Tag Archives: Lotus

Renault bought by Group Lotus, to become Lotus-Renault for 2011

The following article is the first post from a new contributor, Murai Kadam:

The Lotus livery on this year's Renault R30

The Lotus livery on this year's Renault R30

The Malaysian owned car maker Group Lotus has taken a 50 per cent
stake in Lotus Renault worth $100 million and has become its title
sponsor, the remaining 50 per cent will under control of the current
owners, pending rumours of a full takeover.

The news are coming about Group Lotus will be taking full control of the outfit in the next few years. Though nothing has been decided yet about future plans, the Lotus CEO Dany Bahar has hinted about a full takeover:

"Our way of doing things means that at the end of the project we would
like to control it ourselves."

Though there has been some court disputes over the Lotus name, as Tony
Fernandes’ Team Lotus raced in 2009 but their plan has been spoiled with Group
Lotus’ F1 entry, so there might be two teams on the grid branded as
Lotus. Also, both of the teams want to keep the iconic Gold and Black
colour.

‘Lotus Renault GP’ plans were unveiled on Wednesday, also the releasing photos of a re-livered R30 car said its cars will also be black and gold next year. Reverting to this Team Lotus owner Tony Fernandes accused Group Lotus CEO Dany Bahar of “hijacking” Team Lotus’ livery plans, but Renault team owner Gerard Lopez said the opposite is in fact true. Bahar said that he would look at this as extra promotion for his brand, rather than a potential confusion or competition. And he feels that four are better than two.

The reason to link with Renault rather than Lotus racing is for cost reduction, as to build a winning team in Formula One from scratch is not affordable. And that’s why Group Lotus has decided to go with one of the top five teams because there is the potential to go back to where they were when they were winning world championship titles.

Lotus to use Red Bull technology for 2011

Lotus have announced a tie-in with the Red Bull team, where they will be using Red Bull-manufactured engines and hydraulics for the 2011 season. They have already announced their annulment of their contract with Cosworth, so an announcement about them using Renault engines is also imminent.

Lotus will use Red Bull hydraulics and gearboxes for 2011

Lotus will use Red Bull hydraulics and gearboxes for 2011

Reliability has been the main problem from Lotus’ first season, with 9 mechanical retirements, most of these from hydraulic and gearbox problems. Their current supplier, Xtrac, who supplies gearboxes and hydraulics to all 3 new teams (Virgin making their gearbox casing being the only exception), has been lagging behind other competitors in terms of reliability, and Lotus claim that this move will be a big step forward for them.

Techincal officer Mike Gascoyne said:

"The announcement that we have reached a multi-year agreement 
with Red Bull Technology for the supply of our gearboxes and 
hydraulics from 2011 is obviously a massive step forward for 
us, both in engineering terms, and as an expression of our 
ambitions for next year and for future championships.

The gearbox / hydraulics package obviously plays a critical 
role in the performance of the car, not just on track but in 
design and packaging terms, and this deal gives our design 
and aero teams a very exciting platform to work with.

The removal of the double diffusers in 2011 will allow the 
whole grid to tighten up the rear bodywork and mechanical 
structures around the gearbox, and this supply deal will 
allow us to capitalise on that with our 2011 car. Exciting 
times lie ahead!"

I was slightly surprised, considering that we were all expecting the Renault engine announcement, but this is a great step forward for Lotus. The Renault engine news is surely due any day soon.

Lotus to be Team Lotus, and have Renault engines in 2011?

In an announcement set to be before the Singapore Grand Prix, Lotus are to hold a press conference regarding their plans for the 2011 season, and it has almost been confirmed that they will be using Renault engines, after a split with Cosworth was confirmed today.

Lotus seem set to have Renault engines, and a different name in 2011

Lotus seem set to have Renault engines, and a different name in 2011

While the engines have been working well for Lotus this year, it is understood that they are unhappy with their current supply of gearboxes, and Renault will also sell them these units next year.

Also, they are believed to be announcing the change of their name to Team Lotus. This is because of the completion of the purchase of the name by Tony Fernandes, which should be completed soon.

Their press conference should cover different matters, such as sponsorship for next year, but it is clear that the team name and engine/gearbox supply will be the main points.

2010 Mid-season review: Lotus

Whether you think they have completed 500 races or 9, there is no denying that Lotus have made the biggest leap to the midfield after building a brand new car from scratch. Their consistently fast rate of development means that, as it stands, they are well poised to be racing with Williams and Toro Rosso by the end of the season.

Lotus have had the highest rate of development in the field, and should be battling in the midfield soon

Lotus have had the highest rate of development in the field, and should be battling in the midfield soon

Despite all of this though, it wasn’t without difficulty. At the season opener in Bahrain, the slight shortcomings of the car were revealed, when the glass of the wing mirrors fell off. Regardless of this, Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli qualified well, 5 seconds off the pace of pole sitter Sebastian Vettel. In the race, while all HRT and Virgin cars retired, Lotus acheived a double finish on their debut.

Since then, they have proven themselves the fastest of the new teams in terms of raw pace. In the last 8 races, a Lotus driver has been the fastest of the new teams 7 times in qualifying. Their reliability has been very good also, suffering only 6 retirements so far this season, 2 less than HRT, and 1 more than Virgin. On the other hand, one driver has failed to start a race because of a car failure twice, once in Australia and once in Spain.

Aside from this, they have consistently outperformed both HRT and Virgin in races also. In the 9 races so far, a Lotus driver has finished the highest out of the 6 drivers 5 times. Because they have recorded only 1 double finish so far, it is impossible to compare performances by the drivers, Trulli and Kovalainen. However, it is possible, by using low-fuel qualifying times, to show that Jarno Trulli has been ahead of Kovalainen more, but only just, as he is leading 5-4 against Heikki.

As well as this, their car has been developed well to stay ahead of Virgin and HRT. In Bahrain, they were 5 seconds slower than Red Bull. Now, halfway through their first season, they are only 2.3 seconds off the pole position time, an amazing achievement.

So, with a competent driver line-up, an ever-improving car, and plenty of Malaysian finance to keep the team running, it is safe to say that Lotus will continue to be the best of the new teams, and begin to contend for position with the midfield soon.

Lotus make biggest leap yet

Regardless of what the blind and the ignorant say (ie. Luca Di Montezemolo), the progress of the 3 new teams so far this year has been stunning. From one of them not even making the grid, and another one only barely, to battling in the midfield only 8 races later, is nothing short of a miracle. Just last weekend, at the Canadian Grand Prix, Lotus made their biggest leap yet in charging up the field.

Their actual raw pace, in qualifying, was the first sign, as Heikki Kovalainen got dangerously close to beating the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi, and he only missed out by 2 tenths. At the season opener in Bahrain, they were more than 5 seconds off the pace in qualifying. Now though, they are only 3 seconds behind the pole position time, as shown here:

Comparison of Lotus' qualifying times against pole position times

Comparison of Lotus' qualifying times against pole position times

That was indicating the distance in time between the pole position lap, and the fastest Lotus driver. As we can see, Lotus have cut a massive 2.5 seconds off their deficit, not even halfway through their first season back in F1. It wasn’t just in qualifying only, they are also making progress in the races as well. Heikki Kovalainen successfully kept back Vitaly Petrov in the last 10 laps in Canada, for example. To make matters even better, he was racing the Russian on old tyres, which makes his performance much more impressive.

By the end of the season, I’m sure the team will want to be competing in the midfield. But, what next after that?

The team may not be the same one in the 1960’s and 1970’s, but they have kept an important relic to be used when they improve – Colin Chapman’s hat. Whenever Lotus won a race, Chapman would famously throw his hat into the air, 79 times over 2 decades. In memory of this, Tony Fernandes has been entrusted with this hat, which now goes with the team at every race. The glass case it is in reads “In case of victory, break glass”.

The question is. will Lotus ever be able to break the glass? Fernandes has previously said that he wants Lotus to be in the top 5 teams by 2013, and I think that this is a realistic target. Do you think that the new Lotus can ever win a race, and if so when?

"In case of victory, break glass"

"In case of victory, break glass"

Force India also suing Gascoyne, and Mark Smith leaves for Lotus

Mike Gascoyne is now being involved in the dispute between Force India and Lotus

Mike Gascoyne is now being involved in the dispute between Force India and Lotus

A day after Force India announced that they were suing Lotus for copying their design of their 2010 car, it has been revealed that Mike Gascoyne, the Chief Technical Officer, is also being sued as part of this court battle. Gascoyne worked with Force India from 2006 to 2008.

At the moment, it is understood that Force India are suing Lotus and Gascoyne, as they believe that the green and yellow team have used Force India’s pre-season design in their own car, through the Aerolab company, which provides aero tunnel usage for both teams. Lotus claim that they are simply caught up in a spat, and have revealed that Aerolab have provided them full indemnity in this case.

However, a statement from Force India today very clearly states that the Lotus team “has utilised and benefited from the use of Force India F1 Team’s intellectual properly”:

"The Force India F1 Team confirms it has instigated UK civil 
proceedings against 1Malaysia Racing Team SDN BHD (a Malaysian 
company), 1Malaysia Racing Team (UK) Limited (Lotus Racing's parent 
companies), Michael Gascoyne and Aerolab SRL. Force India also 
confirms that a complaint for disclosure of confidential information 
was filed in December 2009 with the competent authorities in Italy 
and that investigations are being conducted.

Force India believes that Lotus Racing, via its use of Aerolab and 
Fondtech facilities and data, has utilised and benefited from the 
use of Force India F1 Team's intellectual property, including 
components and tyres exclusively licensed by Bridgestone to the 
Force India F1 Team, on its wind tunnel model design for the current 
Lotus T127 chassis without permission from the Force India F1 Team. 
Force India states these are very serious claims and therefore it 
would not be taking such action if it could not provide supportive 
evidence.

Additionally Force India would like to clarify that any action 
between Aerolab and Force India for undue termination of contract 
is now being addressed by the courts. Force India confirms it paid 
approximately one million euros in autumn 2009 to secure the payment 
claimed by Aerolab and it is now for the competent courts to decide 
whether, indeed, this outstanding amount should be paid to Aerolab 
given the seriousness of these current allegations.

For reference, the civil court action documentation is in the public 
domain and can be accessed via the High Court of Justice, Chancery 
Division."

This is getting more and more serious every time I hear something about it. To make matters worse, it has been revealed today that Mark Smith has left Force India to join, you guessed it, Lotus. At Force India, he was the design and technical director, and will now be technical director at Lotus.

The reason I’m concerned about this is simple. When he worked at Force India, Mark Smith was the Design Director of the last 4 Formula 1 cars (2007-2010) that the team have made. Seeing as this controversy is centred around the pre-season designs of Lotus’ and Force India’s cars, it would be a disaster if Smith brought IP (intellectual property) with him to Lotus, as this would just fuel the debate even more.

Force India suing Lotus over wind tunnel design

Lotus' pre-season car design, which Force India claim was copied from their design through Aerolab

Lotus' pre-season car design, which Force India claim was copied from their design through Aerolab

Germany’s Motorsport Total is reporting that the Force India team are suing the Lotus team, over their cars’ wind tunnel designs. Force India claim that Lotus used pre-season designs that were being made similarly at Force India. This dispute also involves the Aerolab company.

Essentially, here is the dispute. A few months ago, Force India made queries when Lotus’ pre-season design had certain similarities to their own. Aerolab were caught up in this, as they provide wind tunnel usage to Lotus, and are in a technical partnership with Force india since September 2009. However, previously, last November, Aerolab sued Force India over “serious and persistent breaches of contract”.

Lotus work with Fondtech, the parent company of Aerolab. In fact, even last year, Force India had again raised concerns that Lotus had copied designs off their 2009 car, and put them into Lotus’ 2010 car. However, no legal challenge was raised until now.

In their defense, Lotus claim that they are simply caught up in a spat between Force India and Aerolab:

"Lotus Racing has been joined as a co-defendant in civil proceedings
which are principally between Force India and Aerolab/Fondtech.

These proceedings do not allege any wrongdoing on the part of Lotus
Racing. Aerolab/Fondtech vigorously denies any wrongdoing and have
provided Lotus Racing with a full indemnity in relation to the
claim."

More on this story as it develops.

Fauzy to drive in Malaysia practice

Fairuz Fauzy testing for Lotus in the winter

Fairuz Fauzy testing for Lotus in the winter

Lotus have announced that reserve driver Fairuz Fauzy will drive their car in Friday Practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix.

He will temporarily replace Heikki Kovalainen at the wheel. The former GP2 driver has been involved with several test sessions with Lotus before the season began.

While it’s good to see reserve drivers being given the chance to test their skills in an F1 car, I feel that this isn’t the right idea for Lotus. The car needs as much improvement as possible, and Trulli and Kovalainen are the right people for this job. While allowing Fauzy to drive is good for him, the sponsors and the investors (the 1Malaysia group), I would think that the return of having a better developed car is better than pleasing the sponsors and the home croud.

Of course, this is the Malaysian Grand Prix, a country that hasn’t had an F1 driver since Alex Yoong, and he didn’t exactly set the world on fire, so maybe Fernandes and Lotus want to promote Malaysia’s next top F1 driver.

HRT targeting Australian race finish

Colin Kolles (left), team principal of HRT

Colin Kolles (left), team principal of HRT

After the somewhat dissapointing end to HRT’s Bahrain Grand Prix, the team are looking for improvements ahead of the Australian Grand Prix next weekend. According to team principal Colin Kolles, the team is targeting a race finish. He said:

“We have worked extremely hard since the Bahrain season opener. We have worked 
long hours and successfully with Bridgestone, Cosworth and Xtrac learned from 
our first laps with the car and found a good basis from which to start
preparation for our second Grand Prix in Australia in a few days.

We have successfully repaired the damage sustained by Karun Chandhok’s car and 
focused on building our car’s reliability. Our goal is to improve steadily and 
the next step is to work towards our first race finish. I am confident we will 
achieve this goal very soon and having seen how we came together as a team in 
Bahrain I can see just how much potential and commitment we have.”
Bruno Senna, before a radiator leak causes him to retire

Bruno Senna, before a radiator leak causes him to retire

First driver Bruno Senna did get 17 laps in the race, but then the car overheated thanks to a radiator leak, causing retirement. However, the Brazilian is happy with the team’s performance in Bahrain, an hopes to build on that in Melbourne:

“We need to continue building on what we achieved in Bahrain. We put two cars 
together and ran successfully in Bahrain. Now we must continue to work as a 
team. I came early to Australia to acclimatise to the time difference. I love 
Australia more and more, as I spend more time here! I have already driven on 
the Melbourne track, back in 2006.

I did the F3 support race for F1 back then and had a fairly successful weekend. 
I won! Now, I must work with the team to continue learning about the car. I 
have enjoyed working long hours with the team so far and I will be giving my
all as I really want to progress and guarantee them good results.”
Karun Chandhok just after his crash on Lap 2

Karun Chandhok just after his crash on Lap 2

Meanwhile, Karun Chandhok had a much harder time. He wasn’t able to run the car in Friday practice thanks to technical problems. He drove the car for the first time in qualifying, and was only 1.7 seconds behind his team-mate after only 2 laps in the car, which is pretty impressive. He still wasn’t used to the car, however, and crashed on Lap 2 of the race. Chandhok is now looking forward to the race in Australia:

“I am really looking forward to my second F1 race this weekend. I have never 
driven in Melbourne, but I am a very quick learner. I was able to work on a 
team’s simulator before the Grand Prix so that will help my familiarisation a 
little bit! Our next step with the team’s engineers is to make the car 
reliable for the race. The secret of good racing preparation is to complete 
as many laps as possible on Friday to see where we are with the car. Finishing the
race would be a fantastic achievement we will strive for.”

With the complete lack of track time, HRT did what they could in Bahrain. I don’t actually think they will, nor do I expect them to, finish in Melbourne, because of the track’s car-breaker record. Still, if they can set consistent laps for about 20 laps or so, then I would be happy with them. Naturally, with much more track time, I’m hoping for at least one finish each from Lotus and Virgin. All of this will change by Barcelona  (Race 5), and I will be expecting race finishes by all three teams by then.

Todt in favour of 107% rule

Jean Todt

Jean Todt

The president of the FIA, Jean Todt, has said that he is in favour of the reinstation of the 107% rule. However, he stressed that such a rule change would not take place this year, and would be in place by a minimum of 2011.

This year, the three new teams of Lotus, Virgin and HRT have been well off the pace, HRT dangerously so, and this has prompted many people to ask for the old 107% rule back.

The 107% rule is where each driver muct be within 107% of the fastest lap set by the pole sitter. If they aren’t, they are unable to race. Generally, being within 107% of the fastest time means a few seconds or so behind, as it varies by circuit.  While this would be slightly difficult to implement in the current 3-tier qualifying system, it could be done.

Todt is one of the many people in favour of this old rule, saying:

"We are very in favour of reintroducing the 107 percent limit. The reason
 why it was abandoned was because of the change in qualifying which was 
happening with fuel to start the race in the car.

Now to change that for 2010 you need to have the unanimous agreement of 
the teams, and to get the unanimous agreement of the teams the FIA will 
be supporting this solution.

I don't think it will happen so we have to wait until 2011 to introduce 
it."

However, he stated that he was still in favour of having the new teams in F1:

"You must have respect for a new team who is arriving in this particular 
economic crisis period and to invest money to be in F1. I don't think it 
is a time to criticise but to support and help, and to help them, and it 
is in the interests of everybody.

Everybody in the business should be supportive of these days. I was 
impressed today, they did quite well and we must give them a certain 
time to be ready."

I would be mostly in favour of this. The one problem is that, by the time the 107% rule is renistated, the teams will have gotten up to speed, and within a few seconds of the leaders, making the rule mostly defunct.

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