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Lotus show that new teams can mean business
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Lotus show that new teams can mean business
Posted By: James Allen  |  14 Mar 2010   |  5:40 pm GMT  |  50 comments

There aren’t many great stories in the aftermath of the first Grand Prix in Bahrain, but one of them is the performance of the Lotus team, both of whose cars were classified finishers today. Heikki Kovalainen crossed the line in 15th place and Jarno Trulli was 17th, albeit he stopped on the circuit. But that may have been tactical so that the team can change a gearbox without penalty for the next race.

Photo: Darren Heath


The concept of the new teams came in for quite a bit of criticism in the run up to the start of the season and all the talk was of them being unsafe to race against, break downs and of re-introducing the 107% qualifying cut off. In the event both Virgin cars broke down early as did the Hispania cars.

But Lotus had a great day, with perfect reliability and once they switched onto the soft tyre on lap 30, their pace was pretty good too. For most of that final phase of the race, Kovalainen was lapping in the 2m 02s, at the same time as the bulk of the established midfield teams were doing 2m 00s. At one stage Kovalainen even had a battle with the Williams of Nico Hulkenberg.

The Lotus team was celebrating in the paddock as if they had won a world championship and to them it felt like it. The project was only given the green light six months ago and to get a car designed, built and through to the finish in temperatures of over 30 degrees is a fantastic achievement. It is also a good base from which to move forward.

The car was designed conservatively, with a 20% margin on cooling and a fairly basic aerodynamic package. For Spain there will be a major development step, shrink wrapping the bodywork more closely and refining the aerodynamics. This will give them a step which could be measured at around a second, rather than in tenths.

“I’m completely over the moon,” said team boss Tony Fernandes. “I cannot describe the feeling. Six months of work and to have both cars finish is just unbelievable. We’re thrilled, we’re happy and the spirit in the team is fantastic.”

Fernandes said that the F1 teams had been largely positive towards Lotus over the weekend and he was proud that the team’s debut had been conducted in a professional manner. Both Fernandes and technical director Mike Gascoyne were both actively Tweeting during the race, Gascoyne saying at one point that he was going to bring forward Trulli’s pit stop for soft tyres.

This was a welcome addition to the media coverage of the sport.

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50 Comments
  1. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

    Last season was great for overtaking. Why can’t we go back to the old regs?

    One pitstop, where everyone pits around the same lap is just not interesting. I also imagine that with such heavy it is very difficult to be marginal on the brakes in order to overtake.

    This was meant to be the 1980s revisited…but it seems that we are going to have a situation more similar to 2002 with Ferrari well ahead for the whole season.

    1. Unfortunately, the cars no longer have 1980′s downforce…

    2. David says:

      Yeah, last year was great for overtaking. Every race had lots of it, and all the races were exciting. Just like the race on the legendary, non-Tilkedome Suzuka last year. Oh wait.

      1. Quick Nick Rules says:

        Couldnt agree more with this excellent comment! The majority of last season’s races were dire, they just seemed good because it was new teams up there, but mostly each sunday was a procession. F1 needs to bring back a tyre war, and re-introduce the one-tyre per race rule. In 2005 I can think of at least 3 races where the winner was too close to call going into the final lap, it was terrific. With control tyres the cars are too similar in performance, with a tyre war we will see cars being strong at different types of circuit and at different times of the race, leading to overtaking. The tyre war was ended before due to cost, but with in season testing banned there is no reason for costs to go up dramatically.

      2. James W says:

        Not all of the races did. Valencia, Singapore, Hungary (to an extent) and Abu Dhabi come to mind as generally bland races.

    3. OlPeculier says:

      Give it chance!

      There’s a long way to go, the new teams will settle in and everybody else is panicking like crazy over the F-Flap/Stop.

  2. Red5 says:

    It may not have been the classic race that fans were anticipating but like many I’m sure I hope the new teams including Lotus can improve throughout the year. They desrve to celebrate tonight and I fully expect them to make significant progress as the season unfolds.
    Whilst they were not fighting for a win I think Colin will be happy to see a car bearing his name back on the track.
    Welcome back, Lotus.

  3. Ylan Marcel says:

    Drek Lotus, but better than Virgin and Hispania.

  4. Tony taylor says:

    Branson better find someone to wax his legs at this rate. Seriously well done Lotus I always had a soft spot for the team. Even had the Tamia 1/12 72 and 78, wish I still had them.

  5. Neil says:

    The answer is even simpler – remove the need to make pit stops completely. That way we’ll see people trying to run the whole distance on the same set of tyres, and we might get to the stage where there is a nice chasing pack behind them.

    1. Brace says:

      Exactly :)

    2. OlPeculier says:

      Don’t worry, next year they won’t even be able to get out of the pits, unless Bridgestone does a big U-turn…

  6. Chris Bird says:

    Best news of the day

  7. Obi-Wan Oakley says:

    Congrats to everyone @ Lotus, Here’s hoping the upgrades they are working on can move them up the field a bit if for no more reason than to make Beardy Branson lose the bet!!

  8. alex says:

    So lovely to see the yellow and green livery again, it’s a real pretty car.

  9. Moohcowh says:

    A truly brilliant effort, it shows Mike Gascoyne at his best and the complete faith Tony has in the team.

    If you don’t Twitter, you can see the same feed on thier facebook page.

  10. F1ART says:

    Both Fernandes and technical director Mike Gascoyne were both actively Tweeting.
    Bet Luca was growling!

  11. Alias J says:

    Yay!

  12. Dave Roberts says:

    I think it is a magnificent achievement for Lotus to get both cars to the finish, a testament to the team Mike Gascoyne has built round him.

    I understand David Coulthard’s view that the new teams shouldn’t necessarily be congratulated for just finishing but to put this team together from scratch in 6 months is remarkable. I am pleased for Gascoyne because I think he is the type of character F1 needs. I wish them every luck for the future.

    By the way James it was good to hear you in the post race press conference. I hope it leads to more exposure for you. Whilst I love the BBC coverage I wish you could be part of it.

    1. Elliot says:

      I don’t think Coulthard was diminishing their achievement – rather just he felt much of the post-match analysis should concern the winners. Perfectly reasonable in my opinion – and a tremendous achievement by Fernandes and Gascoyne. Welcome ‘back’ Lotus! ;D

    2. Chris says:

      Even better to see your extended pre-race report on the Australian “One” coverage, James — makes watching an hour of MotoGP people worthwhile :)

  13. Smokey says:

    Well done to them. Could have been embarrased but were not.

    HRT however…. wow where do you start? A shakedown in qualifying? this is Formula 1 right?

    1. Phil C says:

      It has to be remembered that the HRT of Senna outlasted both the Virgins, And the second only failed to finish because of a crash on a bad bump…

      I find that pretty impressive for a team that was pretty much established 11 days ago

  14. Jamie Kirkland says:

    Virgin seem to haave more problems with unreliability. Bruno Senna got further than both of their cars which is a suprise given that virgin actually went testing and chandhok crashed rather than broke down so we cant tell how far his car would have got.

    Would expect a car to be able to make it past 15 laps after a full barcelona test as well as free practice here.

    Lotus have the right idea going for reliability as the key factor and then focusing on improving the speed.

  15. Andy C says:

    Great achievement by lotus today. Well done.

    Good to see the heritage of colin chapman will not be embarrased. I wish them well.

  16. Andy says:

    Well done Lotus, but what was the idea with delaying Heikki’s pit stop relative to Jarno? He lost easily 20+ secs with respect to Trulli. Were they doing some testing about tire degrading or something like that?

  17. Paul says:

    Is it significant the team not hand picked by the FIA seems to be the best of the new teams?

  18. Graham Coles says:

    I’m 55 years old and have followed GP for nearly 40 years. I travel alot and am lucky enough to have made it regularly to most of the GP’s in that time. That is until now.
    I’ve got a horrible feeling that what we saw today was a foretaste of the racing we can expect through the rest of this year, and I’m sorry it’s just not worth paying for or travelling for.

    It looks like Max and his tech teams legacy is a new sport – ‘Grand Prix Time Trialing’ instead of Grand Prix RACING!
    From 1.8 secs covering the grid to 1.8 secs between each of the cars at the end of the first lap – in 6 months. Some achievement.

    Are we sure that Max did not get his road safety/international racing administration briefs crossed, because lets face it with the fittest and most skilfull drivers in the world all electing to ‘nurse their car’s tyres from lap 2 on, and conserve fuel it’s unlikely that there is going to be much action.

    As far as the tyre situation goes, I look forward to being able to spend an extra hour in the gym on Sundays as its obvious that it’s only worth tuning in (as I can assure you I certainly won’t be at the track anymore) to see the last 15 laps.

    I can’t tell you how gutted and empty this makes me feel. I’ve got 17 more weekends to fill now as I’m certainly not going to devote any of my time to watching a smooth driving competition combined with an economy run taking place on what could be the same airfield every other week.

    The one thing that could have made a difference to cost, competition and spectacle – restriction and control of aerodynamic downforce – totally ignored by the lawmakers – brilliant.

    They’re obviously cleverer than me – so how come we’ve been led into this catstrophic cul-de-sac?

    Finally,
    As regards Red Bull, will they or Webber be penalised for causing an avoidable accident at corners 2 and 3 on the first lap – (over-filled/incorrectly prepared car).

    Graham.

    1. Doug says:

      It is looking ominous, isn’t it. Not sure a mandatory second pit stop will improve the ”spectacle” either.

  19. Azlin says:

    Way to go Lotus! To think that they don’t even exist about half a year ago. Hope they can steadily improve and be a real midfield contender soon.

  20. PeteJ says:

    Well Done Lotus guys!

  21. Pat says:

    A very deserved “Well Done” to everyone at Lotus.

  22. David Jerromes says:

    Great to see new teams in F1.
    Even better to see that they didn’t embarrass themselves too much up against the established and well-practiced competition!

    Congratulations Lotus on a job well done.

    Virgin will be back for sure as will HRT.

    I really think the FIA should allow the new teams to have extra practice time to fettle their charges, as they are playing catch-up anyway!

    Anyone have an inside as to why Stefan GP was given a bloody nose by the FIA when US F1 finally put their hands up and said ‘No go’??

    1. " for sure " says:

      I guess their formal complaint regarding the bizzare selection process adopted by the FIA, one of only two that were made despite the widespread dissatisfaction voiced about that process, may have had a little to do with it.

      Moral, if you want to join the club, don’t rock the FIA boat.

  23. Nicollers says:

    I’m with DC on this. 15th and 17th isn’t amazing and nothing to be proud of at all. F1 is about being fast and not the best of the Tier 2 teams.

    4 seconds a lap slower than the Ferrari proves the Cosworth engine is way off the pace of the Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault engines. Why bother? So you can fluke a win if it rains?

    1. Ging says:

      Sorry, but I disagree with DC and all those who have criticised the new teams. You’re right in that the actual results aren’t amazing. However by finishing, Lotus will have gained a mass of data they can use when it comes to incorporating improvements to the car. I expect to see them narrowing the gap.

      I can’t help but feel that too many people in F1 want it to remain a cosy little club, hence the comments made by the likes of Ferrari and DC. Let’s see where the new teams are at season end before passing judgement.

      1. Quick Nick Rules says:

        I’m with you mate – DC was bang out of order on that one. Clearly he has been living in his soulless tax haven for too long, he’s forgotton that we Brits like a plucky underdog,rather than dismissing them. I have to say I was a massive fan of DC as a driver, he was my hero but as a broadcaster he leaves a lot to be desired. His Red Bull bias is getting incredible tiresome now and his inisght is bland in extremis. The warning signs were there with ‘it is what it is’, quite possibly the worst thing ever committed to paper. Large areas of his career are missed out with the excuse of ‘i dont really remember much about this season’ and he uses the phrase ‘it is what it is’ on no fewer than 12 occasions, surprised he didnt try and fit in a few ‘needless to say, I had the last laugh’ in there too. Tragic really, given that he was such a heroic performer on track. Reminiscent of Ian Wright – a brilliant sportsman, but a dire broadcaster. Bring back Tony Jardine, his impressions of DC where he used to pull out his cheeks and say ‘A couldnae get passed Panis’ were a million times funnier than any of DC’s ‘quips’

      2. James Allen says:

        DC takes the elitist line on this

      3. Frenchie says:

        Ah the good old days of ITV… I agree that I prefered the likes of Rosenthal, Jardine and co. back then. There was that gentlemen racers aura to it somehow.

        Having raced in the 90′s it seems that DC has very short memory. I remember the Fortis, Pacific GP, AGS and what have you that were about 5 sec slower.I also remember Williams and Benetton being 1 sec a lap or so between themselves – have a look at Monaco 96 on youtube.

        Lotus did a superb job by finishing. It’s not so long ago there were lots of DNFs per race.

        Virgin seem to have some performance for a new team however I fear they won’t finish often. As for HRT, I don’t think we’ll see them racing this year.

      4. " for sure " says:

        Agreed, DC is rubbish, and Jordan is as bad. The only thing that makes Jordan better is the hilarious nonsense he can be relied upon to spout at frequent intervals. And remember, BBC license fee money pays their no doubt exhorbitant fees so not only do we get rubbish racing, we pay for the inane commentators as well. That said, I enjoy Brundle and Jake as the anchor does a fair job.

      5. Nicollers says:

        Maybe I am a bit quick to slate Lotus and don’t get me wrong, the more competition the better. For me however, it has to be competitive competition. The Cosworth engine isn’t competitive, fact. Lotus had to run it under it’s full potential. This is where the rule on engine changes is rubbish in my view. The Cosworth won’t be as reliable as the Mercedes or the Ferrari, yet the lesser teams can only have the same set limit as the top teams.

        On the other hand, they chose to run with the Cosworth engine, so you could argue, it’s their problem!

        And sorry Robert McKay, chassis alone doesn’t cost you 4 seconds a lap!

      6. Andrew says:

        The Cosworth engine that was in the Williams looks very competitive. There was a good moment where Barrichello went up against a Toro Rosso on the straight and the engine had enough grunt to outpace the ferrari engine. Again this could be aero, but it doesnt look slow by any means.

    2. Robert McKay says:

      Why are you attributing that to the engine, and not the chassis?

  24. Mr G says:

    Lotus demonstrated that, with the right approach and the right people, it is possible to put together a F1 that will last a race and finish it.
    Virgin will be in the mix of the back markers next race but I am not impressed with Hispania at all.
    Experienced people behind the scene is and will be the key difference between Lotus – Virgin and Hispania.
    Lotus and Virgin will not be able to battle for wins because the like of Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren and Red Bull have knowledge and budgets that will never been revelaed despite the agreement.
    Lotus will be in the middle of the pack in the second half of the season with Virgin and Williams.
    I am curious to see what Renault will come up in the next few races to match the new teams

  25. Stevie P says:

    Hmmmmmm, well Gascoyne has repeatedly said that their car was built to complete the first race… viewing reliability over performance. So I guess that’s fair enough and hey we’ve got big something up after a lacklustre race!

  26. Kedar says:

    James, The only problem I have is that a couple of decades ago when I saw my first F1 race F1 was all about technology used in sci fi movies and it was truly the pinnacle of motor sport with the most advanced technology and actual on track competition. It was pretty dangerous and that added to the fun. But now what I see is the danger that the sport is turned into a show where teams are using qualifying sessions for shakedowns, the technology used in the safety car is superior (minus the aero perhaps?) than the actual cars and there is no action on the track.
    F1 in that sense has become a finishing school for some teams. May be these teams are working really hard but that doesnt really make them eligible for the most elite racing series

  27. Stu says:

    Those with long memories will know that the new teams aren’t nearly as much as a joke to F1 than Andrea Moda in 1992 were…

  28. JohnBt says:

    Well done Lotus. Trulli and Heikki were very professional, moving aside neatly. Heikki and Hulk created some overtaking for the first race, not bad. As for VR and HRT, one car from each team will be an improvement.

  29. Tyler says:

    Isnt it something that even with the mechanical failures, the new teams were the most exciting part of the race.

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