Lotus F1 E20: E for Express?
Following a poor 2011, after being led up the garden path by the forward facing exhaust concept, Renault return as Lotus F1 and with an all new driver line-up of Romain Grosjean and some former World Champion called Kimi Raikkonen. Will it be enough, though, to reverse the outfit’s steady decline?
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With a current range consisting of Elises, Exiges and Evoras you may be forgiven for thinking that the E was spawned out of Group Lotus but actually its comes from the team’s Enstone headquarters, seemingly underlining that while the name is Lotus, it’s actually Genii under the shiny black and gold paint. Furthermore and curiously, after all the lengthy arguments about the ownership of the Team Lotus heritage the team has turned towards its own heritage – the 20 signifying the 20th chassis to come out of Enstone. Unusally, they’ve also been keen to point out that they will be celebrating their 500th Grand Prix this year – counting from when the team was Toleman no less. How swift attitudes change…
There are two major changes from the R31: Out go the forward blown exhausts for top exiting ones (they would be illegal now even if they hadn’t caused the team such problems last year) and there is yet another stepped nose to accommodate the lower nose regulations. Additionally, the front and rear suspension layouts have been revised in the search for improved aerodynamics.
In fairness, the stepped nose is probably the least pronounced so far and the black livery aids in disguising it too. On the subject of the livery, thank heavens the ridiculously over-sized Lotus badge on the nose has been decreased – a personal bugbear for me in 2011.
Overall, the E20 appears to be a surprisingly conservative design, with surprisingly simple sidepods and rear quarters. One thing Lotus will have to manage without, however, is a reactive suspension system which the the team having working for over a year only for the FIA to finally declare it illegal. Inevitably, you wonder how that decision will cost them although Lotus suggest that they may not have run the system anyway.
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The big talking point is the return of Kimi Raikkonen. After rumours that he was going to sign with Williams it was eventually the Enstone-based team that secured his services. Inevitably there will be questions about how he will fair after his time away from the sport – expect to hear plenty of questions about the Finns motivation this year, especially if the E20 fails to live up to expectations. “I think people expect things from me,” says Raikkonen, ” but as long as I know that I’m giving 100% and I’m happy with my driving then I’m happy.” In preparation the Finn clocked up 765 km around Valencia’s Ricardo Tormo circuit in a 2010 R30.
Alongside the former World Champion will be Romain Grosjean who makes a racing return to Formula One after previously contesting the final seven Grands Prix of 2009. That time around he failed to make an impression, although he came into the team that was fully concentrated on his team mate. Once again he’s partnered with a star driver and the danger is he could be left in the shade again. However, he has an enviable track record on his way up to Formula One, culminating in the GP2 title last year. The highlight of that season was Monaco, were he stormed through the field from 26th to finish fourth.
The expressed target for this year is fourth in the standings and yet, while finishing fifth in 2011, they were far from the fifth best team by the end of the season. The team has long term ambitions but will 2012 be the start of the road to recovery?
What do you make of Lotus’ E20? Will Kimi Raikkonen lead the team’s revival? How will Romain Grosjean fair on his return to Formula One? Let us know your thoughts in the comments…
Credit: Lotus F1 Team