2011 Lotus livery fails to impress at Autosport International
The much anticipated launch of the Lotus Renault GP livery failed to impress the expectant media at the Autosport International Show. Amid much publicity, a supremely clean and well presented platform were not enough to hide the disappointment that hung in the air as the Formula One team's Russian driver Vitaly Petrov and Formula 1 legend Jean Alesi pulled back the covers to a waiting audience, consisting of a mere 200 or so onlookers.
"I like the design and if it helps to make the car faster then that would be good also," Petrov declared.
"I think the car looks good in these colours," said Alesi - present in his role as brand ambassador for Lotus. "Everyone remembers the black and gold Lotuses from years ago and it's nice they have been brought back. When you look around the show here and see those cars, then see this car, it does make you smile."
Others however, were not so impressed. The general consensus among the media was that while the intention of rejuvenating an iconic livery was admirable, the execution of it was lame. Many felt the design lacked character and that the vibrant red front and rear wing end plates - in reference to fuel supplier Total, were an unwelcome addition which was confirmed by Derrick Warwick - who was appearing with the McLaren Autosport Young Driver contestants.
"I don't mind what they've tried to do," the F1 veteran said. "But have they made the F1 Lotus Renault sexy especially with those red bits at the front and back? I don't think so."
Petrov conducted himself professionally on stage and appeared thoroughly briefed on the history of the Lotus name as he answered questions regarding the re-invention of the livery made famous by JPS cigarettes in the 1970's.
"I didn't know much about F1 and Lotus when I was young," said the Russian. "But when I came to Europe I felt a sense of the Lotus history and the team left a big impression on me. Being part of this squad makes me very happy and also proud. Earlier today I was able to have a walk around, look at the cars from the past and admire them. They have certainly changed a lot since then."
Perhaps inevitably, last seasons performances and subsequent questions over Petrov's suitability for the drive in 2011 were confidently batted away. "My new deal is for two years and that is great for my confidence," he confirmed. "Sure there were times I struggled last year but Eric is sure I can do a lot better this year and so am I."
Comment by Team Principal Eric Bouiller that "in Vitaly and Robert Kubica we have the best drivers for our F1 team," were welcomed with a wry smile in many quarters of the press. Many wondered why, if that was the case, the Russian had not been confirmed for the role at the same time it was announced Kubica would be staying put for this year...
"Which Lotus team is this then?" a passer by sarcastically asked. Yet the status of the Lotus name tug-of-war made the whole launch slightly comical. Many within the paddock and the world at large are getting tired of the whole situation as one established F1 journalist surmised:
"We went so many years without the Lotus name in grand prix racing and now, all of a sudden we have two. To be honest though, the whole situation bores me, many of my colleagues and the general public I think. It doesn't matter how they dress it up, it's not the Lotus we all knew and loved. That team went with Colin Chapman when he died in 1982."