Tag Archives: Lotus

Who should replace Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus?

The unfortunate news that Kimi Raikkonen is to undergo back surgery has opened up an interesting source of debate in the F1 paddock.

With such few races left on the calendar, there are a raft of drivers who are desperate to get into a competitive race seat. Some of these are current F1 drivers, while some were out of luck for 2013. Let’s have a look at some of Lotus’ options for Austin and Interlagos…

Davide Valsecchi

Valsecchi is the go-to choice for Kimi’s replacement. As reserve driver of Lotus, he knows the team well, and would be more comfortable than anyone else in the garage.

As well as this, he has never actually been given the chance to properly race an F1 car, despite winning last year’s GP2 title. The fact that he was immediately signed to Lotus surely means they recognise his talents.

However, the aforementioned lack of F1 experience means that the chances of him doing well in Austin and Interlagos are pitiful. If he were to be recruited, it would be for the sake of testing him for a 2014 seat – and with Hulkenberg and Maldonado knocking at Lotus’ door, that looks unlikely.

Nico Hulkenberg

Desperate for a competitive drive for next year, Hulkenberg would surely be willing to drop Sauber’s uncompetitive C32 for an E21, even for just two weeks.

The fact that he currently drives for the Hinwil squad is not an issue, oddly enough. His contract with the team expired in the summer, and has been racing for them since without any legal agreements tying him to the team. This means that he has the option of jumping ship at any time.

The disadvantage to that is that if Nico is rejected for a 2014 seat by Lotus or Force India, then he may find himself out of luck trying to reapply to Sauber. Despite the obvious opportunity ahead of him, Hulkenberg would to well to play it safe.

Pastor Maldonado

Fans will cringe at this option, but if this is the situation for Hulkenberg, then it is the same for Pastor Maldonado.

The Venezuelan brings up to $30m in petrodollars, which is nothing to be sniffed at by a team with visible financial troubles. While this applies mostly to next season, PDVSA may be willing to pay Lotus forward (partially) if they trial him at Austin. While this is only speculation, you can’t deny that this isn’t an option for the firm.

On the other hand, Maldonado is known for his lack of technical expertise, which would hurt a team that is still developing its car to fight for 2nd in the constructor’s championship.

I doubt many want to see money take priority over driver talent, but with the dire financial situation Formula 1 finds itself in, it would be wrong of us to ignore the issue.

Heikki Kovalainen

A surprise nomination for some, but the Finn may bring benefits to Lotus that no other driver does.

Kovalainen obviously brings many years of F1 experience to the table, which puts him ahead of Davide Valsecchi in that depertment. In fact, he has raced for this very team before, back in 2007 when they were still known as Renault.

The issue with Hulkenberg and Maldonado is that both carry the “expectation” of a 2014 seat if they perform well in the next two races. Heikki carries no such burden – just 2 solid races, and he’s back off to harass Caterham for the second year running. He’s not exactly a slouch either, so he would be a solid bet if Lotus were to prioritise the constructor’s championship.

Who do you think should have the Lotus race seat? Over to you:

Surgery rules Raikkonen out of final two races of 2013 season

Kimi Raikkonen is to miss the final 2 races of the 2013 season due to a back injury, his management have confirmed today.

The Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat have reported the news today, and was soon confirmed by Sky Sports. Raikkonen previously complained of back pain during the Singapore Grand Prix, due to the bumpy nature of the track.

This means that his appearance for Lotus at last week’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was his last for the team. Unfortunately, it ended at the first corner, in a clash with Giedo van der Garde.

He will undergo an operation on his injury next week. Is is currently unknown who his replacement will be, although reserve driver and 2012 GP2 champion Davide Valsecchi is the current favourite.

Lotus parts company with technical director James Allison

In a shock move, Lotus have announced that they will part ways with their technical director, James Allison.

Allison is one of the most highly rated engineers in the F1 paddock, and it was well known that many rival teams were trying to lure him away from Enstone. It is unclear which team – if any – have  offered him a better contract, but it is understood that Allison was the one who made the decision to leave Lotus.

His replacement has already been announced as Nick Chester, who has been at the team since 2000.

This move will only unnerve Kimi Raikkonen, who is yet to decide on his future at the Enstone squad. Key figures like Allison are absolutely crucial in constructing a winning car – as important as the driver itself – and Kimi will now begin to question if Lotus can continue to supply him with competitive machinery into 2014.

Malaysian Grand Prix practice: Rain threatens proceedings as Raikkonen continues to lead

Kimi Raikkonen topped the timesheets for today’s practice sessions for the Malaysian Grand Prix, but the local weather is already causing a storm. After FP2 was disrupted by heavy rain, there are fears that the local thunderstorms may hit the circuit during tomorrow’s qualifying and the race.

Regardless, the field is tightly bunched at the front at the moment. Here’s what happened today:

First practice

It was another slow start to this weekend’s racing, as it took until the half hour mark for anyone to set a lap time.

Australian GP race winner Kimi Raikkonen had a delayed start to his weekend – a KERS fault meant that he was stuck in the pits longer than anyone else. He eventually finished the session 0.06 seconds off the leader.

The Red Bulls continued to demonstrate their excellent one-lap pace, with both Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel leading FP1 at certain points. It was Webber who was to set the fastest time, a 1:36.935 leaving him over a tenth of a second ahead of his teammate.

Lap times dropped off towards the end of the session, as it became clear that the hard tyres were only lasting around 20 laps.

The only major drama was when Esteban Gutierrez spun off, carrying too much speed into Turn 14.

Pos  Driver               Team                  Time       Gap       Laps
 1.  Mark Webber          Red Bull-Renault      1:36.935            15
 2.  Kimi Raikkonen       Lotus-Renault         1:37.003  + 0.068s  15
 3.  Sebastian Vettel     Red Bull-Renault      1:37.104  + 0.169s  21
 4.  Fernando Alonso      Ferrari               1:37.319  + 0.384s  13
 5.  Nico Rosberg         Mercedes              1:37.588  + 0.653s  19
 6.  Adrian Sutil         Force India-Mercedes  1:37.769  + 0.834s  17
 7.  Felipe Massa         Ferrari               1:37.771  + 0.836s  15
 8.  Paul di Resta        Force India-Mercedes  1:37.773  + 0.838s  15
 9.  Lewis Hamilton       Mercedes              1:37.840  + 0.905s  18
10.  Romain Grosjean      Lotus-Renault         1:37.915  + 0.980s  17
11.  Jenson Button        McLaren-Mercedes      1:38.173  + 1.238s  16
12.  Pastor Maldonado     Williams-Renault      1:38.673  + 1.738s  16
13.  Sergio Perez         McLaren-Mercedes      1:38.830  + 1.895s  17
14.  Nico Hulkenberg      Sauber-Ferrari        1:39.054  + 2.119s  17
15.  Esteban Gutierrez    Sauber-Ferrari        1:39.204  + 2.269s  16
16.  Valtteri Bottas      Williams-Renault      1:39.208  + 2.273s  19
17.  Jean-Eric Vergne     Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:39.284  + 2.349s  17
18.  Daniel Ricciardo     Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:39.567  + 2.632s  16
19.  Giedo van der Garde  Caterham-Renault      1:40.728  + 3.793s  17
20.  Jules Bianchi        Marussia-Cosworth     1:40.996  + 4.061s  14
21.  Charles Pic          Caterham-Renault      1:41.163  + 4.228s  18
22.  Max Chilton          Marussia-Cosworth     1:41.513  + 4.578s  14

Second practice

It was Raikkonen who set the fastest time in FP2 on the medium tyres, but by only 0.4 seconds compared to Webber’s time in FP1.

Rain was expected from the off, so many drivers took to the track immediately in order to maximise running. As expected, the rain fell early on, and it increased in strength at around the halfway mark. A spin by Nico Hulkenberg on his in lap demonstrated how treacherous the conditions were.

Drivers soon tip-toed out onto the track soon after, but spins marred several drivers’ sessions. Sergio Perez, Giedo van der Garde and Romain Grosjean all had off-track excursions on the intermediate tyres.

The track dried out sufficiently for slicks with 10 minutes to go, but nobody was able to improve on Raikkonen’s earlier time. Sebastian Vettel was within 0.016 seconds of the Lotus, with Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso 3rd and 4th.

The McLarens showed no signs of improvement from Australia, finishing Friday 11th and 12th. Further back, Jules Bianchi was able to set a lap 0.152 seconds faster than the Williams of Valtteri Bottas.

Pos Driver                Team                    Time       Gap      Laps
 1. Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault           1:36.569            28
 2. Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault        1:36.588  + 0.019s  27
 3. Felipe Massa          Ferrari                 1:36.661  + 0.092s  33
 4. Fernando Alonso       Ferrari                 1:36.985  + 0.416s  23
 5. Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault        1:37.026  + 0.457s  29
 6. Romain Grosjean       Lotus Renault           1:37.206  + 0.637s  26
 7. Nico Rosberg          Mercedes                1:37.448  + 0.879s  32
 8. Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes    1:37.571  + 1.002s  30
 9. Lewis Hamilton        Mercedes                1:37.574  + 1.005s  32
10. Adrian Sutil          Force India-Mercedes    1:37.788  + 1.219s  10
11. Sergio Perez          McLaren-Mercedes        1:37.838  + 1.269s  21
12. Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes        1:37.865  + 1.296s  29
13. Nico Hulkenberg       Sauber-Ferrari          1:38.068  + 1.499s  31
14. Esteban Gutierrez     Sauber-Ferrari          1:38.645  + 2.076s  23
15. Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari      1:38.738  + 2.169s  31
16. Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault        1:38.801  + 2.232s  27
17. Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari      1:38.904  + 2.335s  31
18. Jules Bianchi         Marussia-Cosworth       1:39.508  + 2.939s  30
19. Valtteri Bottas       Williams-Renault        1:39.660  + 3.091s  28
20. Charles Pic           Caterham-Renault        1:40.757  + 4.188s  29
21. Giedo van der Garde   Caterham-Renault        1:40.768  + 4.199s  32
22. Max Chilton           Marussia-Cosworth       1:41.438  + 4.869s  23

Lotus E21 launched, Davide Valsecchi announced as third driver

Lotus E21The Lotus E21 is the first of the 2013 Formula 1 cars to be shown off to the public, having been unveiled online this evening.

Pictures were leaked before the event, confirming that the car will retain the stepped nose design as of last year.

The livery is mostly the same, save for an unusual red section around the sidepod.

Technical

As already noted, the E21 will continue to run the stepped nose system into 2013. Technical director James Allison explains the decision to not run the FIA-approved “modesty panel”:

"Such a panel is optional and I would not be surprised if the majority of the grid 
chose not to make use of it. The panel will add a few grams of weight and so is 
only likely to run on the car if a team can find a performance benefit for doing 
so."

Allison also noted that Lotus were considering running the double DRS system in the E21.

Unusually, there appears to be little drastic changes to the exterior of the car, leading some to claim that Lotus are yet to introduce several upgrades on the car. If so, this would be in order to protect technical secrets, at least until testing begins in Jerez.

Davide Valsecchi joins the squad

Also revealed today is that current GP2 champion Davide Valsecchi is to join the team as a third driver for the year.

The 26-year-old spent several years in the feeder series, before finally succeeding at the fifth attempt with the DAMS team, who are linked to Lotus team principal Eric Boullier’s young driver organisation.

 

Kimi Raikkonen takes stunning win in breathtaking Abu Dhabi GP

Kimi Raikkonen has taken a surprise victory in one of the most tense and exciting races in recent times – in Abu Dhabi, of all places.

The Finn inherited the lead after Lewis Hamilton’s engine expired, and he was unbeatable in terms of raw pace. Fernando Alonso did well to move up to second place, but Sebastian Vettel was the star of the day, dropping to the back twice, and still fighting his way through to a podium finish.

In contrast to expectations, the race was jam-packed with unpredictability, and brilliant racing. Here is what happened:

At the start, Mark Webber had an absolute howler of a getaway, allowing Kimi Raikkonen to waltz into 2nd place from 4th. Jenson Button was quickly passed by Fernando Alonso, as the Ferrari made its way into 4th place.

A 4-car clash occurred at the first corner, as Nico Hulkenberg squeezed Bruno Senna, Paul di Resta and himself into an unavoidable accident. Romain Grosjean was then clipped by Nico Rosberg, and the Lotus crawled back to the pits.

Up front, Lewis Hamilton made a mistake on lap 2, nearly being passed by Kimi Raikkonen, but the McLaren just about held his position.

At the back, Sebastian Vettel began to make progress, but clipped his front wing against Bruno Senna’s Williams, suffering minor damage. Sebastian wasn’t fazed though, and made his way up as far as 13th before lap 10.

However, the race took another sharp twist, with the safety car deployed for a scary crash between Rosberg and Narain Karthikeyan. The HRT backed off going into turn 16, and the Mercedes smashed over Narain, forcing both cars out on the spot.

Red Bull took this opportunity to pit Vettel, dropping him to the back of the field. At the restart, the sister Red Bull put Alonso under huge pressure, but Fernando managed to hold onto 4th place.

From 19th, Sebastian got to work again, passing both Paul di Resta and Romain Grosjean within a matter of corners. However, he passed Grosjean off the track, and was forced to allow the Lotus past. A lap later, the Red Bull sailed past again to secure 17th place.

Then, as if the title battle didn’t need another twist, it got another one – Lewis Hamilton suffered a sudden engine failure, causing him to coast to a halt. A dejected Lewis exited his car, and at the same time, Alonso found his way past Pastor Maldonado for 2nd place.

Mark Webber then closed in on the Venezuelan, but put the Williams under too much pressure, clashing with Pastor at turn 12, spinning the Red Bull and leaving him in 7th. Vettel quickly closed in on his teammate, and a conveniently timed pit stop for Mark ensured that there was no inter-team battle.

After his stop, Webber began to battle with Felipe Massa, resulting in yet another clash at turn 16. They clashed wheels, with Webber running wide, and Massa suffering an embarrassing spin.

The majority of the frontrunners pitted around lap 30, with Button finding his way past Maldonado in the meantime. Vettel stayed out, but it became clear that his used tyres were beginning to wear. He had found his way up to 2nd, but Alonso was now reeling him in at several tenths per second.

Red Bull made the sensible call, and pitted Vettel on lap 37, with Sebastian emerging in 4th place. Within a lap, a bizarre crash caused another safety car, and a perfect opportunity for Vettel.

In the battle for 5th, Paul di Resta shoved Sergio Perez off the track, who clashed with Romain Grosjean once he rejoined the circuit. A damaged Grosjean then moved into Webber’s path, eliminating all 3 cars on the spot.

On the restart, there were no major changes of position, but the battle at the front began to intensify. Button in 3rd was under pressure from Vettel behind, while Alonso began to slowly reel in Raikkonen.

The last 10 laps were incredibly tense. With only a few laps to go, Sebastian made a brave move on Jenson to take 3rd place, and reduce the damage to his championship lead. Meanwhile, Fernando was able to close the gap to a single second on the last lap, but Kimi was able to keep it together, and took an incredible victory.

Pastor Maldonado had a quiet run to 5th, followed by Kamui Kobayashi, Felipe Massa, Bruno Senna, Paul di Resta and Daniel Ricciardo.

The gap between Vettel and Alonso is 10 points, and despite Kimi’s win, he has now been ruled out of the title bid. The F1 circus will roll up in Austin in two weeks time, where the next plot twist will take place…

Jerome D’Ambrosio confirmed as Grosjean’s replacement for Monza

Jerome D'Ambrosio will get another shot at Formula 1

Jerome D’Ambrosio will get another shot at Formula 1

Jerome D’Ambrosio will take the place of Romain Grosjean for the Lotus team for the Italian Grand Prix.

Romain was banned for one race by the stewards, after causing a serious crash in Spa, which eliminated several frontrunning cars. The Frenchman turned in on Lewis Hamilton, who collided with the Lotus, and speared into Fernando Alonso, Kamui Kobayashi and Pastor Maldonado.

D’Ambrosio is Lotus’ test and reserve driver this year, having been sacked from the Virgin/Marussia team last year.

Opnion – Grosjean ban sets a proper precedent

Much has been said of Romain Grosjean’s dangerous move on Lewis Hamilton, and the swift and unforgiving penalty issued afterwards.

Some have argued that the penalty is inconsistent with penalties issued to other incidents, and they would be correct. Pastor Maldonado causing a deliberate crash in Monaco springs to mind, where he was only handed a grid penalty.

Others claim that this crash must be used as the basis for all other penalties in the future. Fernando Alonso’s lucky escape has reminded us of how dangerous such incidents can be.

Personally I agree with both arguments, however I think that the problem is far more wide-reaching than many have realised. The fact that Grosjean and Maldonado, two of the newest GP2 rookies, continue to cause crashes is a huge cause for concern.

The drivers of GP2 and other feeder series all share the same sentiment – that they must push the rules to the maximum, and push the other drivers to the limit, in order to make progress, in both the race and their career. This kind of reasoning often results in huge, unnecessary accidents, as demonstrated this year in Monaco:

In that video, Dimitry Suranovich decided to keep on driving, despite having no rear wing on his car. He braked earlier into the chicane, and Conor Daly powered into the back of the GP3 machine, causing a huge crash and a near fatality, as the marshals post was almost wiped out.

Incredibly, Daly was awarded a 10 place grid penalty, while Suranovich walked away scot free. Aside from the sheer stupidity of the decision itself, the problem is this: if GP2 drivers are allowed to drive dangerously in their feeder series, then they will probably continue that in F1.

I’m not the only one who feels this way – Ferrari principal Stefano Domenicali urged the FIA to improve driving standards in lower formulae series:

"In my view, the most important thing is looking at the behaviour of drivers. It has 
to start in the championships before Formula 1.

You see it too often in the other series that drivers are very aggressive and try to 
do something almost over what it is possible to do, so it is important to be very 
strict since they start racing and then they will arrive in F1 in a better condition 
for that."

So far, Grosjean has been involved in 7 first-lap accidents out of 12 races. Pastor Maldonado has received 9 penalties, and deserves a few more, in my opinion. However, neither of them has been handed anything more than a 10 place grid penalty – until yesterday.

I fully support the decision to ban Grosjean from Monza, as it is the only way the stewards and FIA can lay down the law. If a rugby player interferes in a scrum or ruck, for example, he is sin-binned and forced to sit out a portion of the match.  The same should apply to F1 – if a driver clearly breaks the rules in a dangerous manner, they should be made to watch from the sidelines.

I’m almost certain that Romain will learn more from this ban than any other grid penalty or paltry fine. The same should apply to Maldonado as well, seeing as he has never learned from his previous penalties.

Perhaps this first-lap crash was a hidden blessing for the sport. As well as all of the drivers escaping without injury, it has forced many to look again at today’s driving standards, and to see how F1 can be made safer in the future. If the stewards can crack down on irresponsible driving from now on, then Formula 1 can set the standard for safer motorsport in the future.

Grosjean to take gearbox penalty in Germany

Romain Grosjean will drop 5 places on the grid for the German Grand Prix next weekend.

The Lotus team has revealed that it has been forced to change the gearbox on Grosjean’s car, after a problem developed in the closing laps of the British Grand Prix.

Technical director James Allison noted “we are very fortunate that Romain didn’t have the problem earlier in the race.” The Lotus car was adjusted before the Silverstone race, to reduce strain on the alternator, which had failed previously at the European Grand Prix.

Under current technical regulations, gearboxes must last 5 races in a row. Unlike engine rules, there is not a stipulated amount of gearboxes that can be used, rather a certain amount of races in which each must be raced.

Bahrain GP analysis: No winners in farce of a weekend

Weeks and weeks before the Bahrain Grand Prix, we were already aware that a race should never have taken place in the troubled region. Aside from the blatant political motive, it was clear that the sport had put its personnel in danger. I’d like to say that we’ll never have to deal with such a farce again, but that’s wishful thinking.

Politics and profit win over sport

F1 has disgraced itself by allowing itself to be manipulated - and the FIA's to blame

F1 has disgraced itself by allowing itself to be manipulated - and the FIA's to blame

There are many to blame over what Formula 1 was forced to go through, but one organisation should have put a stop to it: the FIA.

Bernie Ecclestone is well known for putting profit first – I’m surprised that people expected him to act differently this weekend. Perhaps he was misinformed over the Bahrain situation, or maybe he took a calculated risk. Either way, he should not have been the one to make the final call over the event.

The FIA’s primary responsibility is to ensure the safety of all participants, and it was clear that they failed to do that. To add insult to injury, they allowed the race organisers to use the sport as a political tool – running the UniF1ed slogan throughout the weekend.

FIA Statue Article 1 states that “The FIA shall refrain from manifesting racial, political or religious discrimination in the course of its activites and from taking any action in this respect”. One of the sport’s most primary objectives has been made a mockery of, all in the name of profit.

The profiteers from this race, of course, are the Al Khalifa royal family. Having invested in and organised the race, they also stand to gain the most from the race, and they made absolutely sure they got their money’s worth this time. By doing so, though, they have disgraced what should be a pure sporting event.

This kind of farce has happened before – see F1 racing in South Africa in the 80s for more details – but it doesn’t hide the fact that last weekend was never about the racing.

Lotus finally deliver on promises

After three disappointing races, Lotus have finally shown their hand – and may well be the fifth team to win a race this year.

Kimi Raikkonen was able to challenge for the win on Sunday, but slipped away after the final stop. Regardless, it shows excellent progress from Melbourne, and Grosjean’s first ever podium proves that he’s up to the task as well.

Team principal Eric Boullier stated that Romain could even become world champion if he continues to improve, and I don’t doubt him. From qualifying in Australia, Grosjean was already proving that he could take on Raikkonen.

It’s not outrageous to suggest that Lotus could still be in contention in Spain in a few weeks time. If they do take the chequered flag first, then 5 different teams will have won one of the first 5 races, and that could set us up for a magnificent title battle.

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