulli, and may give Heikki Kovalainen a run for his money.

HRT

Another season at the back for HRT - but that's all that's needed

Another season at the back for HRT - but that's all that's needed

After finally turning a wheel before the opening race for the first time in their history, HRT have made ever so slight progress towards stability – albeit at the back of the grid.

With the oldest driver line-up on the grid, the team will be sorely lacking in pace. However, the most important thing for the team is that they stay afloat – many new teams collapse within the first two years, particularly back in the 1990s.

A neat livery may gain them some fans, but otherwise it’s business as usual at the back of the pack. They may struggle to reach the 107% rule in the opening rounds.

Marussia

Marussia will be looking to beat HRT

Marussia will be looking to beat HRT

After finishing last yet again, Marussia will be looking to pull themselves ahead of HRT in the standings in 2012.

Rookie Charles Pic will find it most difficult, having little to no experience of the MR01 before Melbourne. I would be surprised if he were to survive the 107% chop in Q1.

Timo Glock, after proving his worth against all his teammates so far, deserves better than to be languishing in 23rd place all year, and the future of the team may well rest in his hands. No pressure, of course.

 

Of course, all of these predictions could fly out the window by the first corner in Melbourne! Either way, it’s looking set to be another fantastic season of Formula 1. I’ll be here to cover it every step of the way.

Barcelona testing day 4: Raikkonen ends testing on top

Raikkonen finished testing on top

Raikkonen finished testing on top

The final day of pre-season testing concluded today, with Kimi Raikkonen finishing testing the way he started it – on top of the timesheets.

The Lotus driver set a 1:22.030 in the morning, followed by Fernando Alonso. Bruno Senna finally showed a glimpse of Williams’ potential pace in 3rd.

The entire field was within 1.5 seconds of the leader, as most teams opted to set low-fuel runs in the morning. The afternoon running saw most teams switch to race simulations.

Kamui Kobayashi and Vitaly Petrov caused today’s two red flags, both drivers stopping out on track during the day.

Sebastian Vettel spent the entire day at the bottom of the timesheets, as Red Bull continued to do setup changes. His running in the morning was delayed by a problem with the pre-existing setup, and not the new package installed yesterday. Similar to yesterday, the car was covered in mechanics and umbrellas as it entered the pits.

The only team with the ability to do any more running is HRT, who want to test out their car tomorrow at a filming day. Marussia, who also have not turned a wheel this year, will not be able to test until Melbourne, as they still have not passed the FIA crash tests.

Times from Barcelona day 4:

1.  Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus E20          1:22.030   121 Laps
2.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari F2012      1:22.250   115 Laps    +0.220
3.  Bruno Senna           Williams FW34      1:22.296   53  Laps    +0.266
4.  Nico Hulkenberg       Force India VJM05  1:22.312   101 Laps    +0.282
5.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber C31         1:22.386   72  Laps    +0.356
6.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren MP4-27     1:22.430   115 Laps    +0.400
7.  Vitaly Petrov         Caterham CT01      1:22.795   101 Laps    +0.765
8.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes W03       1:22.939   100 Laps    +0.909
9.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams FW34      1:23.347   48  Laps    +1.317
10. Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso STR7    1:23.393   100 Laps    +1.363
11. Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull RB8       1:23.608   23  Laps    +1.578

Barcelona testing day 2: Grosjean leads heavily disrupted session

Grosjean continued to lead proceedings

Grosjean continued to lead proceedings

Romain Grosjean stayed on top in today’s heavily disrupted testing session in Barcelona.

The session was stopped no less than 8 times – several times for fog in the morning.

Grosjean set 124 laps today, posting a 1:22.614 to take top spot. Jean-Eric Vergne was set to post a faster time on super-softs, before his Toro Rosso stopped out on track.

Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso were a tenth of a second apart in 3rd and 4th, posting their times on medium and hard tyres.

The next 5 drivers – Kovalainen, Kobayashi, Hulkenberg, Schumacher and Hamilton – were separated by less than 0.3 seconds. Michael caused 2 red flags, while Kobayashi and Hulkenberg had hydraulic and driveline issues respectively.

Williams continued to fill the bottom of the timesheets, with Bruno Senna and Pastor Maldonado 10th and 11th.

Times from Barcelona day 2:

1.  Romain Grosjean     Lotus E20           1:22.614   124 Laps
2.  Jean-Eric Vergne    Toro Rosso STR7     1:23.126   31 Laps     +0.512
3.  Sebastian Vettel    Red Bull RB8        1:23.361   85  Laps    +0.747
4.  Fernando Alonso     Ferrari F2012       1:23.447   125 Laps    +0.833
5.  Heikki Kovalainen   Caterham CT01       1:23.828   104 Laps    +1.214
6.  Kamui Kobayashi     Sauber C31          1:23.836   77  Laps    +1.222
7.  Nico Hulkenberg     Force India VJM05   1:23.893   33  Laps    +1.279
8.  Michael Schumacher  Mercedes W03        1:23.978   79  Laps    +1.364
9.  Lewis Hamilton      McLaren MP4-27      1:24.111   65  Laps    +1.497
10. Bruno Senna         Williams FW34       1:24.925   48  Laps    +2.311
11. Pastor Maldonado    Williams FW34       1:25.801   20  Laps    +3.187

Barcelona testing day 1: Grosjean puts Lotus back on top

Grosjean overcame last week's chassis issues

Grosjean overcame last week's chassis issues

After suffering chassis issues at the last test, Lotus returned in fine form, with Romain Grosjean leading the first day of the final test in Barcelona.

Despite most drivers continuing to focus on long-fuelled runs, the timesheets were much closer at the top – the top 8 were covered by less than a second.

Lotus were forced to strengthen their front suspension after the chassis problems last week, adding 1kg in core weight. However, the solution hasn’t slowed the E20, with Grosjean setting a 1:23.252. Jenson Button was two tenths further back.

Sergio Perez ran out of fuel at the end of his run, but was still 3rd. Mark Webber spent most of the day on prime long-fuel runs, setting a 1:23.820 later in the afternoon, going 4th. Nico Rosberg set 128 laps en route to 5th.

Heikki Kovalainen did not take part in today’s test after falling ill with food poisoning. Vitaly Petrov took his place, setting 123 laps, but stopped out on track during the day.

Williams had another disappointing day, with Pastor Maldonado last, setting only 58 laps. Onlookers at the Circuit de Catalunya have continually reported seeing the FW34 suffer from chronic understeer around the circuit.

Times from Barcelona day 1:

1.  Romain Grosjean     Lotus E20           1:23.252   73 Laps
2.  Jenson Button       McLaren MP4-27      1:23.510   64 Laps     +0.258
3.  Sergio Perez        Sauber C31          1:23.820   118 Laps    +0.568
4.  Mark Webber         Red Bull RB8        1:23.830   102 Laps    +0.578
5.  Nico Rosberg        Mercedes W03        1:23.992   128 Laps    +0.740
6.  Jean-Eric Vergne    Toro Rosso STR7     1:24.216   113 Laps    +0.964
7.  Paul di Resta       Force India VJM05   1:24.305   98  Laps    +1.053
8.  Felipe Massa        Ferrari F2012       1:24.318   105 Laps    +1.066
9.  Vitaly Petrov       Caterham CT-01      1:24.876   123 Laps    +1.624
10. Pastor Maldonado    Williams FW34       1:25.587   58  Laps    +2.335

Lotus pull out of Barcelona testing after chassis problems

Lotus will lose 4 days of testing due to a chassis issue with the E20

Lotus will lose 4 days of testing due to a chassis issue with the E20

Lotus have ceased participation in pre-season testing in Barcelona, after discovering a fault with both of their chassis.

Romain Grosjean drove the second E20 car today (named the E20-2) in Barcelona testing, but retired after only 7 laps, saying the car “wasn’t responding as it should”.

The Lotus team completed 404 laps in Jerez testing – more than any other team – but the problem with the chassis only arose today. Tests performed on Kimi Raikkonen’s E20-1 in the Enstone factory has revealed that the problem is not only on Grosjean’s car.

Team principal Eric Boullier has stated that a solution has already been devised by the Lotus engineers, but work will need to be carried out on both cars. Therefore the team will pull out of the 4-day test, and will probably return for the second test in Barcelona in a few weeks time.

Lotus post first images of E20

Lotus revealed their E20 car online

Lotus revealed their E20 car online

Lotus are the latest team to have taken the covers off their 2012 race car.

Their challenger is called the E20. The name comes from their factory in Enstone, as this is the 20th Formula 1 car to be produced there.

The car features a stepped nose like its competitors, though not as extreme as Ferrari’s yesterday.

Lotus underwent large changes over the off-season, being taken over by Group Lotus, and switching both its drivers for Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean.

The team were known to be working on a reactive ride height system, though it was banned by the FIA last month.

The E20 was launched online, but the Lotus website has crashed several times under the pressure of thousands of viewers. Pictures are slow to be released, but they will be added as they arrive.

Here is the official video from Lotus:

D’Ambrosio joins Lotus as third driver

Jerome D'Ambrosio will join Lotus from Virgin

Jerome D'Ambrosio will join Lotus from Virgin

Former Virgin driver Jerome D’Ambrosio is to join the Renault/Lotus team as a reserve driver.

He made his debut to the sport in 2011, but was dropped at the end of the season to make way for new rookie Charles Pic.

When the team was known as Renault, D’Ambrosio was part of their young driver program, and tested their cars in 2009 and 2010.

Jerome had this to say today:

"It’s a great feeling to be joining Lotus F1 Team. It’s an exciting next step in
my career.

I contested a complete season in F1 as a race driver for a smaller team where I
learned a lot about Formula 1. Now, I have the opportunity to work with one of
the top teams with great potential for my future development.

With my recent race experience, I know I can make a valuable contribution. Of
course, I would love to be racing, but racing with a top team.

Being associated with Lotus F1 Team should be more beneficial and this is the
choice I have made. This opportunity is one I couldn’t afford to miss. My desire
to get back in a race seat in the future is motivating me to do the best job
possible in my new position."

FIA bans reactive ride height systems

The reactive ride height innovation designed by Lotus and recently copied by Ferrari has been banned by the sport’s governing body.

The FIA’s decision was announced yesterday by Williams chief operations engineer Mark Gillan, who had received a letter from Charlie Whiting regarding the matter on Friday.

The FIA’s head of F1 communications, Matteo Bonciani, confirmed the news yesterday:

"We have been investigating that type of system for a while. It is obviously 
[creating] an impact on the aerodynamic platform of the car.

Anything that gets the ride-height lower, particularly the front ride-height 
lower, is beneficial from an aerodynamic perspective."

This ride height adjustment device would appear to break Article 10.2.2 of the 2012 Technical Regulations, which states that “any powered device which is capable of altering the configuration or affecting the performance of any part of the suspension system is forbidden.”

In addition to this, Article 10.2.3 bans any “adjustment … made to the suspension system while the car is in motion.”

Ferrari latest to develop reactive ride height system

The reactive ride height system has already been developed by Ferrari

The reactive ride height system has already been developed by Ferrari

After details of Lotus’ reactive ride height system emerged in recent days, it has also been reported that Ferrari have developed their own interpretation of the technology.

The new innovation stabilises the front of the car – mechanically and aerodynamically – under braking, by lifting the front of the car by several millimetres.

Lotus’ version had already been approved by the FIA back in January 2010, and Ferrari have since written to the organisation to seek approval of their system. This was confirmed yesterday by team principal Stefano Domenicali:

"What you are talking about, is more related to having stability under braking. It 
is a system that I know there have been some documents in writing between the FIA 
and the teams.

We are waiting for the final confirmation if this kind of devices will be acceptable 
or not. But for sure we are looking around these sorts of devices to see if they 
contribute to a performance. But we need to wait and see what will be the reaction to 
the FIA on that."

If the device is approved by the FIA, then it is almost certain that Ferrari will be able to test the system at the first pre-season test in February.

Lotus Renault leading the way with “reactive ride height” system

A detailed look at Lotus' reative ride height innovation

A detailed look at Lotus' reative ride height innovation

The must-have innovation of 2012 has been leaked in recent days, with Lotus Renault reported to be running a “reactive ride height” device on their cars.

The system was spotted by seasoned technical journalist Giorgio Piola at the Abu Dhabi young driver test in November, and reports suggest that this device had been given the green light by the FIA as early as January 2011.

The objective of this innovation is to stabilise the front end of the car under braking, which generally dips by several centimetres. With a small hydraulic device in the brake cowling, the car can lift itself to counteract the dip under braking. This ensures a consistent generation of downforce from the front wing.

It is also possible that the reverse situation could apply under acceleration.

One of the smaller technical changes that was passed over by many – including myself – was that the maximum height of the nosecone was lowered from 62mm to 55mm. This has, in part, prompted this new design from Lotus.

Gazetta Dello Sport suggested that this device was to be operated by the driver via a pedal, similar to the F-duct. However, Article 3.15 of the F1 Technical Regulations seems to have covered that loophole:

"With the exception of the parts necessary for the adjustment described in
Article 3.18 [the DRS], any car system, device or procedure which uses driver
movement as a means of altering the aerodynamic characteristics of the car
is prohibited."

Seeing as the system has already been approved by the FIA, it would be assumed that the device is operated by the car automatically and not the driver.

Predictably, many of the top teams have already begun to research and design their own version of this ride height stabiliser.

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