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Team Biography

SEASON INFORMATION
15/08/2013


Heikki
Kovalainen

Jarno
Trulli
 
 

Team Biography

 

Lotus F1 Racing was granted its entry into the 2010 Formula 1 World Championship by the sport's governing body, the FIA, in September 2009, one of three new teams to enter the sport. The entry came about as a result of the FIA/FOTA clash over budget capping - amongst other things - the sport's governing body inviting new teams into F1 with the promise that no team would be allowed to spend more than 40m.

When the budget cap was eventually thrown out, a number of prospective teams cried off while others persisted. To its credit, the 1Malaysia F1 Team was the last to throw its cap into the ring, its entry in doubt until BMW announced its withdrawal from the sport.

Behind the scenes, former Toyota technical director Mike Gascoyne had been hired to look at the feasibility of putting an F1 team together for 2010, the Englishman's cause aided by the fact that a number of former colleagues and suppliers from Toyota were now on the market.

Just one month after finally securing its entry, Lotus F1 proudly revealed that a scale model of the car was heading for the windtunnel, an announcement that was widely treated with suspicion. Indeed, claims that the model shown in photographs was an old Force India were quickly dismissed, with Gascoyne telling Pitpass: "The model is an entirely new model manufactured by Fondtech on behalf of Lotus F1 Racing and is based on a 2010 spec chassis geometry designed at our design office in Cologne, and includes a fuel tank to comply with the 2010 ban on refuelling and associated increase in wheelbase caused by these regulations. It is also based on the Cosworth engine installation and cooling requirements, and the Xtrac gearbox package. The nosebox, crash structures and front and rear suspension is also as specified by our design team. The bodywork is a first iteration version based on generic current trends, but this will rapidly evolve as a result of our windtunnel testing, the first week of which took place last week."

Sure enough, on January 12, five months after the team's entry had been officially confirmed, the Lotus T127 was unveiled in London, Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen were to be the race drivers with Malaysian youngster Fairuz Fauzy recruited as test and reserve.

Were there a world championship for self promotion, hyperbole or even tweeting, Lotus would have won it hands down. Team Principal Tony Fernandes being one of those new breed of F1 people who simply adores being in the limelight, whether it be on TV, radio or tweeting his latest bowel movement.

While Lotus was the best of the new teams, that isn't really saying much. Hispania lurched from crisis to crisis while Virgin was still coming to terms with its unique design concept.

That said, considering it was its first season, and the speed with which the entire project had been put together, the team did a good job and fully justified its tenth place in the Constructors' Championship.

The best all round performance came in Japan where Kovalainen finished twelfth and his teammate thirteenth. In terms of qualifying, the Finn's fifteenth in Malaysia was the highlight, though this was more about the lottery that was the weather.

Looking ahead, and aware of its own shortcomings, over the course of the year the team announced an agreement with Red Bull that would see it using the Austrian outfit's gearboxes and hydraulic systems from 2011, while a month later it was finally confirmed that the team would switch from Cosworth to Renault powerplants.

Sadly, for various reasons, the team attracted most of its publicity away from the track rather than on it. Most notable was the row over the rights to use the name Lotus.

While Fernandes and his team had played the Lotus 'connection' to the full, replicating the basic livery and claiming its appearance in the European Grand Prix was the 500th race in the marque's history, the announcement in September that in 2011 the team would race as Team Lotus was a step too far, certainly for Proton owned Group Lotus.

Plans to run a JPS-style livery in 2011 were quickly abandoned as the naming rights issue headed to court, while to further complicate matters, Proton had now bought Renault's remaining stake in the F1 team of that name and promptly renamed it Lotus Renault GP. To add insult to injury, it was subsequently announced that Lotus Renault GP would run a JPS-style livery.

Thankfully however, While the lawyers got to work, Fernandes outfit opted to remain in green and yellow while his Enstone rivals stuck fast with the plan to race in black and gold - a move finally approved by the courts.

With Renault powerplants and Red Bull gearboxes and hydraulic systems, a significant improvement was expected of the T128, and while, on paper, it didn't set the track on fire the Malaysian team left its fellow newbies behind and started to menace the midfielders.

While the statistics show that the Norfolk based outfit failed to score any points, this doesn't tell the full story, far from it. On three occasions the team made it through to Q2, also managing a best result of thirteenth in Australia, Monaco and Italy.

While this might not sound like much to boast about, these results guaranteed Team Lotus tenth place in the Constructors' Championship for a second season and thereby entitled the team to its share of the official prize purse, thought to be worth as much as twenty million euros.

While pace was much improved, reliability wasn't and the team suffered accordingly. Indeed, other than HRT, the Lotus T128 had the worst reliability record of 2011.

In terms of drivers, while Trulli appeared at times to be going through the motions, Kovalainen was a revelation, the Finn giving a number of truly epic performances that totally flattered the machinery beneath him.

For the German Grand Prix, in a move that still puzzles, the team opted to run Karun Chandhok instead of Trulli, thereby fuelling rumours that the Italian was facing the chop. Though the Indian gave a good account of himself in qualifying, considering his lack of running in the car, he subsequently finished a disappointing four laps behind the race winner and two laps down on his own teammate.

In terms of its test drivers, Chandhok, other than his German Grand Prix weekend, drove the T128 in the Friday morning sessions on several occasions, the most memorable being Melbourne when he crashed on his installation lap. Davide Valsecchi drove the car in Malaysia, while Luiz Razia drove it in China.

Razia got to drive the car again the Young Driver Test in November, as did Venezuelan Rodolfo Gonzalez and American Alexander Rossi, all three proving to be remarkably similarly paced. As in 0.078s between them.

Away from the track, Fernandes and Group Lotus continued their fight, and following a ruling in May that the Malaysian team could continue using the "Team Lotus" name and Team Lotus roundel, but could not use "Lotus" on its own. The ruling also confirmed Fernandes as the owner of the Team Lotus name, having bought the rights to the name from Hunt. However, the court ruling stated that Group Lotus had sole right to use the name "Lotus" on its own, and could enter Formula One using "Lotus" for a team name, the black and gold livery, and the Lotus roundel.

In a further hearing in July, Justice Peter Smith expressed discontent towards Tony Fernandes and Team Lotus after they made no mention of the purchase of Caterham Cars during the initial hearings. Furthermore, Fernandes had claimed that Caterham would remain entirely separate from Team Lotus, but a promotional video for the company showed Fernandes wearing Team Lotus apparel. Justice Smith commented that had this material been submitted at the original hearing, then it would have had the potential to influence him enough to rule differently in May.

In the end it was all sorted out and in 2012 the Enstone team - formerly Toleman, Benetton, Renault and Lotus Renault GP - will race as Lotus F1 Team, while Fernandes outfit will compete as Caterham F1 Team... sticking with Lotus green and yellow livery.

In terms of drivers, both Kovalainen and Trulli are retained. While there is surprise that one of the bigger teams didn't snap up the Finn, there is an equal amount of incredulity that the Italian is being given another season.

The relationship with Renault and Red Bull continues, with the world champions now supplying KERS also. This comes on top of the recruitment of Renault's sporting director, Steve Nielsen, and McLaren aerodynamicist, John Iley.

Slowly but surely, Fernandes and his partners are assembling an impressive little squad in Norfolk. It now remains to be seen whether Caterham - nee Lotus Racing and Team Lotus - can take that next big step and take the fight to the likes of Williams and Toro Rosso.

Statistics - at the end of the 2011 Season

Drivers' Titles: 0
Constructors' Titles: 0
Seasons in F1: 2
Grand Prix: 38
Wins: 0
Poles: 0
Fastest Laps: 0

Best result in 2011: 13th (3 Times)
Best qualifying 2011: 15th (Kovalainen - Spain)
Worst qualifying 2011: 21st (2 Times)

2011: Trulli out-qualified Kovalainen 2 Times
2011: Kovalainen out-qualified Trulli 16 Times
2011: Kovalainen out-qualified Chandhok 1 Time
2011: Chandhok out-qualified Kovalainen 0 Times

2011: Completed: 1918 out of 2266 laps (84.6%)
2011: Finished 29 times from 38 starts (76.3%)

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