Lotus unveiled their new team, car and drivers in London this evening. It was a professional and understated presentation, the key themes were passion and heritage rather than promises and hype.
Team boss Tony Fernandes is a builder of brands and here he has pulled together various strands into this team, leaning heavily on the heritage of the Lotus name. But the Chapman family who founded Lotus are fully behind him and were at the launch, also behind him are Mike Gascoyne and his experienced technical team made up of former Toyota, Super Aguri and Renault staff.
There are 160 people in the team at present and most of them were at the launch. Also present were some ex Lotus drivers, Sir Stirling Moss and Nigel Mansell among them.
Most of the engineering team are ex-Toyota, with a 30 strong design office in Cologne, near the old Toyota headquarters. The wind tunnel team is based in Italy. Gascoyne claims that the car went together better in the car build stage than any car he has been involved in before.
The car looks fairly straight forward without perhaps the intricate refinement of the new cars from the likes of Red Bull or McLaren. But Gascoyne says that it is a solid base on which to build for the future. He knows what it takes to succeed in F1 and is a good planner, so you have to take his word for it.
“Probably we need to take some weight out of some of the components, and we made some design decisions very early on that we’ll want to refine,” he said. “But I have to say I think we’ve designed a very contemporary 2010-spec car. It’s not out of date, it’s very well designed, so I’m not worried – I think we’ve got a very solid base to build on.
“We will be a very solid professional team. We’ll score some points and we’ll spring some surprises towards the end of the year.”
This has been a remarkable effort; the team only pushed the button on building a car five months ago and at that stage there were just four employees including Gascoyne.
The team has done remarkably well to get drivers of the calibre and experience of Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalaianen. Both will regard this as a move down and it will be interesting to monitor motivation as the season goes on. But I think they will be fired up to build this team into something – there is an infectious enthusiasm and a family atmosphere about this team, reminiscent of what teams were like in the late 1980s /early 1990s when I started working in this sport.
Lotus are the second new team to reveal their car after Virgin Racing. Team boss Tony Fernandes plans for this to be the only time this year that they follow behind Virgin and said that he has ordered the stockings for Virgin’s Richard Branson to wear when he loses their bet and has to work as a cabin stewardess on Fernandes’ airline. That is the forfeit for whichever of them finishes lower in the championship.
The other two new teams are now in a real race against time. Campos has a car from Dallara and engines, but is struggling to find the funding to pay Dallara and start the season. USF1 meanwhile seems to have the funding, but is running behind on the technical side and is in a race against time to get the car ready for the start of the season in Bahrain.