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Gascoyne: Lotus updates for Spain worth a second a lap
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Gascoyne: Lotus updates for Spain worth a second a lap
Posted By: James Allen  |  18 May 2011   |  6:24 am GMT  |  58 comments

Team Lotus chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne believes that the updates on its car, which will be rolled out in Spain this weekend, will be worth “about a second (per lap)”.

Although no teams stand still in terms of development at this time of year, a second off Lotus’ lap time would put them into the midfield, around where Force India and Williams are and certainly into the second part of knockout qualifying.

Where Lotus want to be: fighting Sauber and Toro Rosso (Photo:Lotus)


“It’s (the update) all built around the rear end,” says Gascoyne. “It’s a Red Bull style diffuser package. It’s a very big step, far bigger than you would normally expect to be making, which is why everyone else has done it. It means we can catch up with those in front who have already done it.”

However the integration of this complex aerodynamic device is not at all straight forward, especially without in-season testing and we have seen several teams take time to get the system working to its maximum. Gascoyne admits that until they run the system on track for the first time in Barcelona they won’t know how long it could take and what side effects it may have on increased tyre wear in the race,

“It might take us a couple of races to fully exploit it,” he says. “As it depends on the blown floor and engine strategies and some people have more experience than us with that. But we expect our update to be significant. Obviously you’ll get more downforce and that will switch the tyre on more quickly (which will help their qualifying pace, which has been lacking). The one question is, can we keep the better tyre degradation in the race? Or do we suffer like all teams?”

The “engine strategies” is a reference to the way engines can be manipulated to continue to provide exhaust gas pressure on the over-run, in other words when the driver lifts of the throttle for a corner. This is an area the FIA tried to cut right back this week, but has since had to withdraw proposed changes, leaving things as they were for the moment. Renault, which supplies Lotus, is the market leader in this technology having applied it first with Red Bull last season.

This week Lotus was boosted by the arrival of Mark Smith as technical director. Smith, who has worked closely with Gascoyne at Jordan, Renault and Force India, has been serving a gardening leave since departing from Force India. He will slot in to the Gascoyne dream team of former engineering colleagues who have worked together very effectively at Jordan and Renault in particular, taking both of those teams to race wins.

Plan coming together: Gascoyne with Fernandes (Photo: Lotus)


Smith, who is a designer, slots in above Jody Eggington and Smith’s former Red Bull design colleague Lewis Butler, the chief designers and will begin work on the 2012 car, while the team continues to develop the 2011 car. He completes the team Gascoyne had on his wish list when he started the team with Tony Fernandes in 2009.

“We make a very good partnership together, ” says Gascoyne of Smith. “He allows me to do the racing parts and the management parts, while he does a fantastic job in the drawing office. So I think it’s a massive acquisition for us as a team.”

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58 Comments
  1. Unoccv3 says:

    A team I would really like to see further up the field

  2. Andy C says:

    Surprised firstly that I’ve beaten the 5 posts that will come from jo (Torrent) ;-)

    I’m really pleased to see the team starting to come together.

    They are building for the future, with experienced F1 people, a very good engine and back end.

    I look forward at some point in the future to see them win a race. I have no doubt that will come within 3 years with the people they have onboard.

    1. Andy C says:

      In fact, perhaps Jo’s posts are in mod and will beat mine anyway LOL :-)

    2. Unoccv3 says:

      1) Hahahahaahah
      2) I beat you
      3) Please can we keep this as the one place in the entire internet that hasn’t factored down to FIRST POST!!!!!!111!!one!!!!

      Team Lotus is really showing that they (and Fernandes in particular) are commited. 2 experienced quick drivers. Car design people with knowledge and experience. Even with a small budget (although slightly bigger than HRT and Virgin’s), they are managing to do very well from such a small start.

      Remember that they were the lsat ones, the guys that almost didn’t get a spot because Manor (Virgin), Campos (HRT) and USF1 (???) were deemed better picks than Fernandes’ team.

      1. Unoccv3 says:

        James, while you’re here, do you happen to know anything about Stefan GP?

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stefan_Grand_Prix in case you forgot.

        They seemed to actually care and atleast had a deal to use a decent chassis (2010 semi developed Toyota F1 car… which I think could well have been better than HRT or virgin or lotus).

        And he had several plans.

        The only thing against them seemed to be the complaint they filed about not getting a spot.

        Unless there is more than what meets the eye, not that I’m going guessing for facts.

        You don’t happen to know anything about them, do you? thanks

      2. James Allen says:

        No, never took them too seriously

      3. Unoccv3 says:

        Just out of interest, why didn’t you take them seriously? Was there a tell tale sign I missed or something siad behind closed doors?

        Surely having a deal to race a mostly developed built by a well grounded team chassis and filing a complaint about not getting a spot wreeks of seriousness?

        Or am I missing something?

      4. Andy C says:

        Exactly. Good people, sensible technology use, good organisation. Goes a long way.

  3. K-F1 says:

    Can’t wait till they are competitive against Renault-Lotus or whatever they are called these days…

  4. John says:

    Isn’t this type of diffuser what the FIA have just announced a crackdown on?

    1. James Allen says:

      Read the piece, they’ve pulled back on that. Also to be clear it’s not the diffuser they are targetting, it’s the way the gases continue to blow on the over-run.

      1. Vic says:

        Red Bull gives you Gas!

      2. DK says:

        Red Bull gives you WIND …

  5. JamesF1 says:

    He must be pretty sure of the quality of this upgrade package, otherwise they’re set up for a big fall. Well, a fall that leaves them where they are, anyway.

  6. Stevie P says:

    “the FIA tried to cut right back this week, but has since had to withdraw proposed changes, leaving things as they were for the moment” – do you know why this is James?

    1. A sudden rules-interpretation change would dramatically affect the aerodynamic balance of the cars when off-throttle. For braking, it would mean a loss in braking performance, but since all F1 drivers trail-brake and remain off-throttle until the apex, any change in balance will severely affect the driveability of the car.

      Since the exhaust-blown diffuser provides more downforce at the rear, significant set-up changes would be needed to keep the car stable under turn-in.

      1. Stevie P says:

        Cheers malcolm :-) After I’d posted this, I went and did some digging about too… yep, seems these 2011 F1 cars are heavily reliant upon those exhaust gases.

  7. Ben G says:

    Although I wish Team Lotus well, I’m getting a little tired of the ‘aren’t we doing well’ routine. They’re still firmly stuck in Q3.

    1. Brandon says:

      Well they are ahead of Williams so it’s not like they’re terrible (like Williams)

  8. Born 1950 says:

    I’m very disappointed that they’ve backed away from the ‘fuel on the overrun’ ban: burning fuel just to create downforce is rather like the Brabham fan car using a secondary fan to suck the car down onto the road (and is therefore rightly to be banned). Physically different but politically similar — if you get my meaning.

    Can you tell us more about why they’ve backed off, James? And I’d also like to understand more about the benefits of doing this — I wouldn’t have thought the exhaust flow would be big enough to make a significant difference.

    Does the temperature of the gasses have an effect, or is it simply airflow? Do they get an amplifying effect by directing a ‘blade’ of air very precisely at some part of the diffuser? Please will you do another piece on this now it isn’t being banned?

    1. Luca says:

      partly because they are not sure how to enforce the ban – as the rule they were using to enforce a ban related to ‘any drivers action should not interfere with the aero’, but the actual benefit comes for engine mappings. So does the engine do that of its own accord or as a result of the drivers input at corners etc…

      although there is an standardised ECU, the mappings are very individual still and so new checks would have to be put in place to get rid of the mapping issue.

      The other way would be to declare blown defusers illegal mid seasons and i doubt the FIA would do that – prob something for 2012, as the teams must have spent a small countries GDP on analysis of blown diffusers for this season…

    2. Jo Torrent says:

      I think that they banned it because fuel was burnt to add downforce. You know the ecological stuff FIA is growing fond of !

      It’s ecologically immoral, some say even criminal.

      I personally like the new rule as the car will be harder to handle with inconsistent down-force levels depending on the opening of the throttle in the corners, thus more tyre degradation & more fun.

      The question is how did the FIA manage to enforce the ban. They can’t do it without majority agreement as far as I know.

      1. iceman says:

        I’m sure that is the motivation, but it looks like a bit of greenwashing to me. The fact is that most of the fuel burned by an F1 car is used to generate downforce – by pushing the wings through the air. The amount they use to blow the diffuser on the over-run is small in comparison. Without wings, the drag coefficient of an F1 car would be reduced by two-thirds and the fuel saving would be massive.

    3. Stevie P says:

      Seems it was too short a notice period for (some of) the teams. For Spain, Monaco and Canadian GP’s it will be retained and then the FIA etc will look at it again. They’re not banning blown diffusers as such, just utilising fuel on the over-run (ie, when the driver is off the throttle, the engine will still be on throttle – only reduced massively – so as to continue to “blow” the diffuser) which the FIA think is a waste of fuel; it’s a clever idea but I can see how Todt with his “green” agenda will want it removed.

      Talking of which did anyone see MotoGP and the Pramac team? Their motorhome is made of cardboard!!! Ok, the chairs and tables are made of recycled cardboard. They have solar panels on the roof and the riders use electric bikes in the paddock.

      1. Born 1950 says:

        I still want to know more.

        Surely if they burn more fuel on the overrun, and they’re not injecting that fuel into the exhaust tract, then they must be running with the exhaust valves open — or something, say, like altering the timing — otherwise burning fuel would generate power to turn the wheels, as opposed to generating airflow and, I assume, heat. So what’s the low down? I’m short on facts.

      2. Stevie P says:

        Ha ha… don’t we all (want to know more); malcolm.strachan has posted some interesting info in response to various comments.

    4. As I said above in a reply to a comment, it would dramatically affect the stability of the car on turn-in, as the off-throttle blowing of the diffuser would provide more downforce on the rear of the car than the front. That is a huge change to bring in with only a few days notice.

    5. Oh, and to answer your other question, it works somewhat like a multi-element wing. When a wing has multiple elements, the benefit comes from the little slot-gap between the elements. This little shot of air from the top of the wing to the bottom accelerates the air on the underside (faster air is thinner air = more downforce). The trick is that it creates lower pressure at the back of the wing, which helps the main element of the wing pull more air under it; more air means that it has to go faster, and thus a lower pressure is achieved and more downforce created. To put it in simpler terms, the slot-gap in the wing basically makes the first element of the wing generate more downforce.

      All the same theory applies to the diffuser; it energizes the air in the diffuser which means the entire floor ahead of the diffuser can make more downforce. A much more effective strategy would be if the exhaust could be blown through a thin gap in the diffuser, spanning the entire width of the diffuser, but they have rules against that, and only allow gaps in the diffuser on the outer 5 cm on each side. This makes for a much less effective blown diffuser, but the geniuses in F1 have figured out how to make it work quite well (the same way they took an inherently compromised double-diffuser and refined it into a downforce-generating monster).

      1. Jo Torrent says:

        By first element generating more down force you mean the top element don’t you ?

        Can you please explain the diffuser more I don’t understand it. The air expands under the diffuser looses speeds creating more pressure and reducing downforce which is illogical

      2. http://www.yallaf1.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/djm1101fe05.jpg

        First element = main plane = the element that says “Red Bull”.

        Flap = second element = part of the wing that DRS lifts = the element with the two bulls leaping toward each other

        The flap creates a condition where the main plane produces more downforce than if there was just the main plane by itself, or if there was no gap between the two elements and it was one big element (in the latter case, the air-flow would likely separate – another reason for the slot-gap).

        Basically, the diffuser does a similar function. By having a large volume that needs to be filled (in conjunction with the upward curve of the diffuser mouth), a low-pressure spike is created at the mouth of the diffuser. This also lowers the pressure upstream, encouraging more air to be drawn under the floor itself.

        So while the diffuser doesn’t create much downforce, it just sets up the conditions for the rest of the floor to make that much more downforce.

        A better example is the double-diffuser: the opening for the double-diffuser was just a hole in the floor, which then led into a big expansion chamber of sorts. What this did is created a low-pressure zone around that hole, and also encouraged more air to go under the floor upstream. Even though the diffuser is not open to the ground, it produces massive downforce by setting up conditions for the mouth of the diffuser to generate that low-pressure zone.

        Remember, more air means that the air will accelerate more, and accelerated air means low pressure, and thus more downforce. The effect of the accelerated air far more than offsets the effect of that mass of air moving downwards.

        Here’s another description:
        http://www.mulsannescorner.com/diffuser.htm (same theory applies to all diffusers, whether it’s F1 or GT cars, and even applies tunnels as used in IndyCar and LMP)

        That make sense?

  9. Matt98 says:

    A bullish statement from the usually bullish Gascoyne, but this does not mean they will move into the midfield at Spain. Force India and Williams will probably have updates of their own, so although Lotus will probably move forward on absolute pace, the far more important relative pace might remain similar.

  10. Charlie says:

    On the flight back from Istanbul, I overheard some Lotus engineers indulge in a little bragging to Williams engineers about their forthcoming “one second per lap upgrade” and dismissed it as a wind-up, however I’m very pleased to see MG make the same statement in public. Go Lotus!

  11. Dale says:

    I mean, I should think so, they’re hardly innovating are they and the gains of the blown floor are now known.

    A 1 second gain sounds great but let’s not forget it won’t be so good when the teams ahead of them all improve as well, maybe not be a full 1 second but many will gain at least half that.

    He’s an OK designer but in my view far from being one of the best, he was really found out at Toyota where he failed to deliver when having one of the biggest budgets behind him (for a time at least)

    1. Stevie P says:

      “found out at Toyota” – I hear you Dale, but you’ve got to remember that Japanese companies do things by committee, so decisions are debated, debated again and then debated once more; I’m sure Mike is far more happier being trusted to make the correct decisions by himself (or with a tight knit team of trusted people around him). Tony seems to trust him and so far the progress that they’ve made has been consistent and promising. I do think they’ll part ways with Jarno at the end of this season though.

    2. You don’t seem to remember the difficulties he had in trying to get the team to work the way he wanted. From everything I heard, Toyota wanted a board of directors to approve every change, which meant upgrades took too long to get onto the car, which kept Toyota a step behind everyone else.

      He had a minor influence on their 2004 car, which was lacklustre, but then had a major effect on their 2005 car, which gave them three podiums and 4th in the Constructors Championship. In 2006, they struggled on Bridgestones, but still managed a podium; that’s the same year he left Toyota.

      I would say he did a good job there, despite having an arm tied behind his back.

      1. Dale says:

        No not true, this only started after he’d spent so much without getting the results & they started to loose faith in him.

        As I said, in my view he’s just an OK designer but not in the first division of the likes of those at Ferrari, McLaren, Renault. Mercedes & of course Newey.

        Remember he was only talked about as being first class whilst at Renault whom went on to 2 championships (WITHOUT HIM) as he sat a long period out before going for the money at Toyota.

        Can anyone here tell us what (if any) innovation he’s ever brought to F1? – Thought not!

      2. So wait, he brought Jordan from nothing to 3rd in the constructors points in a year… then brought Benetton/Renault from nothing up to fighting for podiums… then brought Toyota from nothing to 4th in constructors (88 pts in a year)… and he’s just “OK”?

        I guess you and I have different definitions for “good”. He many not be a Newey or a Rory Byrne, and may not have won a title, but he turned three uncompetitive teams into podium contenders. I’d say that’s good, and definitely better than OK.

  12. Martin says:

    An interesting post. I hope a few more reader note that increased downforce leads to more tyre wear, not less.

    The exhaust management software is an interesting area. I remember reading that part of Webber’s advantages over Vettel in the ealy Euorpean season in 2010 was due to working out a driving style that allowed him to get onto the throttle earlier. This advantage was removed with the software.

    1. Chapor says:

      But you need to consider the fact that a car with more downforce slides less in a corner than a car that has little downforce and therefore has less tyre wear.

  13. Paul H says:

    James, you mention that the FIA has pulled back from it’s stance to stop teams using the exhaust to blow the diffuser when off throttle – is this now dead or have they just changed the limits or when it comes into effect?
    Personally I think banning it is the right call based on the costs involved when budgets are supposed to be coming down, the fact it has so little practical applications to filter down to road cars and the sheer waste of fuel. The way in which they tried to implement was silly though, right before a race.
    Hope to see a good step from Lotus over the next few races, I think people forget that the teams in front have KERS to help them.

    1. James Allen says:

      It’s been pushed onto the Technical Working Group for discussion. Policing it is difficult

      1. Chris Hill says:

        surely policing it is actually very easy, If I read the original FIA wording correctly the throttles are not allowed to be over 10% in the braking Zones. I also think it is good to do this as it gives the designers the conundrum of wether to use a EBD or not. If you use it you will have greater instability in the braking zones (due to the donwforce suddenly reducing) but greater downforce through fast/medium speed corners were you can stay on throttle.

    2. irish con says:

      i would like it banned also just because of the point martin brundle made at the turkey gp. he said it was great to see the cars moving around so much around turn 8. i agree with him an banning that off throttle extra downforce would make the cars move about more in more corners and make it better to watch. last years redbull never moved or slid around an was boring to watch onboard. the renault of kubica at monaco was awesome to watch with it sliding an bouncing all over the place. more of that i think.

  14. That’s a pretty bold statement from Mike, especially when you consider that TL were already racing Sauber and STR (in their own words) in China and were ready to rip the midfield apart in Turkey if it weren’t for power steering issues they can’t sort out… for about 1,5 years.

    We’re likely to see the repeat of Virgin’s (cold) Turkey situation for TL in Spain. I honestly can’t see TL overtaking STR or Sauber in 2011. I’ll eat my hair if they do so.

  15. Kieran says:

    At the risk of sounding a touch cynical (moi?) didn’t Virgin announce that their new upgrades would be good enough for a second a lap at Turkey?

    And then Timo Glock failed to start….

    So lets wait and see if it actually happens, or whether it is just a case of ‘too much hot air’ ;-) (sorry)

  16. MAS says:

    The EDB is responsible for a big chunk of the total downforce of the cars and retarding the ignition makes that downforce more constant (ie predictable and thus it makes the EDB safer). While I don’t necessarily disagree with A ban, creating a rule that cripples the EBD in slow corners and (far worse) makes it less predictable in fast corners is not something that should be done lightly.

    The technology wasn’t new when Red Bull started running it last year and instead of acting then (immediately or per end of season) they spring it on the teams days before a race. Also, they do it early into a season when most cars are designed with an EDB in mind.

    Even with the new floor rules, EDB was still possible (see scarbsf1.com’s winter tech predictions) so they should have acted last winter and saved everyone a lot of money and effort. Banning it now and on such short notice is dangerous and unfair.

    This very sudden ban, followed by an immediate retraction shows once again how inept the FIA are at making rules, technical or otherwise. And since that’s basically their main job that’s rather embarrassing.

    The DDD and F-duct should have been banned by Charlie Whiting when Brawn and Mac came to him for a clarification. The inability of the FIA themselves to properly (and credibly) deal with crashgate was also a direct result of amateurish and frankly arrogant rulemaking. It’s no wonder they got laughed out of an real court back then and this episode reveals the same deficiencies.

    1. MAS says:

      Also, if I were a cynical man, I’d say that there is only one explanation besides legislative incompetence that they would come out with such a sudden ban. Namely spicing up the competition and preventing a Red Bull sweep. Luckily I’m a very positive fellow and could never believe such vile conspiracies so I’ll just stick to my incompetence-theory. There’s a greater precedent for that theory anyway.

      1. James Allen says:

        Not quite. I have a post coming up shortly that explains everything

      2. MAS says:

        I’m actually really not that cynical and genuinely don’t believe it was done to slow down Red Bull, but sometimes it’s fun to connect the dots even if it is unreasonable.

        Many FIA regulations (and the method of their implementation) really are quite sloppy (and I say that as a legal professional), though I did express myself a little harshly.

        I am, as always, looking forward to reading your post on the matter.

    2. James Allen says:

      It’s not what it seems

      1. MAS says:

        Up until now I had gotten the impression the FIA has been cleaning up it’s (legal) act under Todt. From the reforms in the judicial procedures of the FIA down to the driver-stewards, it has been looking a lot more professional and fair.

        So from the way this issue has been reported so far, it has seemed to be a bit of a disappointment, a throwback to the heavy-handed and autocratic approach of the bad old days.

        If there’s more to this story than has been reported so far (either regarding the procedures or the technical details) I’m anxious to hear it. So as I said above, I’m looking forward to reading your post on this issue.

    3. I think a lot more of it has to do with the environmental implications of a team dumping raw fuel into the exhaust, increasing their overall usage by 10%. That’s just bad, no matter to what ends they use the effect.

  17. noahracer says:

    Talk is cheap. Speed ain’t.

  18. Albie says:

    Is there any further news on the Lotus v Lotus court ruling. All gone a bit quiet, what happened in the end?

    1. James Allen says:

      Ruling due any time now

  19. Rich C says:

    HoHum…. more PR BS.

    In respect to the actual subject of this story: My response to Gascoyne would be: “That’s nice, Mikey, whats for dinner?”

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