One month after confirmation of its entry in the 2010 FIA Formula 1 World Championship, Lotus F1 Racing is already heading into the windtunnel with a scale model of its first Formula 1 car.
The as yet undesignated model is the product of the recent collaboration between Lotus F1 Racing Chief Technical Officer Mike Gascoyne and the team's technical partners, and represents an important step in the team's preparations for next season.
How important is the completion of Lotus F1 Racing's first windtunnel model?
"The start of any windtunnel testing is an important step in the development of a new Formula 1 car, but it is particularly exciting for us as we continue preparations for our first season. It has been a very busy time since our entry was confirmed by the FIA. We had been working on the entry for several months so we already had aspects of the team infrastructure in place; the finances, the factory and the top management. Once our entry was confirmed in mid-September, we were able to accelerate our recruitment and car development process and this is really where we are at now."
What precisely is the involvement from Malaysia?
"Our entry has only been made possible thanks to financing from the Malaysian private sector, so Lotus F1 Racing will be a Malaysian team through and through. Additionally we have valuable support from the Malaysian government through its 1Malaysia initiative, so we will essentially be flying the Malaysian flag in Formula 1. I am liaising with our Team Principal Tony Fernandes about our plans on a daily basis and am currently spending some time in Malaysia interviewing potential candidates for technical roles. The team is also in the process of recruiting Malaysian employees for other positions, including administration, marketing and PR."
The team is currently based in the UK, but is there a long-term plan to move to Malaysia?
"The longer-term vision is to create a centre of technical excellence at the Sepang circuit which we have already started planning together with Tony Fernandes and his associates. Naturally this takes time, so we have opted initially for a UK base at the RTN facility in Hingham from where we will run the F1 operations while we establish our Malaysian facilities. Ultimately, the team will be headquartered in Malaysia, but we will keep a small UK base which will give us a logistical advantage when we are racing within Europe."
What technical partnerships do you already have in place?
"We have been working with Fondtech to develop the aerodynamics, as well as with gearbox specialists Xtrac. We have an engine supply deal in place with Cosworth and we also have the support of engineering and composites teams in Malaysia who will play an integral role in developing the car."
Is there really enough time to get a car and a team up and running before the first race in Bahrain?
"There is no escaping the challenges that we face simply to get the car ready for the first race of next season, but I am confident that we are up to the task in hand. Our target is to get the car ready for a roll out by the middle of February so that we can carry out pre-season testing in preparation for Bahrain in mid-March."
What are your expectations for the first year?
"We need to remain realistic in our aims for the first year. We are a new team and we are starting our development late, so it will be an achievement just to get two cars on the Bahrain grid. I hope by the middle of the season we will have established ourselves as the best of the rookie teams and then continue to make forward progress for the rest of the year."
How integrated will the F1 team be with other Lotus groups?
"It is a big honour to be associated with such an historic and prestigious Formula 1 brand as Lotus for whom I have a lot of respect. We will have a close relationship with other Lotus groups and we will do all we can to ensure that the Lotus name is treated respectfully with our new team."
Finally, has there been any decision made on drivers for next year?
"We have been looking closely at the driver market to determine our best options for next year including Malaysian drivers, but no decisions have been made yet. We need versatile drivers. We need reliable and technically-minded drivers who can help us develop the car during the season, but at the same time we need drivers who are hungry for results and who can extract every little bit of performance from the car at all times."