Daily Archives: June 30, 2010

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.

2010 Mid-season review: Virgin

Like HRT, the team formally known as Manor Motorsport would definitely have been in further doubt for the 2010 season, if it wasn’t for investment – and a change in name – from the Virgin group. Unlike HRT, though, their rate of development has been much slower, if at all, leading to worries about becoming the slowest of the new teams by the end of the year.

Virgin are in danger of being caught by HRT

Virgin are in danger of being caught by HRT

On the day of the launch of the car, it all seemed very impressive. The VR-01 was the first ever Formula 1 car to be designed using solely Computer Fluid Dynamics. On the other hand, it has never seen a wind tunnel, the first time this has happened to an F1 car since the wretched 1997 MasterCard Lola. Despite this, the car looked good, and had a very handy line-up, of Timo Glock and Lucas di Grassi.

Which would have been great, if the fuel tank was big enough.

It emerged after the first two races that the fuel tank was not big enough to last a full race distance, unless the drivers backed off considerably, rendering their efforts useless in the first place. After a very embarrassing request to the FIA to modify their chassis to allow the larger fuel tank, their new revised VR-01 was able to race to the finish – after Turkey. Which means that, for the first 7 races, the Virgin team was unable to show their genuine pace.

Since Turkey, the team have achieved their second double finish. That is pretty much the only good news that they have given us so far, as they have the highest retirement rate of all of the new teams this year so far, and their highest finishing position was 17th in Valencia.

After all of this misfortune, I’m impressed that they have kept their heads up and continued to push hard, but the fact of the matter is that, since the start of the season, they have not closed the gap to the frontrunners enough. Wirth Research (the company that did the CFD) will need vast improvements to this -and next year’s- cars if they are to stay up with the rest of the pack.