The team formerly known as Renault officially launched its new Lotus era today by unveiling its new car with the relatively low-key target of moving up one place to fourth in the constructors’ championship in 2012.
The Genii Capital-owned outfit revealed the E20 – the ‘E’ in reference to Enstone, the team’s home of 20 years – on the internet but, rather than a live stream, released a novel pre-recorded broadcast from its factory which included the car’s unveil, interviews with drivers and management, along with behind-the-scenes footage.
The black and gold-liveried challenger features the in-vogue stepped nose, but is less dramatic than the one on the new Ferrari that caused a stir on Friday with a more attractive curved slope. The E20 is certainly sleek around the sidepods and rear, with the exhaust exits, as is mandated, considerably higher and further back on the car than last year when Renault pioneered the complex forward-exhaust concept which proved troublesome.
Having been able to finally draw a line under the team’s largely successful decade-long Renault era and rebrand as Lotus for this season, the team is looking to deliver more consistent results in wake of a 2011 campaign that started promisingly but ended up with the team just clinging on to fifth place in the constructors’ championship ahead of Force India.
Team owner Gerard Lopez said: “I think the hopes are to be able to get one season together in the way that we were already expecting last year. That is to have a strong car, strong drivers –of which of them is obviously an ex-world champion – and to bring the car up to the front of the pack, probably trying to aim for fourth as a reasonable goal for this season.”
The world champion Lopez referred to is of course Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 title winner returning to F1 this year after two campaigns spent largely in the World Rally Championship. Although Michael Schumacher famously struggled to get back up to speed after three years away, Raikkonen is characteristically downplaying the challenges presented by his own re-acclimatisation process.
Asked if he was nervous about his return in wake of the difficulties Schumacher faced in 2010, the Finn, who will partner France’s Romain Grosjean, replied: “Not really. It will be something slightly different than it used to be when I was in Formula 1 with a different team, little bit different regulations.
“But everyone’s different. Some people have more difficulties to get used to the new stuff, and it depends a lot on the car also. If you have a good car it makes your life a lot easier than if you have an average car. So I was pretty happy after the first test we did a few weeks ago and it felt pretty normal already. But before the first race it’s pretty difficult to say still. So we wait and see but I’m happy so far with the way things are going.”
Although the team’s plans to run an innovative braking stabilising system on the car were kyboshed by the FIA last month, and on the outside the attractive E20 doesn’t appear overly radical, team boss Eric Boullier has promised the car has some additional secrets. “It’s true that the team’s reputation is good in terms of innovation and we’ve brought through the last years some nice ones. But definitely we have some this year,” he said, before adding: “[My] biggest hope is to make sure this team is back at the front of the grid for many years and a long time.”
Lopez, meanwhile, additionally confirmed the arrival of two new sponsors from the male grooming product world in Rexona and Clear for 2012, while expressing his relief that the team can now clearly move forward as Lotus following the end of the naming row with Tony Fernandes. “We’re also extremely proud that the Lotus name is a clear concept for everyone in Formula 1 now,” he said.
Although the Group Lotus car company is currently the team’s main sponsor, there have been suggestions that Lopez’s Genii investment firm has been looking at raising funds to buy the Proton-owned business.