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A personal review of the F1 year – Lotus Racing
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A personal review of the F1 year – Lotus Racing
Posted By: James Allen  |  30 Dec 2010   |  11:03 am GMT  |  69 comments

Lotus Racing, 0 Wins, 0 poles, 10th in Constructors’ Championship

Having lived through the political upheaval of 2009, much of which was based on then FIA president Max Mosley’s desire to see new teams come in to F1, for me the 2010 season was notable for the birth of three new teams; Lotus, Virgin and HRT. They got a frosty reception from Ferrari for ‘limping’ into the sport and as the year went on were criticised by Bernie Ecclestone. But they survived and the most effective of them was Lotus.

It’s extremely hard as an independent to set up a new F1 team in this day and age. Although they only had six months from inception to first race and a budget of £50 million (a third of the top teams), Lotus did it the right way with a sensible premises in Norfolk, the right level of staffing and a conservative car, which they developed enough to keep their noses in front of Virgin. Given more lead time they might have done better, but the gap to the slowest of the established teams – generally Toro Rosso – was too big to bridge in a first season. That is next season’s task.


The team looked professional and competent from the start, but was also very friendly and open within the paddock. Everything was done in a proper F1 way, even down to the catering.

There was a real discipline about the engineering and technical side thanks to Mick Gascoyne’s management and the attention to detail on the brand and presentation side was impressive, due to Tony Fernandes and his lieutentant Riad Asmat. The team traded on the old Team Lotus colours of green and yellow and re-establised Lotus as a brand in F1, but it has since become very complicated and political as Group Lotus, the car company, has decided to come into F1 in its own capacity as a partner of Renault F1. The resolution of this dispute will be one of the priorities of the New Year and could get messy. The cars are starting to stack against Fernandes and long term he needs to think about what is the right name.


Lotus wisely hired two proven pros to drive the cars; Heikki Kovalainen was on the rebound from McLaren – a big fall – but carried himself with dignity and professionalism in all the dealings I had with him. Jarno Trulli, perhaps because he’s older, found it more difficult at times, but tried to put a brave face on being 19th or 20th as they invariably were. Both drivers are very quick and still have a lot to offer – given a faster more reliable car they will get amongst the midfield next year.

Lotus managed to get both cars to the finish on debut – the only new team to do so. Like the other new teams they used Xtrac hydraulics, which proved the Achilles Heel on many occasions.

They had a major development step in April, shedding weight and adding downforce, but took the sensible decision to throw most of their effort at the 2011 car, which will have a Renault engine and a Red Bull gearbox and hydraulics. This will give them reliability and performance.

Photos: Darren Heath

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69 Comments
  1. jmv says:

    i wonder how this will play out in the f1 scene:

    - branson wants to sell virgin atlantic
    - fernandes has already shown interest (source sunday times)

    could there be another swap of team names in 2011 or 2012?

  2. NamedMyKidAyrton says:

    Kudos to Fernandes and Co. for making a very classy start and being best of the rest all year!

    It’s a pity that the partnerships with Renault and Red Bull couldn’t be set up from the get-go. Did they try?

    If Bernie and Montezemolo are truly concerned about all teams fielding competitive cars maybe they should make such tie-ups part of the standard, compulsory process for bringing new teams on board. Perhaps I’m being naive, but wouldn’t that benefit everyone? Easier beginnigns for teams, better cars, better races, better ratings…

    Or has this already been discussed and discarded at FIA and FOTA level?

    1. Radoye says:

      “It’s a pity that the partnerships with Renault and Red Bull couldn’t be set up from the get-go. Did they try?”

      If you recall, it was an unwritten requirement by Mosley that all potential new entries must be based on Cosworth/Xtrac combo if they wish to have any hope to be approved by FIA for an official entry.

      1. NamedMyKidAyrton says:

        Ha! Another thing to add to my list of reasons why I’m glad Mr. Mosley left his post.

        Thanks for the response, Radoye.

  3. Jack says:

    seeing what Lotus’ pace is like next season is one of the biggest things i’m looking forward to. I would absolutely love to see them in amongst the Sauber and Torro Rosso cars in testing and at Bahrain, I think Gascoyne and Fernandez deserve it as I think they’ve been the only new team to add anything good to F1

    1. Andy C says:

      I’m with you on that. I believe they’ll be quicker than people expect nex year.

  4. Paul L says:

    Don’t like Fernandes and Gascoyne’s bullish attitude. Make your mark on the sport in a useful way before you start talking big.

    1. LuvinF1 says:

      They have, they are, and – as they have shown – there is no reason to believe that they will not continue to do so. This is F1. What is wrong about a bullish attitude?

      1. PaulL says:

        Well they have “done something” only by charitable standards I think.
        I mean compared to Super Aguri in 2006, who scored a genuine top-10 finish at Interlagos, by season’s end, I don’t think their achievement of getting within 2 seconds of the next slowest established team really merits having the great Lotus mantra.
        They’ll essentially serve as a branding aid for a more genuine Group Lotus Renault in 2011. I certainly hope their dubious Team Lotus title is struck off the entry books when the court meets.

      2. Abhijeet says:

        Super Aguri were using an old Honda chassis, not something that was made from scratch. In fact, the new teams this year are the first totally “new” constructors in F1 since the 1990s, when we got Stewart and Jordan.

        I think Lotus have done a great job this year and they ought to be bullish for the future.

      3. David Turnedge says:

        Super Aguri had the backing of Honda. Lotus had the backing of no one but themselves. A job well done. And no mean feat!

    2. onyx says:

      I’m with you mate -cant stand the Fernandes/Gascoyne arrogance-their car was rubbish and the pressure will be on now with Renault engines/Red Bull tech!Lets see if they are up to it!

      1. PaulL says:

        Indeed!

      2. Werner says:

        I also hate the attitude of Gascoyne/Fernandes !

    3. Mark V. says:

      It’s a classic strategy in business as well as sports: you gotta fake it ’til you make it.

    4. Zobra Wambleska says:

      I don’t know if you’re aware of it or not, but Mike Gascoyne has proven himself in F1 already. He’s paid his dues and, as far as I’m concerned, he can say anything he likes about his plans and I’ll give them credit. This guy is good.

      1. PaulL says:

        I’m aware that he’s hung around like a bad smell around a few places until he’s been sacked,

      2. Zobra Wambleska says:

        PaulL, you’re certainly entitled to your opinion and I respect that. However, I think Mike has produced results far more positive than the bad smells your perspective seems to want. He did a very good job at Jordan and helped them compete above their weight and he was doing quite well with Toyota before they decided to sack him because he refused to use the Toyota model of team management. If you look at the actual history of the team after Mike left, I think you’ll find it went pretty much down hill from there. Mike seems to be a very good designer and team manager, and knows how to produce good results on a very small budget, just what a small team needs.

      3. Werner says:

        He’s been sacked everywhere…

      4. Andy C says:

        You are of course entitled to your opinions, but based on the facts and his reputation you are being very harsh.

        Often people mistake directness with arrogance. He jus calls it like he sees it, which was ultimately why he lost his position at Toyota.

        Tyrell, he was so highly rated that Harvey took him to Sauber, then back to Tyrell again.

        Jordan, 99 and 2000 were some of their best years. 2 wins.

        2 yrs at Renault in their renaisance period, then went to Toyota.

        Toyota > I defy anyone to make a success out of such a political organisation as he faced there.

  5. Andrew Myers says:

    These guys really earned my respect. Drivers, management and everyone involved.

    Fernandes’ contributions on twitter was one of the things that contributed to this. The enthusiasm showed and there was a feeling of “openness” – that everyone was invited to be part of the journey.

    Personally I’d like to see them drop the name Lotus. For mine Proton don’t deserve the extra publicity and Fernandes’ team can now stand proudly on it’s own feet.

    Good luck to them in 2011 and beyond.

  6. Cyclops_PL says:

    Beside the right approach to racing, the biggest asset of Lotus Racing was the driver line-up, and that’s what, in my opinion, put them in front of the trio. Also you have to remember that despite popular belief, three new teams were REALLY close, for example had Glock finished Singapore – Virgin would emerge 10th in the constructors.

    1. d-d says:

      yeah the season’s results could have been quite different but they ideed were regularly the best of the new teams in qualifications and races. With better engines and parts next year they could beat Toro Rosso or Force India from time to time.

    2. David Turnedge says:

      Are you saying the famous name of Senna didn’t count for anything? Oh, hang on… LOL

  7. Terry Shepherd says:

    James, I hope this isn’t too stupid a question but there are 68 comments mentioned for the McLaren thread but only 22 are visible on my screen: how does one access the other 46? I want to read them, they are too good a resource to hide from me.

    How did I ever survive previous winters before you opened this site?

    Thanks for another great year of information and opinion, long may it continue. Best wishes for 2011.

    1. midnight-toper says:

      I think you will find there are/were 22 threads in total. If you include the replies, that will tally up to 68 comments as listed.

  8. gaz909 says:

    As I have previously mentioned, I have the upmost respect for Mike, Tony, Heikki, Jarno and all at Lotus. They have had a fab year with a focus on reliability and team pride. Mike has been a pleasure to watch and the team set the benchmark in regards to team transparency.

    Regardless of their name they have a great future. I hope they score points in the new year and think that the drive train will make a massive change in their results.

    I think that the ‘top’ teams have much to learn about how to present their image and how to behave on the grid from Lotus.

    If they are looking to grow their fan base they are going the right way about it.

  9. Martin says:

    One thing that I didn’t get a good sense of was the Lotus team’s strategy skills relative to the Virgin and HRT teams. I saw an argument in favour of Timo Glock being the star driver for the new teams as he would often make up places at the start. To end up behind suggests he was either getting passed in the on the track, breaking down or being done on strategy.

    The Red Bull gearbox could be valuable. It is presumably well designed for a single diffuser and would have pull rod suspension set up too.

  10. Andy C says:

    I must admit I’ve really enjoyed following lotus (or whatever they will be called) this year.

    I can’t wait to see how they do over the winter as last year it was a race to get a solid car on the grid.

    What a way to start year two. Let’s bolt on the championship winning engine and trans. Excellent move. You only gave to see what a boost it gave to do similar for force India.

    Will redbull (and Williams with hrt for that matter) second tech staff into lotus for next season? I know McLaren did into force india.

  11. David McVey says:

    Alas, I think its time Tony Fernandes bit the bullet and requested permission to change his teams name.

    Now that the Chapman family have withdrawn their support of his outfit it would be ultimately damaging for him to stubbornly press on with his plans to race under the Lotus banner in any guise.

    He should appeal to those who have supported his team this year (the fans) to rename the team and set about beating the usurpers at Renault at the earliest opportunity.

    Proton have made a big error imho, customer cars seldom succeed or win in F1 which is what they are getting at the end of the day. A Renault that is being built by a company that has lost interest in F1.

    Why should they pour everything into the “Lotus Renault” when they are picking up titles with Red Bull.

    If Mike Gascoyne is given a half decent pot of cash and a box of spanners he’ll put together a solid midfield runner in his sleep. Give him a bit more and the whole field would be in trouble.

    Yet again we see a classic case of boardroom top downers missing the point. Money can only make a car fast if they have the right people spending it and since the downfall of Pat Symonds, Renault have lacked the great overseer. Sure, Bob Bell does a great job but he’s not up there with the modern greats like Brawn, Byrne, Symonds and Gascoyne.

    Time flies in F1 and if they renamed the team now, by the time the 2nd test was underway no-one would give it a 2nd thought. Good luck to them I say!!

  12. Michael Grievson says:

    Lotus did well this year and I wish them well for next year. Hiring two good drivers was a good idea. They seem to be in it for the long haul unlike Virgin and Hispania which I think will be lucky to last until 2012.

  13. six tenths says:

    I know Xtrac gearboxes from elsewhere in motorsport already, I guess the “hydraulics, which proved the Achilles Heel” are the seamless shift gearboxes ? … and nothing else ?

    Do none of the other teams use Xtrac Hydraulics, are they somehow associated with the Cosworth engines, or are they just simply very tricky to get right ? I seem to remember James referring to “Clean Rooms” needed for reliable assembly.

    1. Andy C says:

      All three new teams started with them, Lotus went with Redbull or 2011, HRT went with williams.

      Virgin are staying with xTrac I believe. Most others I believe produce their own or buy in from other teams.

  14. jonrob says:

    Once again, (third time) your political bias is showing James, we have to ask if you are on a retainer from Renault!

    Are Xtrac still in business? What a nightmare for their PR people.

    Let us hope that the continuing political and forthcoming repeat legal battles do not affect the team’s performance in what promises to be a much better year, for which at least they will arrive fully prepared.

    1. James Allen says:

      What rubbish. I have no affiliation either way. Merely saying what I see.

      1. mistersquash says:

        How very Joe Sawardesque, Mr. Allen !!!!
        Best wishes to you and yours for the New Year.
        And to all your contributors. You make essential reading and enhance our enjoyment of this sport tremendously. Thank you – one and all
        Gary and Sara

      2. Brandon says:

        And how daft of you, mistersquash, to even begin comparing Joe’s Award to James Allen. Those xtrac boxes kept embarrassing themselves just fine without James pointing it out

      3. dkfone says:

        Joe Sawardesque, that gave me a laugh! Very accurate i must say. By the way, many thanks for the 12 days of christmas idea James. It is the only essential reading for me right now.

    2. Steven says:

      Ive read on other blogs and even heard it talked about on the race broadcasts that the Xtrack is a bad transmision. It was part of the Cosworth deal the new teams were offered, the engine and transmision came as a package. To even sugest that James is playing politics is total garbage! Get your facts straight!

    3. Feynman says:

      Who care about Xtrac PR people … you really ought to be more concerned for all those poor mechanics that spent every night, Thursday Friday and Saturday, of a race weekend, pulling double and triple shifts trying to get that rotten gearbox to start-up and turn over without dimping it’s hydraulic guts all over their nice clean garage floors.

      1. CJD says:

        just great !!

  15. jonrob says:

    Interesting that Lotus are building a UK wind tunnel which will be ready just about when the wings are reduced to tea trays and the team moves to Malaysia. By then CFD modelling should be on the money with the number of elements considerably reduced.

  16. Bernd Rosemeyer says:

    I think it was a shame that all proposals for a 13th team were rejected. I’m not sure how much either Ferrari or Bernie had to say in this but I would have been happy if the FIA had accepted a 13th entry, maybe the one from Villeneuve. A big chance that was wasted in my view. Are we sure all the current teams will survive? It might get less that 24 cars at some point.

    1. James Allen says:

      I don’t agree. If ART can’t do it then none of the others could. Plus imagine being the only new team with the 107% rule back for qualifying

      1. NamedMyKidAyrton says:

        The 107% rule might as well be called the HRT rule. My back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests:
        - Senna would have been cut in Bahrain, Barcelona, Hungary and Singapore
        - Chandhok cut in Bahrain and Canada
        - Yamamoto cut in Hungary

        By the way, how exactly will the rule work when you are a no-show for Q1, like Petrov in Spa and Alonso in Monaco? Would they then not race at all?

      2. Bec says:

        The race stewards can overrule the 107% rule if they so desire, this is so the ‘favoured’ teams can still race even if they cocked it up in qualifying.

      3. Galapago555 says:

        I guess the answer to your point is on article 36 of 2011 Regulations:

        “36) THE GRID
        36.3 During Q1, any driver whose best qualifying lap exceeds 107% of the fastest time set during that session will not be allowed to take part in the race. Under exceptional circumstances however, which may include setting a suitable lap time in a free practice session, the stewards may permit the car to start the race.
        Should there be more than one driver accepted in this manner, the grid order will be determined by the stewards.In either case, a competitor will not be able to appeal against the stewards decision.”

        I remember that Alonso set the fastest lap times on FP1 and FP2 on Thursday – in fact his FP” best lap would have been good for #9 on the Grid-, and was lapping pretty fast on Saturday mornig before he crashed into the wall and got the car broken (he ended #16 with only 6 laps completed, setting a lap time within the 107% limit).

        So I think this would be a case for the stewards to permit Alonso’s car to start the race.

      4. Galapago555 says:

        Vitaly Petrov was consistently setting decent lap times during the three practice sessions. Actually his best time (FP3) was just 2 sec behind pole sitter.

        I guess this case would also be a typical one for the stewards to allow Vitaly to start the race.

        The funny point comes when you have two different drivers in the same situation and both them must start from the pitlane. What should be the grid order? We discussed a lot about this on the eve of Korean GP, so I will not repeat here all that points… ;-)

      5. NamedMyKidAyrton says:

        Thank you both! I am pretty new around here so I’ll just check the archive of the Korean GP myself :)

      6. Galapago555 says:

        Ayrton’s dad, sorry, I meant Japan. The point was how the grid order could have been if the Quali sessions finally did not start.

        http://www.jamesallenonf1.com/2010/10/rain-forces-japanese-gp-qualifying-delay/

  17. Ade says:

    Always thought HeikkiCokeyKovalainen was better than he appeared at McLaren. Pleasure to see him being fast, funny, approachable and down to earth!

  18. John M says:

    I look forward to seeing what Lotus can do in the upcoming year. They now have the benefit of a year’s experience. If they did things right (along the lines of Ross Brawn’s transition year at Honda), they were focusing on the design of the 2011 car for most of 2010. I think of all the new teams, Lotus has the best chance of breaking into the mid-field in 2011.

    I’m still rooting for Heikki to do well in F1. I think he’s a good driver who was in a couple difficult situations at Renault and McLaren. The positive atmosphere of Lotus seems to suit him. Hopefully, he’ll be able to deliver some good results. Heck, at this point just scoring some points would be great.

    As for Jarno, I’ve never been a big fan. He can be quick, but he’s so inconsistent. He often seems to lose focus and not deliver. He’s capable of some great qualifying efforts, but seems to fade in races. I think he’s a decent fit for Lotus, for now, but I think his days in F1 may be numbered.

  19. Azlas says:

    “Everything was done in a proper F1 way, even down to the catering.”

    PLEASE ELABORATE ON THIS!

    I would honestly like to read an article on F1 catering James. Even if there might not end up being much to say. Heck, it’ll be another thing to write about till the 11′ season begins. I’m not being sarcastic either btw.

    1. James D says:

      Does this imploy other team’s catering is not done “in a proper F1 way”?!

      1. James D says:

        *imply

      2. Rich C says:

        Its just *really fast food, isn’t it?

    2. Tom (London) says:

      http://www.absolutetaste.com McLaren’s catering company. I’m not sure it makes for interesting reading though!

    3. Alexx says:

      Anyone who has ever managed a large group of staff or hosted a large team event, will be surprised just how important catering/high quality food can be. Feed them well, and they will be a happy motivated team.

  20. Liz says:

    Sorry James this is off topic but i wondered if you’d ever write an article about an F1 weekend from your perspective , what you do and who with and how it pans out , especially when you are doing the TV interviews for the press conferences. I for one would be really interested to get an idea of what it is like behind the scenes.

    Thanks for a great blog: I really enjoy it . Happy New Year to you and yours

    1. James Allen says:

      Sure, I’ll do that for you

      1. ash says:

        I second this request, James. Would be fascinating. Looking forward to reading it.

  21. Andy says:

    Out of the three new teams, Lotus deserve to be praised. It was never going to be easy for new teams, they worked to a budget and the existing teams didn’t. Those within F1 who criticise the new teams, Ferrari etc, should look at what so called established teams have achieved, such as Honda, BMW and Toyota relative to their billions of investment. If you compare the performance of Lotus with Honda, BMW and Toyota, together with the level of investment, then Lotus have done well and have a good basis for the future.
    HRT had what seemed to a GP2 performance car with no development which says poor management. Virgin developed a car which didn’t have a big enough fuel tank and made numerous pit lane mistakes, all of which seems to due to poor organisation, probably due to the team being in effect, three separate companies.
    Above all else, Lotus were professional, but they look as though they now need a new name and they should maybe embrace this as an incentive to move forward, rather than hanging onto something from the past.

  22. CJD says:

    just one question for clarification:

    RB uses Renault engine and RedBull transmittion
    Fernandes get’s Renaul engine and RedBull trans

    Lotus Renault uses Renaul engine and — what transmittion and hydraulics??? – also RedBull?

    all the best for 2011

    greetings from Austria

  23. Abhijeet says:

    Great quote from Gascoyne earlier today, which I found to be spot-on as well as totally hilarious:

    “Was Colin Chapman and Lotus about branding a French car as Lotus? I’m not so sure it was. I think Colin Chapman was one of the great innovators in F1 when he brought sponsorship into F1, I think he thought that he’d be receiving it not giving it out.”

    I’m hoping they can rebrand the car away from Team Lotus somehow, no point trying to fight Proton and the Chapman family at the same time.

  24. Ryan Eckford says:

    2010 for Lotus was very promising and are very likely to move up the grid into the midfield at least.

    The categories that I measured the 2010 cars in include:
    Car Driveability, All Round Car Ability, Low Downforce Circuits, Medium Downforce Circuits, High Downforce Circuits, High Speed Circuits, Medium Speed Circuits and Low Speed Circuits.

    The categories in order of strength for the T127 are:
    1. Car Driveability(10th)
    T2. Low Downforce Circuits(10th)
    T2. High Speed Circuits(10th)
    4. All Round Car Ability(10th)
    5. Medium Downforce Circuits(10th)
    6. Medium Speed Circuits(10th)
    7. Low Speed Circuits(11th)
    8. High Downforce Circuits(11th)

    Both Kovalainen and Trulli both did a great job in often trying circumstances, especially Kovalainen, who was often the star driver in the bottom three teams. Overall, Lotus gave a good account of themselves and with their professional attitude will continue to improve and possibly become a force in Formula 1 in the future.

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