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Lotus F1 hire race winners for F1 assault
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Lotus F1 hire race winners for F1 assault
Posted By: James Allen  |  14 Dec 2009   |  12:35 pm GMT  |  56 comments

The new Lotus F1 team has revealed the scale of its ambition by announcing that Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen, both race winners in F1, will drive for the team in its debut season next year.

Trulli: Multi year deal to build up Lotus team (Darren Heath)

Trulli: Multi year deal to build up Lotus team (Darren Heath)


From the point of view of the drivers this is a big vote of confidence in technical director Mike Gascoyne, who worked with Trulli at Renault and Toyota. Lotus boss Tony Fernandes has empowered Gascoyne, given him the resources he asked for to get the job done and to have two highly experienced drivers, both of whom are capable of extracting the maximum performance from a car, will give them a strong base on which to move forward.

“The appointment of Jarno, Heikki and Fairuz as our race drivers is a testament to the quality of our team, to our ambition and drive, and above all to our long-term vision of success in Formula 1,” said Fernandes.

“Jarno and Heiki are winners and have proven track records in Formula 1, and will be a big asset to us as we look to develop the team and the car throughout 2010. Jarno and Heikki are two extremely versatile drivers who have proven themselves more than capable of achieving solid results no matter how tough the conditions.”

For Trulli this was a fairly easy decision to make, he has great faith in Gascoyne and the security of a multi-year contract. The team is bound to struggle in 2010 for reliability as they bed in an all new car, hydraulics and engine, but they believe they will be the strongest of the new teams.

Many of the staff already at Lotus’ base in Norfolk are from Toyota and a load more Toyota staff are set to arrive in the New Year, cherry picked by Gascoyne. For Trulli there will be a lot of familiar faces in the garage next season.

The key now is the sponsorship budget from Malaysian oil company Petronas. This has been with Sauber for many years, but with Malaysian government backing for the Lotus F1 project and a Malaysian test driver, there is political pressure for Lotus, the national flag carrier, to get the money. If that happens Lotus, which already has a guaranteed £55 million budget for 2010, will be in robust shape financially as well as technically. It would also set back the Sauber team considerably.

Picture 48
Lotus also revealed its new logo. It plays on the heritage of the past

“F1 aficionados will immediately recognise the classic green and yellow colour of Lotus,” said Fernandes,” But we have given it a modern twist which is essentially what this team is about. We are not pretending to be the Lotus of the past, but we are honoured to be able to bring the name back into Formula 1 at the start of a new decade of racing. We will draw on its heritage and use it to inspire and motivate our team, Lotus F1 Racing.”

Fernandes hopes to unite the Lotus F1 team with the Lotus car company, owned by Malaysian car giant Proton. He says that he hopes they will buy an equity stake in the team in time.

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56 Comments
  1. PaulL says:

    Race winners… that’s flattering with a whole two between them! Nah I respect Jarno Trulli for what he’s achieved and the work he’s put in even if he’s not elite class.
    Everyone says that Kovalainen’s head was done in at McLaren. Is he really F1 standard anyway though?

    1. Dale says:

      Kovi is as good as many but not the top draw. The Hamilton’s, Alonso’s and Vettle’s don’t come along often so we’ll always see second tier drivers in F1 8)

      1. Hannah says:

        I could not more disagree. Kovalainen had a horrid deal at Mclaren having to swim up stream the whole time.. He had to come into a team post alonso remember (what a mess).

        **********

        Watch how Heikki makes 2010 his own… He is only an UNPROVED talent in F1, and for some insiders in F1 ” of the same class” as the hamiltons alonsos and vettels.

      2. Dale says:

        Now now you’re being silly :)
        No way is he as good as the three you mention, no way Hosay :!:

  2. martin_tf says:

    I suppose its good that they are getting experienced drivers but I wonder if there results next year for qualifying will look a lot better than their points haul.

    Hopefully Kovalainen will show his true potential a bit better than he did up against Hamilton.

    1. Dale says:

      Kovi’s already shown his true potential, he’s hardly likely to do more at Virgin than McLaren is he :?: :?

      1. James Allen says:

        Lotus, not Virgin.

      2. Andy says:

        Kovi’s time at McLaren certainly was a disappointment, but I think he is better than that. In his rookie year, he completely outdrove Fisi, and he was very good at the start of his first McLaren season, only very very unlucky, which then set the tone for the remainder of his time there. He just might shine again when given a fresh start.

  3. Hairs says:

    Manor have now signed up Virgin (probably a cheap sponsor but one that more than pays for itself by having Richard Branson doing your marketing for you) and Lloyds Private Banking (at an alleged 10m p.a.). Yet they’ve no facilities, no drivers, no technical star a la Gascoyne or Brawn, no history, and will be one of the backmarkers of the new teams for sure. Lotus can pull in Petronas, but they have a fairly jumbo-jet sized inside line to that company so no suprise there.

    Yet Brawn STILL have nothing. What IS going on over there?

    1. Ray McGrath says:

      Is Nick Fry still responsible for attracting sponsorship for Brawn/Mercedes? If so, that probably answers your question…

  4. Nicollers says:

    Great for Lotus, not so much so for Kovalainen. No disrespect to Lotus, but the “Flying” Finn struggled in a good car and I think he’ll find it even tougher in a new motor.

    And like Rubens when he was at Honda, a big name like Trulli’s, doesn’t mean success. I predict he will out-qualify and out-race his team mate though.

    Gascoyne’s got his men, but this looks to be more about publicity than it does about ambition and potentially blooding stars of the future.

    I hope I’m proven wrong and that their shared experience does bring some reward to Lotus.

  5. Olivier says:

    A very decent line up of drivers. Well experienced, but race pace might be of concern.

    Gascoyne seems to be an enfant terrible. Force India and Toyota were not so keen on him. But he is highly regarded by the drivers. Why did Mallya not like Gascoyne? Was it purely because of strategic reasons with McLaren? And is Gascoyne in the same league as Adrian Newey?

    Looking at their website, it looks like the cars will have a racing green/yellow livery.

    1. Dale says:

      ‘is Gascoyne in the same league as Adrian Newey?’

      I hardly think so, I don’t rate him at all and I’d have a bet I’m proved right 8)

      1. James Allen says:

        Different role; Newey is a design chief, Gascoyne is more like a Ross Brawn type technical co-ordinator

      2. Jon says:

        And to be fair to Gascoyne – he had the ‘golden touch’ a few years back, every team he went to found more performance just after his arrival.

        For a brand new team to have Gascoyne, a lot of the ex-Toyota people (and from other teams no doubt) plus Trulli & Heikki in the cars is more than a major coup. 2010 is a development year for Lotus to bed themselves in, and they’ve done a brilliant job in hiring the right people to get them moving in the right direction.

      3. GP says:

        Totally agree with you, Jon. Although I was pissed at their using a sacred name, I must say that announcing Trulli and Kovi,in addition to Gacoyne and others, is a clear demonstration of the seriousness of the project.

        With the return of Peter Sauber, the Siverstone contract and now this announcement things are looking up. What a change from the last several months.

  6. Chris says:

    Good for Lotus, but had any existing team come up with this driver lineup, we would be criticising them for lacking ambition and going for drivers who will probably never win a race again.

    1. Dale says:

      Agreed 8)

    2. John F says:

      But winning a race is surely not Lotus’s realistic ambition for their first F1 season.

      They want experienced drivers. which can help the team setup the car and sort out issues.

      That’s actually a smart choice for Lotus and they should be applauded for this approach rather than hiring whoever brings the biggest money bag.

      I don’t rate Kovi too high as a racer, but he’s a good and reliable choice and also seems to be fairly easy-going. You don’t need a Primadonna with an inflated ego for a start-up team.

      1. Chris says:

        Hence why I said good for Lotus. If you’re starting up as a new team, you don’t want the likes of Fauzy destroying the car every weekend, and unable to describe how the car is behaving. But the last point is also true, hence why they have ended up at Lotus.

  7. Med says:

    I’m not sure I agree on them being drivers “capable of extracting the maximum performance from a car” – in my opinion they’re simply the better of the leftovers.

    Obviously those involved know more than me, but they just seem like 2 good mid-field drivers; I’ll give Kovy the benefit of the doubt seeing as he had a difficult car with Renault to debut, then (allegedly) had to play 2nd fiddle to Lewis at McLaren, but Trulli’s never stood out as a top driver to me; I thought it was a commonly shared view that he can have his moments, but generally he tends to spend his Sunday afternoons daydreaming about his vineyard

    1. James Allen says:

      Over one lap in qualifying Trulli will give you the ultimate lap time a car is capable of, so you will find out how fats your car is with him on board

      1. Jonathan says:

        It’s just a shame that he’s also able to show you just how quickly that car can move down the order in the actual race.

        Lotus should have hired Taku and Heikki and left Jarno out to pasture. I think he’s had long enough in F1 to show that it’s someone else’s turn now.

      2. Dale says:

        Trulli, nice bloke but second rate driver. Only any good when he bothers to turn up (his head seems more wrapped up with his wine business than it ever is in F1).
        Unlike you James I think there are number of drivers would can do a faster one off lap. Lewis, Massa and Alonso to name three 8)
        I think he’s a lucky chap getting a drive at all as he’s had his chance and done NOTHING :!:

      3. Tarek says:

        I beg to differ. Everybody seems to forget that Trulli was fantastic in 2004 alongside Alonso. If I’m not mistaken, he was even ahead of Fernando on points before he was given the axe. He also won a race that season; Alonso did not.

      4. Nick F says:

        It’s a shame the races are all longer than one lap though. ;-)

        Seriously though it seems to me like a good line up for a new team starting out. The performance level of both guys is known and its going to be easier for Lotus to know how they are doing. They are going to get good feedback and avoid the expensive rookie mistakes.

        …Also they are both very nice guys and I’m happy for them to get their racing seats.

    2. Sidney S says:

      Trulli for raw pace (over 1 lap) has to be the best since Senna, and due to the new non- refuelling rules having the number 1 qualifier on the gird will be a huge advantage over the new teams.

      I only hope the Lotus can provide Trulli with a car that will enable him to show the grid that he really is the unluckiest driver in the paddock i.e. He has never really had a championship winning car except at Renault, and we all know what Flavio did to Trulli’s career after that.

  8. Rob says:

    Trulli & Kovalainen – Oh dear!!

  9. khan says:

    Looks like a decent pairing for a team in its 1st year. They are developing the car from scratch so they need experienced drivers. Bringing in rookis may slow down the evolution of car and team. Both JT and HK have limited success in F1 so definately a good decision bt TF.

  10. Pierre says:

    Considering the rules, the drivers still available (heidfeld going either to Mercedes or Sauber), that choice makes a lot of sens. None are the same class as Hamilton, Vettel, Alonso and Raikkonen, but they are fast in qualifying (Q3 with low fuel next year) and have both experience/knowledge of big teams.

  11. Tarek says:

    If Heikki manages to keep Trulli honest in 2010 (particularly in qualifying), it will prove just how great a driver Lewis Hamilton is (as if any proof is needed). Lewis wiped the floor with Heikki in their two seasons together at McLaren, but I suspect that the world will find out it’s got as much to do with Lewis’s qualities as Heikki’s tendency to underperform on Sunday afternoons.

  12. JamesF1 says:

    We’re hearing plenty about Manor and Lotus but next to nothing about Campos and USF1 – any news on what they’re up to James?

  13. John Snow says:

    Probably the best driver line up for all new teams, but both Trulli and Hekki have consistantly either over performed in Qualifying or under performed in the Race. Which ever statement is true, they will fall backwards on most Sunday afternoons. That cant be good for brand / sponsors can it James?

  14. Steve says:

    Two questions:

    What relationship does Lotus F1 have to Lotus the makers of road cars?

    Is Gascoyne a prickly character? He keeps getting hired and fired and hired. Why is that?

    1. James Allen says:

      He has no time for a certain type of management level, of which there was a great deal at Toyota. He’s at his best in a small team with good resources giving them plenty of bang for their buck. This team looks like it has the makings..

  15. Robert says:

    Trulli and Gascoyne – Jordan, Renault, Toyota and now Lotus.
    They must be great friends.

  16. Babur says:

    Lotus will easily score some points next season and be the best of the rest team. You heard it here first.

  17. Sujith Radhakrishnan says:

    Hahahaha!! Race Winners??! They would have had a world champion if they hired Vilenueve

  18. Brace says:

    “But we have given it a modern twist”
    Hahah, trust me, there’s nothing modern about that logo. :)
    It might have looked modern back in 80s but not today. :)

    1. Tonksy says:

      Hahaha I was wondering the same thing – what exactly do they mean by ‘modern twist’?

  19. Werewolf says:

    Lotus are to be congratulated. The appointments of Gascoigne, Trulli and Kovalainen, plus Toyota’s best technicians, already gives the impression of establishment, something which should in turn generate confidence and investment.

    The experience levels of the drivers makes them known quantities and a stable base from which to judge the performance of the car, especially Trulli.

    Hopefully, Fernandes will leave Gascoigne to do his thing unmolested and the team will be rewarded for its approach. The counterpoint, of course, is that failure against the other fledglings, all of whom lack any depth of F1 experience, would be a disaster.

    Nice to see the green and yellow back too, even if it is only an homage.

    1. James Allen says:

      Fernandes is a breath of fresh air. He made a lot of new friends in Monaco last week, at the Forum and at the F1 commission meeting. He says he will leave Gascoyne to get on with it

      1. Josh says:

        Great stuff :)

  20. Rudy Pyatt says:

    Manor should just become BRM now…

    What news on Kobyashi and, for that matter, USF1?

    1. Frank says:

      the rumour is Jeff Gordon for USF1…

  21. pao says:

    Hmmm I think Lotus could ultimately do well, but don’t expect great things in the first year. OK MG has not had the pleasure of a championship winning car, but all of the teams he has been involved in have done really well once his work has been done – restructuring etc. It is a shame that he has had to leave just as the fruits of his labours have really had effect. As for the drivers, Trulli we all know is a great barometer of a car’s ultimate pace and Kovi? Well I think the best gauge of Kovi is how JB fares against Lewis, given the environment I think HK will really shine.

  22. Vinicius Antunes says:

    Hey,

    Is Kobayashi in the short-list for any of the seats left? He quite proved himself in the last couple races of the year. I was looking forward to seeing him somewhere next season…

  23. RobbM says:

    Hi James

    It’s going to be cool to see Lotus back there’s not much wrong with the two drivers their kicking off with. What the team needs is experience at least in for first season or two.
    It’s a kinda shame that Lotus is leaving the UK ( in a sense) that by only going aboard will it find a new life, sometimes with this island of ours we don’t sense or care about our heritage. It takes those from aboard to see such hidden gems and their potential, good luck to Gascoyne and all involved.

    One thing, though (cos i missed the MS coming back thread below)
    I’m not surprised MS is coming back, you could see in his eyes he so wanted Massa’s seat, but do you think this is MS gearing up to be a team owner or manager one day,i think it’s only a matter of time … what do you think?

    Rob

    1. James Allen says:

      Well, I’m beginning to think that you cannot second guess Michael these days, but he’s always said that team ownership is not something that interests him.

  24. Neil says:

    Trulli and Kovalainen, 2 drivers very much alike, they will get points for the team and the rare lucky podium, but thats it

  25. Fil says:

    Solid lineup for a new team.
    And even more impressive when you factor in that Heikki chose Lotus over a seat at Renault, claiming the latter asked for money for the seat, yet the new team didn’t!

    Seems like Lotus is very well financed, strong personnel, a smart & modern leader.. all the hallmarks of a team destined to be competitive!

    1. Martin Collyer says:

      It looks solid, as you say Fil.

      Neither driver is in the ‘Ace’ category but they are experienced and competent. Surely this is better for a new team than taking a chance on a rookie who might be a crasher and not be in a position to contribute much to team or car development.

      It looks like the strongest of the new teams from all points of view.

  26. Tom Adams says:

    I think Villeneuve would have been good too, shame….
    Maybe we will see him pop up at Renault or Sauber?

  27. Paul Moss says:

    This driver combo makes huge sense for a team needing to benchmark, and how to improve, a completely new car.
    Locally, there was a lot of support for an asian driver, preferably Kobayashi, but there is logic in Trulli/Kovalinen. Not a dissimilar approach to Button/Barrichello at Brawn this year.
    Tony Fernandes is a unique individual. This is a guy who regularly challenges the establishment and wins. Not a feat to be taken lightly in SE Asian countries.
    He’s great at building cult brands, and an underdog culture that feels right for the F1 team. Importantly also, he’s shown so far, that he recognizes Lotus’s F1 heritage.

    1. James Allen says:

      According to Fernandes, Toyota were not keen for Gascoyne to get Kobayashi, given the fall out between them when he was Toyota Technical director

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