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Posted By: James Allen  |  04 May 2014   |  5:14 pm GMT  |  58 comments

“Definitely, we had the most gains to make, but we still look to be very much on an upward trajectory,” said Lotus deputy team principal Federico Gastaldi ahead of next weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix.

The first European Grand Prix always sees lots of upgrades and developments on the cars. But as every team makes them, usually it has the effect that everyone moves forward without necessarily changing the order much.

This year, with such new technology as we have this year in F1 – and a big disparity in performance and readiness at the start of the year between teams and engine builders – there is the possibility of some quite significant changes in the pecking order next weekend. As Gastaldi says, Lotus has the most gains to make, given their previous standing. It will be interesting to see if they can keep moving back towards the front.

The Enstone team has yet to get off the mark this season, in contrast to last year, where it won a race and scored podiums in the early flyaway races, amassing 93 points.

But after a nightmare start to the season in testing and the early races, the team was running in the top ten in China, thanks to improvements particularly on the Renault power unit side and for Barcelona it will be interesting to see if the upward trajectory continues.

“We made a big relative improvement in China but it wasn’t just one thing. We took the Renault updates and our own updates as well and moved forward,” said lead driver Romain Grosjean. “There is more to come for Barcelona.”


As for what Lotus has planned for the next race, technical director Nick Chester has identified some key areas of the upgrade package.

“We’ve got further improvements on engine mapping, which should give us another step forward. We’ve got a new cooling and bodywork package coming – quite a big upgrade – plus some updates to the rear wing and various other bodywork parts.

“All of the developments that we’ve brought for the car so far have been an improvement, which is highly satisfying and validates the hard work being done back at the factory. We also received more horsepower from Renault Sport F1 in China and I hope we’ll get a further step-up in Barcelona, which will make a massive difference.

“There are a lot of aero improvements we want to bring to make the car more predictable for the drivers. We also want to do more work on tyre temperatures. The latest generation of tyres are quite hard in compound and it can be difficult to keep them in the optimum operating window. On the other hand braking is definitely better now. We’ve made some good improvements in terms of how the drivers can control the brakes and manage the power unit during braking.”

The team is also set to premier a new film called Human Ignition, which has been funded by one of its sponsors, Burn, which looks at visions of F1 in the future.

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58 Comments
  1. Gaz Boy says:

    “Lotus worth watching in Barcelona”.
    Misplaced optimism or a genuine improvement?
    Don’t know, but they do have the driver who did win the 2012 Spanish GP…………even if subsequently his career has been a bit, er, wayward to say the least.
    I do like the Enstone brigade, good solid no nonsense bunch of racers. I hope they can climb back to respectability. My main fear is that they are so far behind the Mercs and Bulls that a podium on merit may be beyond them. We saw last year with Macca if you start the season with a lemon it’s very, very difficult to catch the teams who began the year with a beautiful rose. Not impossible – but very, very difficult. And remember Macca have a much, much bigger budget than Enstone.
    Actually, budgets are relevant in this post – finance is a bit constrained at Lotus, to say the least. Will that impact on development?
    Also worth pointing out a lot is incumbent on Renault F1 to find more power and torque.
    Also worth pointing out a lot is incumbent on Pastor not smashing into the barrier, having a fight with the pit-lane and driving into Mexicans!

    1. James Allen says:

      That is the question, indeed!

      1. Toleman fan says:

        I think it’s really hard to call. As I posted on your “Story so far” piece, Gary Anderson reckons the chassis is pretty poor, even after adjusting for engine differences.

        On the other hand, the noises coming out of the team still seem pretty bullish, and while some of that is spin and PR, even Maldonado seems pretty on message.

        James, any feel for the mood in the team behind closed doors?

      2. Pete says:

        Although you must admit, GA has been wrong on some accounts before (like his disastrous conclusion that Mclaren would be the car to look out for last year).

        It is interesting though that no one else went down their design route…

    2. Gaz Boy says:

      PS What is the plural of Lotus? Lotuses? Loti? Lotee? Answers on a postcard please!

      1. Jock Ulah says:

        Plural : Lemons

      2. Random 79 says:

        I like it :)

      3. F1 Badger says:

        I like Lotuses but can’t give u the answer! Good question!

      4. Random 79 says:

        This was asked a little while ago – as far as I can tell it’s Lotuses :)

      5. Frank Lee Scarlett says:

        “What is the plural of Lotus?”

        Debtors.

      6. Matthew Cheshire says:

        The plural is easy but the collective noun is a bit harder. A “meander” of Lotuses?

        You need to convey something that generally heads in the correct direction, but occasionally spears into something unexpectedly. An “Mad Poodle” of Lotuses?

      7. Random 79 says:

        “You need to convey something that generally heads in the correct direction, but occasionally spears into something unexpectedly”

        Are you saying that we need to convey Pastor? ;)

      8. Drew says:

        Lot-crash

      9. Martin Place says:

        Lotuses.

      10. Toby says:

        Loti I believe!

      11. expatpom says:

        I don’t know but I do know it stands for “Lots of trouble, usually serious” lol

      12. Gaz Boy says:

        RE expatpom: LOL……..particularly if driven by a certain South American………….

      13. C63 says:

        I would say Lotuses. As in we both have Lotuses, you wouldn’t say we both have Lotus, Loti etc. :-)

      14. Christopher Cathles says:

        According to James Hunt once during commentating with MW, Lotii (note the two “i’s”, pronounced “low-tie”)

      15. Martin says:

        From a friend who did Latin to a PhD level, if it is a Latin word such as radius, then radii is a valid plural in English as both words are taken directly from the sources language. Lotus isn’t a Latin word and hence Lotuses is correct as you’d apply an English plural.

        A debate a work some years ago concluded the plural of compactus was compactus as it was a made up word and one element of a compactus would just be a shelf.

    3. Ahmed says:

      My guess goes with misplaced optimism and overselling their ‘different’ design to attract more sponsors.

    4. Careful optimism?

      Logic would dictate that they will catch up to the level they should be performing at. Unlike McLaren last year who were at the end of the rules cycle, Lotus is making these improvements at the start of the cycle, where it is to make gains in seconds rather than tenths.

      Grosjean is a solid performer and his talent deserves a car to express himself on the track.

      Best of luck to them!

      1. Gaz Boy says:

        That’s a very sensible answer. However, like I mentioned, Lotus do not have the budget and facilities of the “Big Boys” and I fear that will hurt them, but we’ll see!
        I noticed you politically correctly only mentioned Romain………….ha ha!

      2. Martin says:

        A point to note though is that Lotus is seeing its upgrades work on the track. McLaren had a fundamental correlation problem. So far we only know the Lotus is underdeveloped with limited track time. We haven’t proof that the design is a stinker yet.

    5. Quade says:

      Sadly these days, the Lotus driver that won the 2012 Spanish GP now seems much more preoccupied with openly challenging concrete, as well as bravely attempting to pass through walls on the way to the pits than he is about winning race trophies.

      Good luck to Lotus! But I think they only have one driver and one car this year. Other teams all seem to have two of both.

    6. aveli says:

      mclaren also had a dog of a car at the start on 2009 and won races towards the end of the season. may be that’s because they had good direction from hamilton.

      1. Martin says:

        Maybe. Or possibly Hamilton kept on saying the car had no grip at the rear and the car only got better when the front wing was changed, rather than the addition of a double diffuser. Those are facts by the way.

        McLaren made a design error in trying to pass the air off the front wing inside the front wheels rather than outside them with the then wider front wing rules.

        Hamilton is a great driver, accepted by F1 professionals as one of the top three around at the moment. However, if you believe that he or any other driver has any capability to design F1 cars, then you’re delusional. Drivers contribute by helping the team understand what the driver needs to get the potential out of the car, not how to make the car faster. Last year Hamilton told Mercedes that he didn’t like the brake feel. Rosberg and Hamilton both showed that the car stopped fine, but Hamilton felt he could modulate the brake pedal more effectively in the McLaren. Which in race probably helps tyre wear and lap time consistency. This year we have cases at Red Bull and Ferrari where one driver isn’t fully confident in the car.

        F1 teams are always trying to add more performance. The cars have so many sensors that the teams know where the downforce is at any speed. They are always working to maximise low speed downforce. If they can they will then look at ways for shedding drag (and downforce) above 200 km/h by having wing elements stalling and the rake of the car reducing.

  2. Sujith says:

    Lets be optimistic for the Enstone Squad! Romain Grosjean is hungry for some success and has so far been impatient about it. I’m predicting a top 6 finish and points for both cars. RedBull and Ferrari will be the teams taking a giant leap!

  3. Vivek says:

    Hi James.

    How come RBR have solved the reliability issues with the Renault engine while Lotus struggle with it?

    If Lotus and RBR share the same spec MGU H and MGU K then failures should happen in both teams right? Why only Lotus?

    Also do you think the renault engine lacks horse power as compared to Mercedes? Then how come Toro Rosso and Lotus consistently come near the top on the speed trap in China?

    1. Ace says:

      1) Works relationship?

      2) Randomness? Lack of testing, mileage and problem solving

      3) More downforce on RBR also means more drag. Less on the other teams means less drag so they are faster on the straights.

      These are all just theoretical answers

    2. forestial says:

      Maybe Lotus has not done as good a job on the control software that links all the components of the power unit? As complicated and dynamic as that system is, I suspect that is no trivial software effort.

      I’m not clear on how much of that software is
      a) provided by the FIA-standard ‘electronics unit’ (which I think is still a McLaren design but identical for all teams)
      b) created by the teams or
      c) provided by the engine manufacturer

      Does anyone know this?

      1. Martin says:

        It is a McLaren Electronics box that all teams use. The engine and ERS units are the engine manufacturer’s responsibility. The gearbox is the team’s responsibility and it also needs to be controlled by the ECU.

        I believe Marussia and possibly Sauber use a Ferrari gearbox, so that simplifies it for them. I’m not sure what Force India is doing, as I heard it had ended its relationship with McLaren, probably as McLaren is going to Honda. Lotus will be the only team running a Renault engine without a Red Bull gearbox.

    3. Quade says:

      Lotus have a totally different gearbox concept to Red Bull (or any of the other Renault teams), therefore their engine integration problems are somewhat different to Red Bulls.

    4. MrF1 says:

      Different aero package

  4. goferet says:

    Exciting times ahead as we look forward to free practice to see who has done their homework the best.

    For sure Lotus look like the biggest improvers on the grid considering where they came from and according to Maldonado, if the team is lucky, they will be fighting for the top 5 in Barcelona.

    And seeing the miracle Ferrari made in 2012 by bringing out a vastly improved car, the fans are hopefully some team can have that same result by the end of the weekend.

    Overall, we will finally find out after Barcelona whether we will have a 2011 type of season or whether we will have a 2012 season.

  5. Cynic says:

    Lotus worth watching in Barcelona… Why, is Maldonado going to do something stupid again…;)

    1. Rich C says:

      No, because we get to see how much more horsepower the Renault “reliability” cheats… er, I mean “fixes” have conjured up.

    2. Random 79 says:

      I’m not sure stupid is the correct word to use there; personally I think ludicrous fits better:

      “causing laughter because of absurdity; provoking or deserving derision; ridiculous; laughable”

      I hope you agree :)

      1. Gaz Boy says:

        How about the word undeserving? As in the barrier, Mexican drivers, the pit lane………….

    3. Quade says:

      Maldonado is definitely worth watching!

  6. Paige says:

    The most interesting thing about Lotus is Grosjean. This is the year where he can perhaps take the biggest step for his career. Last year, he had a top notch second half of the year in which he was the only one who could challenge Red Bull on pace, so everyone knows he can be quick and consistent in a good car. It’ll be interesting to see how he reacts to having a car in the midfield. If he can have a Hulkenberg-like year this year in terms of maximizing results consistently and scoring points, we will certainly start to hear more about him in connection with the top big money teams. He would be a very natural fit at McLaren with Boullier on board and Honda coming back with a huge support budget.

    Aside from that, everything coming out of Lotus seems to paint a picture of a team in serious danger of financial demise. They clearly didn’t have the resources to prepare for the new regulations, for which teams like Force India and Williams have shown it is possible to do with limited budgets. With that said, there is no doubt that they have some talented engineers still on board, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see them make some gains this year. Still, it’s clear that this isn’t a team that will be back at the top of the grid anytime soon.

  7. Andy says:

    Red Bull, Ferrari and Mclaren will have been spending and developing like there’s no tomorrow, which is one thing Lotus can’t do. If the afore mentioned teams develop as they should,Lotus would be looking at 9th at best. Add Force India into the mix and they could drop two places lower, whilst Williams seem to have a decent baseline but are too inconsistent.

    Whatever the real reasons were for not attending the first test, they will be paying the price for the whole season. It isn’t a lack of development that has resulted in them not scoring a point so far, it’s reliability, and that comes from running.

    1. Random 79 says:

      Agreed.

      If memory serves it was a “strategic” decision to miss the first test, by which I think they really meant “we’re up the creek and we know it”.

  8. Nator says:

    RBR will be the ones to watch. Newey has probably had one of his brainwaves “making toast” in these 3 weeks off.

  9. Matthew Cheshire says:

    Is it wise to claim they have received “more horsepower” from Renault? I thought it was all “improved reliability” that may magically release more power by pure accident.

    Renault needs to find a bunch of accidents.

    I’d love to see if there was an outcry if Mercedes blabbed about a horsepower gain…

    1. Random 79 says:

      “Renault needs to find a bunch of accidents”

      And Lotus have just the man for the job :)

      1. Gaz Boy says:

        Accidents – that implies a plural, doesn’t it? Job done already!

  10. DB says:

    “see if they can keep moving back towards the front.”
    Interesting wording. Is it, like, being lapped? Or perhaps Maldonado’s new reverse driving style? ¦¬)

  11. MrF1 says:

    ‘Keep Fighting Lotus’

    Perhaps some teams could run this graphic I support of the sinking enstone based team.

    Seriously though. Glad racing returns this weekend. Longest 3 weeks of my life.

  12. Sukumaran says:

    It is good team with few people making many stupid decisions.

  13. DaWorstPlaya says:

    James,

    Did Caterham ever receive the updated Renault Engine package that RedBull, TorroRosso and Lotus now enjoy?

    1. James Allen says:

      Not up to China

      They must be due it now

  14. Richard says:

    Can’t wait, not because I’m a Lotus fan, a three week break in F1 terms is just way too long.

  15. Phenom says:

    James I have a question. The rules quite clearly prohibit performance upgrades and I know teams get around this by introducing ‘reliability’ fixes but how are they allowed to talk about it so openly? They clearly talk about looking forward to more power, better drivability, smoother mapping etc with no concern for dressing it up under the reliability guise. Is this poor enforcement from the FIA or simply one of those ‘non-rules’ like team orders used to be?

    Thanks

    1. James Allen says:

      Those aren’t updates they are making the most of what is already there

      Renault changed done items on turbo because it was getting too hot, exhaust etc in the name of reliability

      Of course you make sure the new part is better ;)

      1. Phenom says:

        Ah I understand, fascinating how much improvement they can make with the existing hardware. Thanks for your insight.

  16. Matt says:

    Clearly Lotus is struggling to come to grips with the new formula. My question centers around the drivers. How positive is the feedback the team is gaining from the driver lineup?

    I have read and heard on a few broadcasts that Pastor is awful at providing technical feedback. How good is Grosjean? I can remember so far this year a few times when he has been asked on the radio what needs changing on the car he has responded, “everything”.

    If the drivers are not able to communicate what they need specifically to the team then obviously forward progress is going to be compromised.

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