2011 Season Preview – Lotus


Team Name : Team Lotus

Location : Norfolk, UK

Team Principal : Tony Fernandes

Technical Director : Mike Gascoyne

Drivers : Jarno Trulli, Heikki Kovalainen

Chassis : T128

Engine : Renault

First Season : 2010

Races Entered : 19

Pole Positions : 0

Race wins : 0

Points scored in 2010 : 0

World Championships : 0

Lotus Racing were one of three new teams in 2010, thanks to BMW pulling out at the end of 2009. Formed by a consortium of Malaysian businessmen, the squad was seen as a revival of the legendary Team Lotus brand in F1. With Proton, the Malaysian car manufacturer who owns Lotus Cars, allowing the use of the Lotus name, all seemed well. Team Principal Tony Fernandes used his Air Asia resources to good effect, and managed to produce a proper team and two sorted-out cars in time for the 2010 season-opener.

With Mike Gascoyne at the helm of the technical team, and experienced drivers in the form of Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen, Lotus quickly showed themselves to be the best new team of 2010. Despite being an overly conservative design, the T127 was good enough to finish races and was quicker than it’s nearest rivals, the Virgin and the Hispania cars. That’s not to say the team enjoyed a trouble-free season – Jarno Trulli bore the brunt of several mechanical/hydraulic failures and his race results hardly rewarded his qualifying efforts.

Nevertheless, only the Lotus looked even remotely capable of getting past the established runners on an odd day. There were times when Heikki and Jarno would push the T127 way beyond the limit to try and get through to Q2 – and it was quite impressive to see the Lotus occasionally nipping at the heels of a Sauber or a Toro Rosso. In terms of strategy and development, the team looked a tidy lot, and given a few years, it promises to genuinely compete with the lower midfield.

Which makes it all the more puzzling that Lotus Cars have abandoned their own mates and instead want to sponsor Renault’s Enstone based team, citing their superior prospects as a marketing tool. If only they had joined hands with Lotus Racing, ensuring a stable future for the team, it might have been a welcome comeback of the Lotus marque. Instead, Lotus Racing has now been stabbed in the back, and the ensuing legal and verbal battle has shown brand Lotus in poor light.

Lotus Racing has made a major step forward by acquiring Renault engines and hydraulic systems for this season – all the more reason to expect a competitive and improved showing. Tony Fernandes expressed immense confidence in their performance in this year, saying that while last year’s car was deliberately conservative due to time constraints, this year’s T128 is a much better car. Given better reliability, I would not be surprised to see Lotus taking the fight to Toro Rosso and Sauber.

For the moment, their target should be to get into Q2 regularly, and score a few points when circumstances turn favourable. But is it possible? Toro Rosso’s STR6 has raised many an eyebrow with  it’s pace, and drivers feel Sauber have a good car this year. Force India are now in properly in the midfield and Williams are neck and neck with them. Can Lotus beat an established runner this year? They have a good chance of doing so. Will they? We’ll probably know in  2 weeks’ time in Melbourne.

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