The coming weeks are some of the most important in the new Team Lotus‘ short life, as they begin their second season as an F1 team, and this time their aspirations are considerably heightened.
“I cannot wait to get back to racing,” says Team Principal Tony Fernandes. “This is a very important season for Team Lotus as we are no longer a new team – we achieved what we set out to in 2010 but now it’s effectively a clean sheet – an entirely new car, a fully fledged race team and factory and much higher aspirations. Now comes the next phase of the hard work – time to prove that our pre-season promise can help us take the next step forward in the amazing story that is Team Lotus.”
The season begins next weekend in Melbourne, and the Australian Grand Prix can be a challenging, yet enjoyable prospect for the drivers and teams. “As Melbourne is now the start of the season it will be very exciting,” explains Heikki Kovalainen. “The Australian fans are great people and the city always has a carnival atmosphere because the race is right in the middle of town.
“The track itself is a semi-street circuit so it’s tricky. It evolves a lot throughout the weekend as the rubber builds up and traction and grip improves. On Friday morning it’s always very slippery and you need to bear that in mind when you’re setting the car up. If you have some balance problems in the first session it’s better not to worry about it too much as you just need to get a feel for the downforce levels, gear ratios and the tyres. By the third session on Saturday morning the track really starts to come into its own.
“In qualifying it improves every lap and the grip level gets better as people put more rubber down – it can be hard on the tyres as well so you need to look after them. It’s a difficult track to overtake on and whether we get an opportunity to make the moveable wing really work for us there is still open to question.
“Whatever happens I’m really excited about getting back to racing and with the steps forward we have taken this year I think we’re going to have a really good year.”
The moveable rear wing, aka the drag reduction system, is a new device being introduced this year in a bid to increase the likelihood of overtaking in the sport. Jarno Trulli explains what it feels like to suddenly lose downforce as the flap in the rear-wing opens:
“People sometimes ask me what the acceleration of a Formula One car is like, and the only way I can describe it is that it’s like driving a rocket – now we have a rocket that suddenly takes another leap forward when it’s already at full speed!” he said. “It was a strange feeling the first time we used the moveable rear wing, because you suddenly have about 15% less drag and therefore a lot more speed. The more you use the wing the more you get used to it and its effect on the car’s behaviour.
“We can use it wherever we like in practice and qualifying but in the races it’ll only be when we’re within one second of the car ahead and in the designated area so I think it will have a big part to play strategically. We’ll see how it improves the actual racing, but I hope it will make a difference.”