Lotus F1 Team's 2012 challenger, the E20, was unveiled at its Enstone factory today by the team's two drivers, Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean. The E20 showed the now-popular stepped nose and a conventional exhaust layout, as mandated by the 2012 regulations, but the team was mum on the details of other technical advancements.
The stepped nose, to ensure the tip of the nose is below the cockpit rail as required by the regulations, is no thing of beauty but Technical Director James Allison's team has taken a slightly different twist on the step, making the step itself concave rather than flat. Whether this works better than the flat step used by Ferrari remains to be seen, but visually it is more appealing, especially when combined with the car's black-and-gold livery.
The exhaust is conventional, with little innovation apparent there, but the team has a new suspension layout front and rear with a view to improving aerodynamics. The front wing is further evolution of the concept the team has been developing since the 2009 season.
Raikkonen, the 2005 World Champion, is returning to F1 after two years in the World Rally Championship, and the Finn is excited to be back. Well, as excited as one can expect to see Raikkonen, popularly know as "the Iceman."
"I'm happy to be back," the Finn said of his return. "I was pretty happy after the first test (of the 2010 car) we did a few weeks ago and it felt pretty normal already."
Grosjean, last year's GP2 champion and Lotus Renault test driver, was motivated but realistic about showing up his experienced teammate.
"So far I have I little bit more knowledge about the Pirelli tires," he mused. "But I think I will be able to learn a lot from him. We need to work together to bring the team forward, which is our main goal."
While the car was painted in the black-and-gold livery made famous by the John Player Special Lotuses of the 1970s and 1980s, the focus was on the heritage of the Enstone team, and scant mention was made of Lotus's own history.
My hope is to bring again a positive spiral, to make sure this team is at the front of the grid and for a long time.
That Enstone team, though, can trace its roots through last year's Lotus Renault, to Renault, Benetton and finally to Toleman, which debuted on the F1 grid in 1981. And that team has seven World Championship titles to its credit, three from the Benetton years and another four from the Renault era.
The team is clearly keen to build on that record, with the E20 and the addition of Raikkonen and Grosjean, and is targeting a championship fight in 2013.
"My hope is to bring again a positive spiral," said Éric Boullier, "to make sure this team is at the front of the grid and for a long time."