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Video: How Lotus F1 team is developing
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Video: How Lotus F1 team is developing
Posted By: James Allen  |  09 Aug 2010   |  6:49 pm GMT  |  53 comments

This is a video I shot a little while ago behind the scenes at the Lotus factory in Norfolk.

I’ve been in all the F1 team factories, apart from Hispania, some many times and Lotus is definitely one of the friendliest places. This is not surprising given that it is a new team, but all the same there is a family feel about the team that Tony Fernandes and Mike Gascoyne have built and there are many familiar faces from other F1 teams over the last 20 years.

Here we talk to Keith Saunt, who runs the factory and is the chief operating officer of the race team.

I asked him how the team has grown since it started racing, how real the links are to the Lotus F1 team of the past and to the road car company.

There is a poll for you to leave your views about Lotus’ progress this season.

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53 Comments
  1. Ashish Sharma says:

    It has been nice to follow the progress of Lotus over the season, especially in the light of your articles on comparing the evolution of the less observed items, like the complexity of the front wing etc.
    In that sense it is a pity that Lotus has now shifted its development effort to the next year’s car but it will be interesting to see what they put up next year.

    I also understand that they are currently 10th in the standings ( based on the one 12th place finish ahead of Virgin and Hispania) and in light of the bet between Tony Fernandes and Richard Branson it would be nice to see this site carry the 10th 11th and 12th in that order besides the points…

    1. f1 jobs says:

      yea – and all the fuzz when they were hiring a full team from scratch… Nice to see a classic F1 name back in the sport, you’re right about that

  2. Kenny says:

    When I heard about the return of the Lotus name last season for F1 my first thoughts were: this is fantastic and the team will surely do well when they’re recruiting people like Mike Gascoyne who has great relations with other very technically minded people.
    There rate of development has been pretty good in that I believe they were actually a week ahead of schedule at one point in the winter and they always had scheduled updates for either new floors or wings because at the time they didn’t have the money and/or time to make the parts yet, but were able to plan them into a development programme. Incidentally that’s not to say that the other new teams didn’t have some sort of a development plan, albeit, Hispania did show surprise that Dallara weren’t going to make a major update till next season.
    This is why I believe they have been ever so close at times to spring a surprise and sneak into Q2 and it wouldn’t surprise me if by the end of the season we might just see one of the Lotus cars getting in even if it is still quite difficult. Out of the new teams Lotus seems to be the one to reach Q2 despite the recent progress of Virgin.
    I’m not entirely sure about the Hispania team, but I’m not too big a fan of them right now after their driver musical chairs.
    Anyways, back to Lotus, I voted that I was quite impressed with their work given it’s only been a matter of months and they’re surviving quite well (or atleast it all appears to be seeing as there has been no mass media publishing of financial struggles anyways!). I would have really liked to have said I was really impressed with them, but for that I think they would have had to snuck into a points finish or qualified into Q2 on merit.

  3. JimmiC says:

    It’s nice to hear that some of the teams are approachable and open in what is a very closed and insular business. If Mclaren can let their hair down then anything is possible.

    I think all three new teams by default have done staggeringly well, although time will tell if they will stick around or be another Simtek/Pacific/etc. Personally, I thought Hispania in particular would bring a car with all the speed and finesse of the 1997 Mastercard Lola, but they and both Virgin and Lotus should be applauded for their efforts. If any one of them could get a point in a race of high attrition, that would be mega.

    Any chance, whilst we are on memory lane, of seeing Ligier, Alfa Romeo, Onyx, Minardi (the real Minardi), Tyrrell back…? :P

    1. Chris from Adelaide says:

      Would love to see Toro Rosso change there name back to Minardi :D

    2. Howard Hughes says:

      I agree – although I’m not into retro branding for retro branding’s sake, I certainly welcome names like Tyrell or Brabham back on the grid, provided they were done with the correct blend of heritage and commercial acumen that Fernandes has brought to the Lotus project.

    3. KNF says:

      Ross Brawn was considering a name change back to Tyrrell back around end of 2008, now with Mercedes owning the team, and probably the associated naming rights, it’s highly unlikely we’ll see the return of Uncle Ken’s team…

  4. jonathan says:

    While I think next year should be a far far better year in terms of speed from Lotus I can’t possibly vote other than “hopeless” for Lotus this year. Slower than slow and unreliable to boot, Virgin are at the same level (i.e.SLOW)
    Very embarrassing for the drivers. Jarno Trulli must be gutted.
    Fingers crossed for next year.

    1. Duncan says:

      I can’t understand the basis for your comment at all. “Slower than slow”? Compared to what? The established teams which have on-going development programs, started their cars much earlier, have larger budgets and extensive experience as a team?

      Given the timeline Lotus and the other teams had, and the baseline from which they were working, I think any expectation they would be up challenging Force India and Williams, let alone the big boys, is decidedly lacking in perspective. That pace doesn’t come together overnight, and unless you have a manufacturer’s budget scale, you’re not going to get that kind of pace off-the-bat.

      For what reasons did you expect them to be faster?

      1. jonathan says:

        How Lotus have done for me is ALWAYS run against the established teams. Sure they started the team in September, but I bet they didn’t expect to be 5 seconds off the pace in Bahrain. Tooling around at the back of the field for a whole season must be totally gutting given the pedigree of the drivers and engineers.
        IMO Hispania can be considered even slower than slowr than slow LOL

      2. Andy C says:

        Well said Duncan, I’d back what you said.

        Even with all of Mikes experience, and those that he has recruited, for them to get a car on the grid, and a development programme like they have had is a real credit to everyone involved.

        I think for those managing to survive to next year they can again move on a step.

        You cant just look at pics of a redbull and make a car just as fast. Developing engineering solutions takes time.

        Lets see how they get on next year (if still on the grid)

  5. Zobra Wambleska says:

    I think Lotus is doing a very good job considering the length of time they had to get a car on track, but winning races in three years? I think that’s a bit of a stretch. I do hope they are right about the time line.

    1. LycraClad says:

      I have to agree. It’s great to have ambitious goals, but they should also be achievable at a stretch. Winning races in 3 years is totally unachievable when you look at the teams already there and consider they are a long, long way from getting points.
      I wonder how they will manage the team disappointment when that goal is not achieved?

      1. Howard Hughes says:

        Didn’t Torro Rosso pull off a similar feat from inception to first (only) win though? A strong mid-pace car can always have a shot at a win if the conditions (and attritions) are right…

      2. hesus says:

        Hard but not impossible – look at the Force India in Spa last year – they almost did it:)

      3. LycraClad says:

        Yeah you guys are right, I took the comment to mean they wanted to be a regular threat to the top teams, not just jagging a win when everyone else gets taken out.

      4. haj says:

        Damon Hill in the Arrows at Hungary. I think a 50p washer prevented him from winning.

      5. Andy C says:

        I will never forget that. I had Damon to win the race!

        What a drive, and what a performance from the team. Just one of those things….

  6. Mark R says:

    Hi James,
    I’ve met Keith a couple of times now as he comes into our local MB dealer. Very nice guy always willing to chat about the team. I tried finding out about the engine agreement for next year but he was a bit tight lipped about that.
    Thanks Mark

  7. Rob Silver says:

    I think it’s been marvellous to see the Lotus name return, and with the increasingly close connections to the truly legendary Chapman history I’m very happy that there’s been such a progression. All that, plus the hard work they’ve put in and the crucible of fire the team has gone through makes this video and article another excellent insight into the F1 world.

  8. Steve Rogers says:

    Good luck to ‘em and their family feeling, it’s what I like to see.

  9. garza says:

    What can I say, I was a Lotus fan from the Clark/Hill Sr. era and I loved Chapman’s innovation against Ferrari’s renovation back then
    Since the team dissapeared I had no preference but I know for sure I will never be a Ferrari fan since they were the ones to beat in the 60s, 70s
    The new team still has to earn their stripes, but considering time and budget they are doing OK so far

  10. Tom (London) says:

    I think three years to become a racing winning team is way to ambitious.

    I think (but could be wrong) that in the last 20 years the fastest any team has gone from nothing to winners is Stewart Grand Prix which became winners in three years.

    It is interesting to note how long it took Redbull to become winners when you consider that they are descendants of the Stewart team via Jaguar.

    1. Moog says:

      New regs and cost caps could level the playing field though. But I agree it’s a stretch.

    2. Darren says:

      Very true point about Stewart, although in 1999 they had a good car, which Rubens Barrichello in particular often scored well in, their win was a very lucky one (I remember DC, Frentzen, Schumi jnr and Fisichella all leading that race and falling by the wayside). It took Jordan nearly 8 years BAR (or Honda) had been around for more than 8 years when Jenson won in hungary.

      I cant think of any other “new” teams that have won races, Renault were Bennetton, Brawn were Honda etc.

      In otherwords, Lotus really have their work cut out if they want to meet their target!

      1. jonathan says:

        In 1999 Stewart were running an illegal car. In the off season after the team had been bought by Ford (nee Jaguar) Mosley announced that one normally middling team overperformed and was cheating somehow. IMO the reason they were not ratted out was because of the takeover.
        I’d love to hear a journalists point of view James…..

  11. SKWD says:

    James: an interesting video, if (if I may say so) a little long on CEO rhetoric and a little short on insight into the progress these new recruits are making in their discplines.

    One small point: there seems to be an aspect ratio problem with the video – it seems it was shot and edited in 16:9 but uploaded in 4:3. The problem remains if watched on YouTube’s own site, so it is a video problem and not some strange side-effect of your site theme.

  12. Bludd says:

    I have to say I am quite impressed. I am a fan of Gazza and I think for instance Toyota made a huge mistake letting him go. If he’d stayed at Toyota and if Toyota had let him do his thing, Toyota would still be in F1 and they’d have won a race if not races.

    Anyway, on Lotus. I am very impressed by Tony Fernandes. He is very right for F1, I think. He and Gazza and the rest of them have done a very good job to just get to the grid and to be the best of the new teams. Virgin had that embarrassing fuel-tank thing and Hispania has just been hanging on by the skin of its teeth (the Dallara connection was doomed to fail IMHO).

    So good luck to Lotus.

  13. Ross says:

    I’ve been impressed how they go about their business off track and the amount of interaction they have with the fans be it on twitter or factory tours. I love the look of the car and it’s great to have the Lotus name and colours on the grid. I would say they have been a welcome addition in that sense.

    People have been quick to point out how slow the new teams are but considering the time and financial constraints they have all done fairly well considering and have bar the odd occasion all qualified under the 107% rule that many teams would have fell foul of back in the mid 90’s before the rule came into play so in sense this batch of new teams are no worse than any other non manufacturer team.

    Next year should be interesting though, I would expect Lotus to be right behind STR given the expertises and fairly good drivers they have. The second year always brings improvements from new teams. I remember Pacific looking much better after a terrible debut season before having to pack it in.

  14. KB says:

    Ooops I accidentally voted ” They are hopeless” when I meant to click the first option! They had the least amount of time to produce their car, and they aren’t that far off the pace. I think some people expected too much of the new teams. They were starting from scratch and you can’t expect them to be up there with the Toro Rossos and the Williams. If that were the case then that means the established teams were doing a poor job.

    Lotus have also impressed me off track, they communicate more with the fans, they employ their drivers so they aren’t strapped for cash. I think Lotus will become a decent team in a few years, just like Force India.

  15. FordGT40 says:

    What if any is the relationship between the Lotus F1 effort and the Exos Type 125. If any? The Exos Type 125 is a brilliant idea to raise some extra funds . One of those in the old style livery would be great. James, do you know where this fits into the picture?

    1. Howard Hughes says:

      I think the EXOS 125 is a product of the Malaysian Lotus Cars side, and therefore unaffiliated with the F1 concern… Still a very cool endeavour though.

    2. KNF says:

      Having Lotus Cars develop the T125 without any connections to or input from the F1 team probably also protects the Lotus F1 team from allegations of getting around the testing ban.

  16. Jodum5 says:

    Thanks for the video. For a brand new team I voted “quite impressed” with them. They haven’t blown anyone’s expectations out of the water so they can’t get top marks, but they’re doing more than I would normally expect for a brand new team on short notice.

  17. theRoswellite says:

    If a team could succeed on the fumes of past glories then Lotus would hit Q3 every race.

    I know we all here in our F1 club, that being me, myself and I..oh, and good-dog Max, are 110% behind that glorious British racing green.

    As to winning in three years…I say….why not? (that’s not a question by the way, no reply required)

  18. Trent says:

    The new teams have copped a lot of criticism, but I’m really interested in this ‘other story’ of F1 2010. Bernie does not speak for us all when he says two of the teams wouldn’t be missed – I’m all for a 26 car grid.

    There’s three clear divisions in F1 this year, and to me this provides another dimension of interest.

    It’s great to have the tail-enders back!

  19. Harvey Yates says:

    I’m not so sure their target is out of reach. With F1 becoming, what is in essence, a standard engine formula, their main weakness will be in aerodynamics. They could follow the age-old method of getting research cheaply by employing someone from one of the bigger teams. It has worked for others.

    A rainy day, an accident that puts some of the front runners out or at least at the back of the field, an inspired tyre choice and they could be on the top step in 2012

    Out of all the new teams they seem to be the ones with the best prospects and I wish them well. I haven’t really forgiven them their name. There was no continuity so why not be honest and call the team Fernandes? That said, it is nice to see the name back.

    Like Garza earlier in the thread I was a Lotus fan so appreciate his ‘innovation again renovation’ comment. And I fully endorse his final sentence.

  20. JamesD says:

    Winners in 3 years – he’s dreaming.
    A more realistic approach would be:

    Getting onto the back of the pack next year, maybe scoring the odd point.
    Then two or three years of regular points, maybe lucking a podium, before challenging for regular podiums, maybe lucking a win after about 5 years.

  21. Dan says:

    Great video thanks James! I love how open and friendly Lotus are and it really comes across in all their dealings with the media.

  22. Banjo says:

    When he said they don’t have wind tunnel facilities on site, am i right in assuming they use a wind tunnel else where and aren’t 100% reliant on CFD like Virgin?

    Great insight to the Lotus team, thanks James.
    I’ll be rooting for all the new teams to up their game a bit next year so they can be fighting for points on occasions. The more competitive teams after all – the more exciting the racing and the championship! Like many people, i enjoy the battle for the lower championship spots just as much as the battle for the title.

  23. Neal Rayner says:

    I’m quite enjoying the “other” competition at the other end of the grid, and Q1 is always a good time to egg on Lotus to beat a more established team for the first time. For the scale of the operation they have done astoundingly well, and I expect to see a serious improvement next year.

    The real trick will be to see how they manage the growth from smaller more agile underdog, to big team with big expectations.

    1. Ross says:

      Me to. I also think it’s vital in a era of no testing to have teams where young drivers can cut their teeth. I really enjoy having so many GP2 Graduates on the grid. The majority of whom deserve to be there who might not have got a chance say two/three years ago. Two of our championship contenders started their career in the worst car on the grid. Who’s to say we might not be saying the same about Di Grassi or Senna in five years time.

  24. Owen says:

    I like this new team Lotus and hope they will succeed. I still think they would have done better by buying the Toyota chassis (and its intellectual property) which I understand was up for sale – no doubt that car would have mixed it with the Torro Rosso’s at least – and would have enabled them to concentrate solely on building their first car for 2011. The current car was a sensible and conservative design – but staggeringly slow. But they have done well all in all and F1 needs their vision and innovation. Go Lotus 2011!

  25. kayjay says:

    It didn’t quite sit with me the team using the Lotus name,though I know it’s with full consent by the Chapman family.

    That as may be, you can’t knock how they’ve gone about setting up the team with a firm technical base that will only pay dividends in the future.

    Compared to the other new arrivals they seem to have more of a bright future.
    HRT has got the look of “Dead team walking” and I wonder when Branson is going to get bored of his new toy.

  26. F1 Novice says:

    If a competitive midfield F1 outfit could be built from scratch in 6 months we’d all be doing it. What they have done to date is pretty remarkable.

    I fully expect them to be in amongst the middle of the grid teams next year given the longer amount of time they will have had to develop next years car – The Pirelli tyre situation could be a bit of a Joker in the pack for some teams next year with some getting it right and some not.

  27. Langue D'Oc says:

    I’m prepared to eat my words, or course… and yet, I feel that the people who insist that 3 years is unrealistic are unrealistic themselves. You gotta believe! What happens if you don’t?

  28. OppositeLock says:

    The more I read and hear about Mike Gascoyne the more impressed I am.

    He now has his wish to be in control of building and operating an F1 team the way he believes it should be done. Time will tell if he is correct in his approach, but so far you can’t help but admire how much he has accomplished in so short a time.

    He’s built a good and solid foundation upon which to grow a successful team.

    Kudos to Mike and the entire Lotus team. Well done!

    I’ll be eagerly awaiting the 2011 season to see how much they have progressed from a conservative, basic car to a more innovative and higher-tech competitor.

  29. JohnBt says:

    Am impressed with video.

    Lotus can only improve unless Virgin springs up a surprise which is quite unlikely.

    Will the bet between Richard and Tony still stand.
    I certainly hope so for some laughs.

  30. Mattoz says:

    Hi James,

    Great article, as i have become accustomed to on this site. Keep up the good work.

    On a completely different subject, any idea when we can expect an annoucnement on the 13th team for next year? Surely time is quickly running out…

    1. James Allen says:

      The later is goes, the less likely it is that anyone will be able to get it together. I think the fact that ART GP, the best qualified team outside F1, wasn’t able to get it together shows the scale of the task

  31. Andrew C. says:

    I think that the mammoth challenge of getting a car ready for race one in six months time — even 12 months for the other two new entries — is awesome.

    And by Hungary; all six of the new team cars completed the race with Lotus arriving in 15th and 16th place. Down laps, for sure… but building up pace and reliability without the advantage of testing is a huge task.

    My congratulations go out to all three new arrivals.

  32. Keith Hatcher says:

    All this praise of substandard teams is fine but runnung 4 to 5 secs slower on todays tracks is a dangerous business. What we need is div2 for F1 cars and drivers, with promotion & relagation.

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