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.
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