Berthold Bouman, F1 correspondent
Although Lotus Team Principal Eric Boullier this afternoon still spoke about a ‘minor issue’ with the chassis E20-2 they were running at the Circuit de Catalunya today, it has now emerged the situation is a bit more serious and Lotus has now decided to pull out of this week’s second pre-season testing session in Barcelona.
This morning Romain Grosjean returned to the garage after he felt there was something wrong with the car. “We completed a few aero runs and then started timed runs, but I was very quickly aware that the car wasn’t responding as it should,” the Frenchman reported earlier today.
In a statement Lotus issued today it becomes clear the team was forced to abandon their plans to use the E20-01 chassis that had already been used during the Jerez tests.
“After investigation at Enstone, initial plans to bring out chassis E20-01 to Barcelona have been held in order to give the team enough time to rectify the situation,” the statement read.
Technical Director James Allison commented, “Before we were due to fly chassis E20-01 out to Barcelona in replacement of chassis E20-02 - damaged this morning - we ran a series of simulations at the factory based on the data provided by our brief running on track today.”
Allison did not mention the nature of the problem they have discovered during the simulations, but apparently it was serious enough to abandon further testing with both the E20-01 and E20-02 chassis.
We’ll put the right measures in place and we will be able to fix the problem before next week
Allison further commented, “As a result, we were able to identify an area which requires some additional work. It will be more productive for us to carry out these modifications to both chassis at Enstone rather than send E20-01 out to this week’s test.” He remained optimistic the problem would be solved in time, “We’ll put the right measures in place and we will be able to fix the problem before next week.”
Boullier admitted the decision to abandon testing in Barcelona had not been easy, but he felt it was the only right decision. “On the positive side, we have quickly identified the issue with the chassis and our design office has already devised a solution.”
According to Boullier Lotus will be present at the next test at Barcelona, “We will be present at next week’s test in Barcelona. We draw faith from the fact that the E20 was quick out of the box in Jerez and showed its reliability there. We have a lot of work ahead of us over the next week but everyone at Enstone is ready for this challenge.”
Although Lotus plays down the problems they have experienced with the new chassis, it is nevertheless a major setback for the team and certainly for driver Kimi Raikkonen who has so far only tested two days with the Lotus E20 in Jerez two weeks ago.
Lotus did not disclose what the ‘issue’ with the chassis exactly is, it is certainly not a snag as they first claimed, there are rumors that claim the engine mountings are the problem, other reports claim the problem area concerns the front part of the chassis.
BBC F1 technical analyst and member of the 2012 BBC F1 commentary team Gary Anderson thinks it is a serious problem, “You would have thought they could have fixed it overnight - chassis are made of carbon-fibre composite so you'd be looking to bond new strengthening parts on.”
If you can't do it in 24 hours, I don't think you can do it at all
And he added, ”In my experience, if you can't do it in 24 hours, I don't think you can do it at all. I wouldn't be surprised if this meant they needed a new chassis, which would make it touch and go for the first race.” Anderson worked as a designer for Jordan, Stewart and Jaguar, and also worked for the Reynard CART Team in 2001.
The delay means Lotus now only has four full testing days left to prepare their car for the first race of the season, the Australian Grand Prix, which takes place on March 18.