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.
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.
“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.”