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Team Lotus – how close are they to bridging the gap?
Posted By: James Allen  |  10 Aug 2011   |  2:47 pm GMT  |  87 comments

By their own admission Team Lotus is not where it expected to be at this stage, which was fighting with the slowest of the midfield teams; in Budapest the car was three tenths slower than Buemi’s Toro Rosso and half a second slower than Maldonado’s Williams.

Although the car was two seconds per lap faster in Budapest than Virgin or HRT, it remains perilously close at the foot of the championship table with Trulli’s two 13th place finishes keeping the team in the lucrative 10th place, ahead of HRT with one 13th place. One topsy turvy race could turn that around, so Lotus could really do with scoring a point to be sure. The team has a series of steps planned including a major upgrade for Singapore, which technical boss Mike Gascoyne believes should be worth half a second.

While it’s generally agreed that Heikki Kovalainen is having a great season, his team mate Jarno Trulli has had a tough season so far having struggled with the power steering system on the car up to Silverstone and sat out the German Grand Prix while a new one was being prepared. He may miss the Indian Grand Prix weekend also, in order for Karun Chandhok to have a second run in the car.

Trulli was far more competitive with the new power steering system in Hungary, although he was still narrowly outqualified by team mate Heikki Kovalainen. His race was cut short by a water leak.

Trulli is championed by technical chief Mike Gascoyne who still feels the Italian has plenty to offer both in pace and development skills, with Lotus at a critical stage of its development.

One gets the feeling that next year the technical department and drivers have to deliver and take the team a step up the grid. The pressure is definitely rising, with the arrival of sponsors like GE putting proper money into the team and a whole plan for marketing the team and Caterham cars off the back of it, there can be no excuses for staying adrift of the midfield for a third season.

Despite his demoralising struggles Trulli is keen to be part of it; “Some announcement will be done probably in the next weeks, but at the moment I’m happy with the way it is and I just want to focus on my job and the team and my results. I want to enjoy what I’m doing because I wasn’t enjoying it much before,” said Trulli, a veteran of 243 Grands Prix.

There was speculation after he missed Germany that he had done so in exchange for a new contract for 2012. Although the team had sounded out the availability of Nico Hulkenberg, there are few other young drivers around staking a serious claim to the seat.

The 37 year old Italian described the new power steering as a different world for him, and he is confident he will be able to make more progress as the season progresses.

“They did a good job with the new power steering system, which is giving me the exact feeling with the car. I think we can still improve the system, but the feeling is okay. For the first time this season I started working with the car and changing many things because many things were becoming very clear for me.

“I’m extremely precise. This has been my weakness and also my strength and when we had this power steering the feeling I was getting it was not the real one. What was happening with the car it was not was transmitting to me.”

Gascoyne, always a big supporter of Trulli’s, told Autosport, “A lot of people were writing him off, which is understandable at his stage of his career, but it’s nice that he can show he’s bounced back. We felt we weren’t doing a good enough job for him, and it gives us an enormous amount of pride to say that yes, we’re doing it now. We’re pretty pleased about that.”

It’s been hard work getting Team Lotus up to speed with plenty of bumps in the road. The finishing record this season hasn’t been great, with eight retirements in 22 starts, but there is optimism internally that things are heading in the right direction. The team will shortly start its deal with Williams to use their wind tunnel and with sponsorship money from GE now coming in, the team is still expanding and adding staff in key aerodynamics jobs to work under technical director Mark Smith, who started work recently.

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It’s sad that despite a really significant progress Team Lotus is seen as a disappointment. And it’s all because, in the midst of PR war with Danny Bahar, they made far too much hype and set some unachievable goals. Not they look poorly, at their own fault. I really feel for the guys in the factory, they did splendid job and two mouths writing checks the team couldn’t have paid made it look unimpressive.


They’re my favourite team on the grid. Great to see them making progress rather than remaining mired close to the 107 percent cutoff. Also great to see them taking some chances on their car design. What Gascoyne said about being able to evolve this year’s car into next year’s car is huge, in my opinion. Next year will be an even bigger step forward. This is their second all-new car, after all.


Somehow I like Lotus for whatever they’re doing. It’s just a feeling.


Hi James,

Great work keeping up the articles during this quiet period.

Just wondering if it has been explained exactly what about the original power steering was not to Trulli’s liking? We have heard him say he couldn’t feel the car properly, but why was this? Was it too ‘light’? Any tech info would be much appreciated 🙂




All the tail-enders strive to climb up to the midfield. But if everyone who’s not a frontrunners were a midfielder, there would be no tail-enders. My question is, how big can the midfield be?


Hopefully big enough that that the finsh results are not pre determined by the cars pace….


I think that Team Lotus are on the right glidepath…. I wish them luck.


Minardi spirit with the potential of real pace on the horizon. We love that kind of thing round here, don’t we?


Clearly, Lotus plays in that other league of Formula 1. Depends on of their attitude to take advantage of this! If they really, for now, can not develop further, and know that your position is logical, since it is already done.

We’ll see if anyone can go for free to Abu Dhabi GP with this


I must say I’m surprised at their popularity because they don’t strike me as much more than a hoax product.

Granted, they have done well to generate partners, technical deals, and sponsorship.


If anything, I appreciate the Virgin team. Though they probably don’t deserve a place on their results and prior pedigree, but they have gone about the job with relative humility and they have trialed innovative initiatives like the all-computer design.
They don’t apparently trump themselves without having achieved any results.

I respect what Super Aguri achieved in their first season, from a standing start they earned a top-ten finish at the final race on merit, and a couple of points finishes in their second season – back when it was points only to 8th.
“Lotus” have trundled around making noises about their progress, but are still the best part of half a second off the pace of the next lowest team, with less reliability, and more experienced drivers.

Sorry but it takes more than 3rd to last place finishes to impress in the top class motorsport.


Agree re Virgin.


Do you think they would have generated partnerships, technicals deals and sponsorship if they were generally seen as a “hoax product”? I think not.

A lot of people are happy to see the Lotus name back in grand prix racing, and in the right spirit. I was a Lotus fan in their first guise, and enjoyed many spirited drives by Johnny Herbert the last time the team was competitive in 1993. He finished 4th at Donington after making only one tyre stop when the rest of the field spent half the race in the pits. That season, the team’s gap to pole position was often comparable to the gap this year, but that meant qualifying between 7th and 18th and at a time when cars’ reliability was far from bulletproof. They often ran very competitively and were in the hunt for the podium a few times that year. Things may have been different had Herbert managed to get a couple of third places.

The return of Team Lotus is something I was delighted about, and I love seeing them edging closer to the teams ahead. Yes, they made optimistic predictions, but that has helped to drive the team forward. HRT are an unfortunate joke, and Virgin have hardly covered themselves in glory. I wish Lotus every success as they make their way back to the sharp end of the field.


The answer to that is simple, they’re obviously legitimate in a business sense.

Tell me though, which one of their team members has a direct historical connection with Team Lotus?


Why not phone the team and ask them?


Interesting view, but Super Aguri were using a well sorted chassis and engine given to them by Honda. They operated during that grey area period when teams could fudge the IP issue, like Toro Rosso getting their car from Red Bull Technologies. Team Lotus, like Virgin and the rest, have had to make their own car from scratch


Yes, but who did Honda get a well sorted chassis from? They must have bought one in 😉


Well, well-sorted chassis, albeit 4 years old from a defunct competitor.

It’s true Super Aguri had some technical help from Honda, though TL have the championship winning Renault engine. From a previous broadcast (I think it was 2001 Silverstone) Martin Brundle mentioned how Sauber had the previous year’s Ferrari engine which came with it a gearbox and suspension settings. So there is a technical platform TL have had to spring off this year.

You might be able to make a case to say that given XYZ reasons, TL are performing well.

I personally don’t see the value though of F1 being a birthing school. I only see the value in it being the Superbowl of motorsport and new teams need a bit of pedigree like Eddie Jordan, not just an entrepreneurial owner and a technical director whose been sacked more times than Avram Grant.


Also to note is that when SA was around there was a lot more reliability and crashing happening (not naming any unlicensed drivers here…. or anyone else).

And less teams, so while you may need to be in the top 8, quite easily several of the top 8 cars could DNF, and conbimed with what JA said, they had a sorted car.

Rosberg, in the 4th fastest car said 7th feels like a win. That really shows you, as well as having races were we hardly see any DNFs through accidents or mechanical failuers unlike in yester year.


James/Fellow readers, let me ask you this : Is developing a F1 car in this era much easier than say in the 1980s/1990s ? We have teams like Lotus and Virgin that was built from scratch within a matter of months, and in their 2nd season they are within a second off the pace of a RBR aided Torro-Rosso and the legendary Williams. Compare this to Minardis,Arrows,Prost,Tyrrels and even Benettons of the yesteryears when the gap between P1 and p5 was sometimes 1.5 seconds apart! How is it that the new entrants are so close to the established players in so little time ?


Tighter regulation is probably the major factor. Frozen engines which are all similar in power for example. Tighter rules on wing and bodywork design. Control tyres. The resource restriction agreement. Testing limits. All things that reduce the advantage that rich teams have over the less well funded ones.

Probably also a minor factor is that the aerodynamic science is more mature. More science and less art to it than there was in the 80s. There are more people around now who understand how to use the wind tunnel and CFD data to explore the limits of it.


Nothing against Jarno Trulli, he’s been around forever and he’s a capable driver. But he’s driven a number of cars in his F1 career and never set the world on fire in any of them. And now all this complaining about the power steering. Kovalienen drives capably with the same power steering in the same car.

The bottom line is that you can put a great driver in a car with an underperforming engine, sloppy suspension, and the power steering from a John Deere tractor and he will still find a way to beat you. Conversely, you can put a mediocre driver in a great car (think Luca Badoer in Massa’s Ferrari) and he always finds reasons why he can’t perform.

Jacques Moudacques

Fernandes and his crew remind me of that high priest from Help! who was after the sacrificial ring… That scene when they blow up the tank in the field while the Beatles hide in a barn or whatever and then start hugging each other, celebrating and weeping sums up what Team Lotus is all about – the desired results they won’t have this or next season and a somewhat cult-ish culture.

Their PR staff are good and fans are buying the “young and fresh” product Tony/Mike & Co are selling on Twitter for 13-year olds. Very Super Aguri but the sponsors will start demanding real results soon instead of Mike’s half a second or 10 seconds hypothetical gains.

It does stand out, however, that British-based F1 journos are plugging Tony on all fronts, very suspicious – you’d think other teams would deserve a bit of attention/positive reviews here and there too. In French press you’ll find a totally different picture with more attention to stuff that matters like where Grosjean will end up in 2012, some very different interviews with different people, etc..


French media coverage of F1 is rather skint.

There are no real equivalent to Autosport mag, Motorport mag or F1 Racing mag.

Long gone are the days of Jabby Crombac.


Jacques, I think Tony & his PRcrew are doing their jobs and doing them well. Theyre out raising the profile of the tea, getting journalists and fans talking about them and attracting sponsors with money.

This allows Mike and his pit crew to do their jobs, better, with more resource.

There is nothing suspicious about the coverage Team Lotus rceive from british journalists, or if there is, then you would have to apply the same suspicion to Grosjean being covered in the French media. You cant have it both ways!


If they stop spending so much time building a cult of personality around tony fernandes in the press, and actually spent their time on racing, they would be doing quite well.


Do you think that the team would still have the same likability factor if it was under something other than Team Lotus??


Absolutely not.

Although, i do think TF would be better off defining his own future, rather than living off the back of legend.


Not at all. And most of you, dear commentators, are the best example. Without Team Lotus branding it would nothing more than some Asian team trying their luck in F1. You wouldn’t care for Team 1Malaysia Racing. It’s Team Lotus and the spirit associated with the name that brings positive reactions.


Yes definitely. Tony Fernandes makes up for alot of the attitude of the team.


No disrespect to Lotus, I wish them all the very best but I would have thought Mclaren from late 60’s has “some” british pedigree!

Thats 40+ years……

Being a kiwi, I know it was considerably New Zealand staffed but certainly was run out of Britan…..and to all intents and purposes is “British”.


McLaren the most successful NZ team, stolen by the British. (Much like how Australia stole Crowded House).


Very selective memory Phil.

I think you’ll find Project 4 (Ron) and the guys working with him had just as much to do with turning McLaren into a force to be reckoned with.


Think we got the better deal


Two thirds of Crowded House were Australian.


+1 well said mate


True, McLaren is run out of Britain but I just don’t think you can take the Kiwi out of them, there’s a No.8 wire determination there. They don’t always get it right, but that’s part of the charm – when things go wrong they just put their heads down and get on with it.

All we need now is a Kiwi driver…. shame Scott Dixon missed his chance.


What is a No.8 wire determination?


So #8 wire is the kiwi equivalent of duct tape?


Here in the States we call it baling wire, and use it in much the same manner.

Supplemented by Duct Tape of course!


Number 8 is actually a gauge of wire which is thick enough to be strong but tensile enough to be used for anything. Although you would imagine fencing wire is the most practical use, it is actually used for pretty much anything.

It has slipped into the New Zealand lexicon to illustrate the mentality of being able to do anything. A Kiwi is described as No 8 wire which means he can turn his hand to anything.


Kiwis famous for their ingenuity and “can-do, will-do” attitude.

A lack of resources will probably not deter any decent Kiwi.

They just “give it a go”, DIY is a way of life.

The “Number 8 Wire” legend only slightly exaggerates that a Kiwi can fix any problem.

Because they can fix things independently they don’t like rules and authority, there’s no need to be told what to do, just get your hands dirty and finish it!

Although not related to No. 8 wire I did like this comment “If the weather is good why work overtime instead of going fishing?”



No 8 wire is 4mm soft fencing wire.

No.8 wire determination is the attitude that a Kiwi can do / fix anything with a piece of number 8 wire.

The calling an electrician to change the light bulbs mentality doesn’t exist in NZ.


Am assuming its a Rugby thing


“Number 8 wire is a gauge of wire on the British Standard wire gauge that has entered into the cultural lexicon of New Zealand.

Over the years it’s been used to fix Land Rovers, rewire houses, repair helicopters, even to build fences.

The ubiquitous tool of the pioneer, No. 8 wire is a symbol of ingenuity, resourcefulness and a pioneering attitude. To Kiwis it represents the positive outlook and can-do approach. It is also used as a term that epitomises the “kiwi bloke” as someone who can turn their hand to anything”.


my Kiwi dad always says “Kiwis make a good car” when Lewis or JB win a race!


Just like Ferrari… This team knows how to capture hearts.

And of course, this team is revolutionised formula one through designs which are still adopted by F1 today… Tribute to the Genius named Colin Chapman (The founder of Lotus Marque)… The only British Team with a Legendary Pedigree 🙂


@mo kahn

Just like Ferrari, this team (Team Lotus) knows how to extract money from fans. Through the power of a Great British brand.

Also good to see 1Malasia Racing adopting ground breaking cutting edge designs as the great man Colin Chapman did!? 🙂

*runs away laughing*


McLaren and Williams are also far more British than the Malaysian team dressed in Lotus colours!

There was only one British F1 team whose colours dominated in the crowds at Silverstone and Festival of Speed and that was neither of the teams you mentioned.

McLaren 🙂


Nonsense! There are other teams that evoke as much passion such as Williams and McLaren when you consider their rich F1 history and the great drivers that have raced for these teams such as Senna.


team Lotus is currently my favourite team – just watching Heikki’s qualifying times excite me – when they get into Q2 I jump with joy! I would love them to get at least 1 tenth place – inherited by rival team penalties or not.

It’s a real shame that they aren’t directly fighting Force India and Toro Rosso as they wanted to back in the winter, but Williams looks like the nearest possibilty in terms of race pace.

Heikki’s so high spirited and such a quick driver, but I’m not a Jarno Trulli fan, although perhaps this new power steering may see him close the gap to Heikki as he has been a seriously quick qualifier in the past. I want to see Karun Chandhok get a full time seat there – but his German Grand Prix chance didn’t go so well, although he did finish and it was by their view a test session for him. I really hope he gets to race in India – he’s such an enthusiastic driver, and a good fighter who has won twice in the GP2 series. I wish him a good future.

I’m not Indian by the way, so don’t think I’m favouring Karun because of his nationality – I just think he’s an ace person deserving of a drive to develop his skills.

I hope Mike Gascoyne and his crew can start overtaking and getting those 10th places in the last few races!

Go Team Lotus!


As with all the other teams in the lower order of the WCC table, a top driver could probably give them an extra 0.2-0.5 seconds per lap.


They seem to be very much on course, good luck to them.

I am sure MG knows a lot more than me about it all, but from the safety of my armchair, it does appear that Trulli is staler than a Pharoh’s doughnut. Apart from experience his “legendary single lap speed” is still getting shaded by that nice Mr Kovalainen… and there are a number of excellent Rookies, even those much slighted “pay drivers” who keep on beating the “real ones”.


Mike Gascoyne is a likeable guy, always look forward to hearing from him.

One thing though. Isn’t he the Team’s worst enemy? When they went to the Renault engine & did a big rear end re-design, that according to Mike was going to be worth between 1-2 secs a lap. At that time, it would have put them around 12th on the grid…….they never were & still run around 17th consistently.

Now Mike is saying new upgrades are going to be worth 0.5 sec, so where will that put them?

If he would just cut out the misguided P.R. wishful thinking, not announce things that are never achieved, it would be less disappointing.

And also stop my wife saying ‘Why do you support Team Lotus, they’re not getting any further forwards?’


If you remember last year they were regularly 1.5 to 2 seconds per lap slower than Torro Rosso but this year the gap has come down to about 0.3 to 1 second on average. They’ve pulled well clear of the other new teams and are closing in on the teams ahead, though they seem to be another team whos updates dont deliver as much as their simulation tech says it will.


Everyone else moves forward too, so even a 1-2 second per lap improvement wasn’t going to move Team Lotus up the grid by the same amount.

The best comparison to use is probably the fastest Lotus compared to Timo Glock’s Virgin. Kovalainen was just under 2.0 seconds faster than Glock in Barcelona this year, rather better than 2010 when Trulli was only 0.8 seconds faster. The Circuit de Catalunya is a good baseline, because a good laptime comes from the car not the driver (as opposed to, say, Monaco). In China, Kovalainen was about 1.2 seconds faster than the fastest Virgin, a 1.3 second swing from 2010.

There is reason to be optimistic about Team Lotus – but it was never going to be as simple as Gascoyne made it sound.


Smoke and mirrors from Mr Gascoyne. You can only talk a good game for so long.



I believe Lotus have been making the strides forward in laptime – problem is, so has everyone else.


my Lotus support lies 100% behind Team Lotus, not Proton Genii



If you call LRGP proton genii, then you have to call TL 1 Malaysia racing UK Ltd. ;p


My support lies with the team that…

Is based in Norfolk

Sells Chapmans cars

Uses the Team Lotus colour scheme

Uses the name

so that would be Team Lotus


That’s actually a good point – Renault only use the colours of a former Team Lotus sponsor. Team Lotus themselves use the original colours associated with the early days of Chapman’s team.



My support lies…

Is based in Norfolk. Coincidence.

Sells Chapman cars. Debatable.

Uses Team Lotus colours. True.

Uses the name. Purchased.

So that would be Team Lotus.

where as you could also say.

Is based in Norfolk. The original site.

Sells Chapman cars. With the correct badge.

Uses Team Lotus colours. True.

Uses the name. True (the Lotus part).

So that would be Lotus (Renault?) GP


Williams have 2 wind tunnels and one is barely used now due to the rra and they hire it out in demand to various teams.


>a major upgrade for Singapore, which technical boss Mike Gascoyne believes should be worth half a second.

Oh no! Not again?! *Another half-second a lap prediction in the same season?

Its just staggering…


Other teams do not sit still. Lotus might claw back 0.1 or 0.2 seconds in comparison to the likes of Williams or Toro Rosso.

I don’t think this will be enough to score a point this year though.


I know Trulli has been around awhile but he couldnt even develop a toyota with mega bucks behind them. How and why do Lotus belive he can help them?


From what I’ve heard Toyota did everything by comitee with regular conference calls back to Japan so they were bound to fail, its a wonder they ever got any podiums.


I think Toyota in their last season in 2009 already fighting for race win? They actually had a few podium finishes.


I have to say I am rooting for Lotus. It seems like they have all the right people in place, and it’s just taking some time to get the car toward a midfield contender. I wouldn’t be surprised if they make a few good steps forward this year (maybe snagging a point), and then make a bigger jump next season where they are at least on par with Toro Rosso in both qualifying and race pace.

What interests me is how Trulli and Kovalainen are great drivers, but perhaps the team needs someone a little more aggressive to make some passes when necessary to ensure they don’t get left behind in the first few laps. They aren’t far off Toro Rosso, but it seems like Toro Rosso can claw their way up through the field to get a point or two by the end, but Lotus just seems to stay where they started. Losing three tenths each lap over a 60-lap race results in a loss of 18 seconds… but it seems like if they had better strategy, they could make that up by being on the right tires at the right time.

Still, just a few little tweaks, and Lotus will definitely be a contender for points. Gascoyne and Trulli achieved that with Toyota, and Kovalainen hasn’t forgotten how to score points from his days at McLaren… I am looking forward to watching their progress!


0.3 secs is the difference between having KERS or not.

I would expect them to have it on their car next year. It just was too much of an ask for 2011 I suspect.


Same here malcolm. To have the name Lotus back in ‘the fight’ would be great for those who remember the days when Lotus reigned supreme. It has taken a little longer than i expected to bridge the gap as james put it. I also think than Jarno and Heikki may have also fallen into the mindfield mindset and don’t show that aggression needed when they were at or close to the front. That may be the bigger issue. We all remember Trulli with those 1 lap quali specials which he isn’t doing with his lotus even with the issues he has had with power steering. Maybe a change of driver/s, youth and aggression, may drive/develop on others aspects as well in the team.

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