Lotus unveils new F1 car
Lotus launched their new challenger for the F1 World Championship in London on Friday.
New team Lotus' formula one car for the 2010 season is called the T127.
Colored deep green with yellow trim in recollection of the famous British name's evocative history, the Malaysian-owned team launched the car in London on Friday evening.
With USF1 and Campos yet to unveil their cars, the mere presentation of the T127, shakedown debuted at Silverstone earlier this week, is a feat in itself, given that Lotus was the last outfit to be granted an entry for 2010.
"I'd just love to finish every race," the Malaysian-owned team's boss Tony Fernandes said.
The car's technical chief, Mike Gascoyne, admitted the T127 was designed very quickly starting in September and has therefore been born slightly overweight.
"We know it is not going to be easy. We are running out of time before Bahrain," said Jarno Trulli, whose teammate this year is another established F1 driver, Heikki Kovalainen.
"What they have achieved so far is great but for this year we have to be realistic. We know we will have troubles, but we have to be reliable, decent and show great promise," he told the BBC.
Gascoyne said he felt "shell-shocked" that a car has been produced in merely five months, describing the T127 as a "good, solid, current car".
It will make its proper test debut at Jerez mid next week.
Also at the launch was Lotus team founder Colin Chapman's widow Hazel and son Clive, and several historic Lotus F1 cars.
Q&A with Heikki Kovalainen
Q. What do you make of the new car?
Heikki Kovalainen: First of all I think it looks very cool. I think the whole visual side looks really good. From what I've been following from the time in the factory and talking to the mechanics, the quality of the design and the build has also been very good. So that all looks positive. The shakedown that we did on Tuesday went pretty well, we had just the small problems, nothing major, so fingers crossed it's all going to be fine at Jerez. The performance we don't really know yet until we do a few laps and see.
Q. Has it lived up to your expectations so far?
HK: Better than what I had expected. We are a bit ahead of schedule in terms of the design and build of the car. How everything is shaping up at the factory as well has been better than I expected, it looks very good there as well. The actual operation side, in terms of everybody working at the factory, looks normal to me compared to what I have been used to before because all the people that are in the team are current people. They are not people that have been away for two or three years.
They are people from last year, people from some different teams that have just finished their notice period and come to our team. So that actually works very normally. It feels like a routine already for the boys, so that is also pretty convincing.
Q. What made you go for a new team this year, as opposed to an established one?
HK: I had different options as well at the end of last year and some of those were with more established teams, but at the end I made the decision myself because I saw the most potential in this project. Talking to Tony [Fernandes] and Mike [Gascoyne] convinced me and only the future will tell whether it was a good or bad decision, but so far I have no regrets and so far it has been better than expected.
Q. What was the potential based on?
HK: Tony is a very good businessman and he has a very impressive CV. For me the financial backing of the team looked convincing and that the money would be there to get the team going. We can build a reasonable sized team, and I think eventually when everybody is on we are going to have 260 people - which is around the size of Sauber. That's pretty good.
We have a facility that is not quite ready yet but eventually we will be able to design and produce parts there. This is also for me a message that we could make decent progress during the year in terms of improving the performance of the car. Those two things were major points - then obviously having Mike being at the head of the technical team was the third major point that I based my decision on. Like I said, so far no regrets and this team has a lot of potential to become a very professional and successful team – even in the medium term.
Q. What is the medium term?
HK: Three years. I think we can achieve some decent results in this time.
Q. You are obviously naturally gifted, can Lotus give you the opportunity to thrive in a way you think you are capable of?
HK: I certainly hope so. I think the best races in my Formula 1 career are still ahead of me. That's how I was determined not to go anywhere else but Formula 1. Even the last two years, in fact all my time in F1 I have had difficult races, but also I had good races and I think here I will have the opportunity to produce good results and get more out of the team regularly. That's what I am working on.
Q. How do you see the challenge to Jarno Trulli compared to that you faced against Lewis Hamilton?
HK: First of all over the last two years people have asked me these questions many times, and some of the stuff has been taken out of context so I am not going to go there. So let's go for the future. I'm really looking forward to working with Jarno. He is obviously a very quick driver and I think we can push each other and also we get on well on a personal level. I think we can push the team forward and that is crucial from the beginning.
Mike is demanding a lot from us and I have spent already a few weeks at Hingham, just everyday talking to the engineers. They ask me questions and I try to answer them in a way that gives me a clear direction, and this is what we have to do with Jarno. I'm not worried about my team-mate – I've never been worried about my team-mate we push each other and that is what we try to do.
Q&A with Jarno Trulli
Q. What made you choose Lotus, when you had other offers with established teams last year?
Jarno Trulli: I had several options and obviously I had them all on the table, but at one stage there was something growing up and becoming interesting - and that was Lotus. You know better than me, you are English, what Lotus is. I only realized afterwards, but afterwards I was thinking about it. Lotus is probably second only to Ferrari in motorsport.
And there was this one man, this crazy person, who was Mike Gascoyne - who we all know and I know very well. He was getting ready to get this brand back on track. So honestly talking, I worked with Mike, who is definitely a difficult person if you don't know how to handle him, but he is someone who is very straightforward and who knows what to do in F1. So, technically, I was quite happy to have someone like him leading the team.
Obviously in these days, you never know if there is enough money to do it, so eventually I met Tony [Fernandes] and I understood that there was really something serious going on – and I was right. At the beginning, when I first visited Lotus, I had to believe that something was going to happen because there were so few people there. There was nothing!
After three months, wow, I have seen the car and it was rolling in Silverstone. It was a green and yellow car hitting the track after 16 years with the brand Lotus. I think it is something that stands out in my mind and everyone's mind when you see it on the track.
We know it is not going to be easy and we are running out of time. What we have done and the guys have achieved is something great. I have great respect for the people who have been working on this project, but on the other hand for this year we have to be very realistic.
We know that we are heading to Bahrain and having to deal with a lot of troubles and solve the problems but the most important thing is that we stick together. We have to be patient and for the first year we have to be reliable, decent and showing good progress. We cannot believe that we can join the club and be on top straight away – that is unrealistic.
Q. Do you think it is possible to score points in year one?
JT: I think the steps are like – this was a big achievement, being here, and getting the car ready for the shakedown a few days ago. This was a big achievement on the technical side. Now, the next step is to try to discover and solve the problems as quickly as possible.
On my side I have to give the right direction as quick and as well as possible because we have very little time, and the budget is not unlimited these days for a Formula 1 team. So, I would say that an experienced driver is very important.
After that, we will be heading to Bahrain and we'll try to make it to the finish with both cars. I cannot say where we are going to be, because we have no idea exactly how good the car is going to be, but we first of all need to look decent and finish races. Afterwards, the next big challenge will be making a step forward in terms of aero updates – which will probably come in Barcelona. Then, after another five or six races, there will be another aero update.
So we want to start decent and then grow up. By the end of the season if we are fighting with the middle of the grid it will be great. Always when I am racing I am dreaming to score a point, and the first point I tell you will be especially emotional for everyone. It is only a point, but it will be extremely appreciated however it comes.
So I think we have to take things step by step. I know I have to be patient and I know it is a long term project, as is my contract, so all I have to do is build up a team as well as I have done before, and make it stronger and stronger.
Q. You've been in F1 a long time, and at teams with big budgets. How do you motivate yourself to start from scratch again?
JT: It is not a question of motivating yourself. You are motivated only if you love driving – and if you still think you can do something special. Especially if you are still quick, as I feel I am, you still feel that you can do something special on the track, get the best out of the car, and do things that maybe your team-mate cannot do. So this motivates me.
Obviously I know I am going to face a very hard season, but there is always a challenge inside a challenge. And this is what a driver really has to look for. I know that I cannot think to win a race for Lotus for this year. But I can only think that I can score the first point at the first race, and this will be a big achievement for me and the team. This will be a good motivation.
Q. Did you ever consider leaving F1? What was the NASCAR test all about?
JT: I did consider to leave, and there were some options. But the NASCAR thing, in the beginning, when I planned it originally it was two years ago, when I first visited a NASCAR race. It was a way to try something different. I had been driving a racing car for years and years, and I always drove a real racing car – like an open cockpit. I had never driven a GT car or a closed cockpit car. So when I first hit the track with the NASCAR it was something very strange. It was a good experience, and eventually also it became interesting and efficient, because I was competitive and I got into the rhythm very well, even though it was only a test and the racing is different.
But eventually the love for the open cockpit and the feeling that you have in the open cockpit was still inside me, and it was too strong. So, I was hoping always to get a good chance in F1. Looking at where F1 is heading, this is a good chance. Don't forget that unfortunately in the last year we have lost three manufacturers and F1 has changed dramatically. Now there are only a few manufacturers and a few top teams capable of fighting at the top. The rest you have to fight like an independent team, so as I said, there is always a challenge inside a challenge.
Q. Stefan GP is taking over the Toyota operation. Do you believe it will be on the grid?
JT: To be honest, I don't know. I am still in very good contact with a lot of people at Toyota, with the Japanese and everyone, I was getting on very well with them. But I didn't ask about it and I don't really know what is going on.
I am sure that the car can be competitive, there was a lot of development and the direction where it has been over the last few years, but as to what will happen I don't know. At the moment I have to concentrate to keep everyone together in this team and we will try to do our best.
Q&A with designer Mike Gascoyne
Q. This is the fourth time you have worked with Jarno Trulli. Was he someone you always wanted to have in this team?
Mike Gascoyne: I think we get on well personally together, and the one thing over my career is that over one lap Jarno is the most sensitive and quickest guy I have ever worked with. I think that is invaluable for any team. But for a new team, where you are struggling to find your feet, to have a guy who is experienced and controlled - and I've seen Jarno do it many, many times, and at the times I've given him cars that aren't very good - he still can get the best out of it.
He doesn't panic. He works through his program and at times you wonder what he is doing, but then come 3pm on a Saturday, he has done a lap time that you know is as quick as it can do. To be honest, he was always number one on the list. That was, from my point of view and also from Tony's [Fernandes], important.
The whole driver choice was interesting because we had three groups of drivers, and I very much wanted to get two experienced drivers in because as a new team you need that experience to provide a platform. And, we had a sort of group of experienced drivers with current teams who we thought might be available and approachable, and we hoped we might get one of them.
Then we looked at some guys who had a couple of years of experience, then GP2 drivers and new drivers. Jarno was top of our list and the first discussion we had on it, Tony said why don't we take two experienced guys? Why don't we take Jarno and Heikki? I think that will be a good combination. I remember saying to him: "Yeah, yeah, yeah, this is a new team. Forget it. We are a new team, and they are not going to want to come."
So the fact we have ended up with them, it shows the commitment of Tony to having the strength of character to go for drivers that quite frankly cost him money. But it is a statement of intent about where he wants to be. I could not have asked for more from the driver choice.
Working with Jarno, we know each other - but the one thing he gives me is that at 3pm on a Saturday, I know the job I have got to do - because that car has gone as quick as it can go. And if we are two seconds off pole position, then my car needs to go two seconds quicker. Simple.
Q. Is this when it starts feeling real now?
MG: I don't think any of this feels real does it? People keep saying to me, do you feel proud? I think I just feel a bit shell-shocked at the moment. The fact that we have been able to do it - you always think you can do it, but you are always aware of the pit falls and when you have done it, and got it there - it is great. I am not bullshitting when I say given the time, I don't think we could have done a single thing better that we have done.
Q. Do you have an inkling of how good the car is?
MG: We always said that we wanted to produce a good solid, professional car that is a 2010 car - not three or four years old. One that is current and not too far off the back of the established teams. We have to wait and see, but I am confident we will achieve that, and then we have got a couple of guys who have got to make the rest up. From when we got the entry on September 12, it is not possible in modern F1 to be in better shape.
Q. And are you happy it is a green and yellow car?
MG: I think it was very important that it was. There were two things: I think it needed to be a green and yellow car, and it needed to have the chassis designation T127, which is the next Lotus type number. If it didn't have either of those it wasn't a real Lotus.
Q. Virgin Racing has had a tough time in Jerez testing this week. Has that made you more cautious about what you face in the next few weeks?
MG: No. From my side we are very vigorous in the design process and proof testing process. It is topical but actually the one proof test that we had not been able to do for the shakedown was actually the pylon pull-off test, which is relevant given what happened in Jerez. But the nose box that is on the car here is being stripped down tonight, and is going off - and being flown out on Monday having done that test. That is not because of the result of that [the Virgin failure], but it was the one test that we had not done. So, we have all experienced people in our team, Jarno mentioned it, that he has seen a lot of people that he is used to seeing.
I have always said that we will be a professional F1 team, even if we are a small one and even if we started late. And part of that is a rigorous design and testing process. Touch wood. You can never say never, but I think we have done everything very vigorously. And that is my job for these guys. When I allow a car the first time to go on the race track, they are entrusting me with their well-being. And when I sign it off to go out, it has to be right. So that is the job we have done.
Q. Did you have any say on the engine choice?
MG: Well there was this thing about, did we have to take Cosworth? I was never aware of anything like that. The fact that when we were making that choice, the only thing we were made aware of in the whole process of entry to F1 was that we had to have an engine - and we had to have a contract in place. And when I looked at the design resource that I had, what was being offered by Cosworth and Xtrac as well, with a gearbox that fitted directly to the engine, with a hydraulic pack and everything that all mated together and tested together, from an engineering perspective there was only one choice to make. There was only one way of being on the grid on time and that was going down that route. So, it was a choice I made and a very simple engineering design choice to make.
Q. But you must have started designing the chassis before you knew that?
MG: From the moment I was asked in May by Litespeed to look at designing a car, we approached Cosworth and we had draft contracts in place. And, with those draft contracts in place, they supplied all the engine details. So from May we were designing a chassis to fit a Cosworth engine and Xtrac gearbox.
Q. Coming back to the Virgin car, it is no secret it has been designed totally by CFD. Is that a good design strategy?
MG: I think it is an integral part, but it is not a complete part.
Q. Adrian Newey said this week that he did not think it could be used without a wind tunnel because the two modeling methods are different?
MG: Well, I think he is one of the best aerodynamicists in F1. I used to be an aerodynamicist, and my PhD was in CFD, and I think I would kind of agree with him! You look at BMW when Albert II was announced as one of the world's biggest supercomputers dedicated just to their CFD. If you look at Enstone, they built their environmentally-friendly CFD centre with a huge computing resource. I don't think these guys are idiots, and they also have wind tunnels. I know Bob Bell at Renault very well, he is a clever guy who gave me my first job in F1 and he is a trained aerodynamicist - and I think he thinks you need a wind tunnel. I think CFD is a very exciting technology and it is advancing, but is it an absolute? I don't think there are many people who think it is.
Q. You worked for Toyota with unlimited resources, but never won a race. What are your prospects to do this here?
MG: From my point of view, I actually had a record that was broken at Force India, and I don't hold myself responsible for that, but up until then every team I joined in a senior position from 1994, we had been on the podium within 20 races. And the longest one it took was Toyota - so maybe that was a sign of how Toyota operated. That is probably a little bit of a challenge from where we sit today, but we like a challenge! So we will get on with it.
Q. So will your records be for new Lotus or old Lotus?
MG: That is a very important thing. Clive Chapman asked Tony Fernandes when he first spoke to him - he said would the next win be the first win for Lotus Racing or Lotus' 80th win? And Tony was very clear - it will be Lotus's 80th win.