Lotus have decided to miss the first pre-season test at Jerez in Spain, which starts on 28 January, and are instead expected to run their 2014 challenger for the first time at the second test which follows in Bahrain next month.
The move gives the Enstone-based team more time to develop their car and they will not miss out much on tyre data as Jerez’s abrasive track surface isn’t representative of tracks on the race calendar.
However the downside is they will lose vital track time with a car that will see incorporate some of the biggest rules changes in years.
The news also comes as Lotus, who ran Renault engines last season as they finished fourth in the constructors’ championship, have yet to confirm an engine supply for 2014. Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado are their drivers.
The first test lasts four days with two tests in Bahrain following. The first starts on 19 February and the second follows on 27 February.
Lotus technical director Nick Chester said: “We’ve decided that attending the Jerez test isn’t ideal for our build and development programme.
“We are likely to unveil the car before attending the Bahrain tests, and in Bahrain we should really be able to put the car through its paces in representative conditions.
“This is the first year of radically different regulations which means that all teams are developing their cars along potentially quite different avenues.
“We think we have a very good solution to the challenge and hopefully this will be seen when the E22 turns its wheels in anger.
“We’ve made very good progress with the various homologation tests which took place before Christmas including chassis squeeze and side impact loading tests as well as the rear crash structure, meaning we just have the nose test to complete the car’s homologation.”
It is not the first time a team has missed the first pre-season test. But by doing so, teams have suffered contrasting fortunes.
In 2010, Red Bull skipped the four-day test at Valencia, but it didn’t seem to hinder them as they went on to win the drivers’ title with Sebastian Vettel as well as the constructors’ championship.
Force India also missed that test and finished seventh in the constructors’ championship, two places better than they did the previous season.
In 2011, McLaren, Force India, Virgin and HRT, ran their 2010 cars on the opening day of the first test, while Lotus (now Caterham) missed the first day altogether.
In 2012, Marussia missed the first test – and went on to finish last in the constructors’ championship while Mercedes used their 2011 car for the first three days and missed the final day. The Brackley-based team finished fifth in the constructors’, one place worse than the previous year.
Last year, all teams attended the first test and used their new cars apart from Williams, who used their 2012 machine. The team suffered a hugely disappointing season, scoring points just twice to finish ninth overall.
On Tuesday, McLaren announced they will unveil their 2014 car on Friday 24 January with an online launch while Mercedes will have a low key reveal on the first day of the Jerez test.