Lotus will return to the track at Barcelona on Thursday with its technical director James Allison confident that the chassis problems that forced it to pull out of last week’s test – which have now been confirmed as issues with the mounting of the upper front wishbone – have been fixed following an “intense” few days at its Enstone factory.
After a promising start to pre-season when Romain Grosjean set the pace for 2012 cars at Jerez, the Frenchman reported the new second chassis as feeling strange on his first flying lap of the second test at the Circuit de Catalunya, prompting investigations back at the team’s factory which led to the difficult season to abort the week altogether.
The setback has cost the team dearly in terms of pre-season track time – it will now head into the Australia season opener with just eight days of full testing under its belt instead of the 12 of its key rivals – but Allison says the response from the team to rectify the problem with the mounting of the upper front wishbone rear arm has been impressive.
“It’s been an intense few days, but I have to say that everybody has completed their tasks in tremendous fashion,” he said in a Q&A released by Lotus. “On the first day back at the factory, I spoke to the entire Enstone personnel and clearly explained what happened. Everybody understood that the situation was unfortunate, but under control. We designed the new parts, manufactured them, and fitted them to the chassis. We then completed the necessary tests satisfactorily and the chassis left for Spain.”
The team is believed to have implemented new composite techniques aimed at lightening the weight of the monocoque for 2012 and Allison has confirmed as a result of the strengthening changes to the E20, the chassis is now 1kg heavier than before – although he describe this as “manageable” and without any major ramifications for handling or performance.
He confirmed that the revised chassis did not have to undergo fresh FIA crash tests and that the 01 chassis used at Jerez, now equipped with modifications, would be used again at Barcelona with the 02 to be a spare and the 03 now close to completion.
Allison gave a definitive “yes” when asked if he was confident that the problems were now fixed and believes the team can recover strongly from the setback: “Of course, missing four days of testing is not ideal. We need mileage at this stage of the year, as does any other team. That said, there are reasons to remain optimistic. First of all, we completed many trouble-free laps in Jerez and gained a good understanding of the car. Also, some of the small issues we identified in Jerez needed to be fixed, and the parts were not available last week. On Thursday, the car will run with all the required redesigned parts. We’re looking forward to being back on track.”