The Malaysian Team Lotus has today unveiled their new car, the T128, during an online internet launch. As a result of the ongoing row with their rivals Renault Lotus, they decided to drop their plans for the black and gold livery and instead the...
Team Lotus aiming for strong season with the T128
The Malaysian Team Lotus has today unveiled their new car, the T128, during an online internet launch. As a result of the ongoing row with their rivals Renault Lotus, they decided to drop their plans for the black and gold livery and instead the T128 is painted in the equally iconic and recognizable green and yellow livery, the same colors of the livery of the early Lotus cars of the 1960's. Team Lotus has opted for a more aggressive design compared to last year, and the T128 is according to Chief Technical Officer Mike Gascoyne 'a front-running car in every area'.
Team Lotus is aiming for a strong season and are aiming to challenge the established teams. Gascoyne, "I think that's very achievable. But that line has to continue going up, so we'll have to target being up there with Toro Rosso, Sauber and Force India, and then end the season by targeting Williams and Renault." And added, "It would be great for Formula One if this car can take us into the midfield, because it shows what's achievable for a properly run small team."
Team Principal and team owner Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes is confident Team Lotus will achieve their goal, "This year's car is a much more contemporary design. The car will really be a midfield runner. It's a modern Formula One car. I'm very confident it's a big step up and it's the start of a process that takes Team Lotus back to the front of the grid." About the problems with the Lotus name he was short, "There has been so much focus off-track it's a thrill to be able to get back to talking about racing."
A closer look at the T128
It is clear the new regulations had an impact on the design of all 2011cars that so far have been introduced, and the T128 also bears the hallmarks of the 2011 design: a very high placed nose and a very clean rear side with an adjustable rear wing. The front wing has the same width as the car itself, has three flaps on both sides of the wing, and as we have seem before, the front wing endplates are aerodynamically sculpted to guide the air along the new Pirelli front tyres.
The car is certainly a new design, and not just an evolution of last year's car. "There's been almost no carry-over of parts for the 2011 car, whereas normally you'd have a substantial carry-over and the chance to optimize last year's parts. It looks substantially different from last year's car -- it has a much more 'current' feel about it. And it's the basis of our cars for the future," Gascoyne explained.
Gascoyne is also adamant the new T128 will evolve during this season, as Team Lotus will have new resources available later this season. "We've got resources coming on stream now, like new CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) resources and a new wind tunnel program in the UK, that we have never had. What we can do now will get better," he said.
Elliot Dason-Barber, Lotus' Head of R&D and Vehicle Dynamics, reckons the front suspension really pushes the boundaries. "The area that intrigues me the most is the front suspension, and the rear as well actually. We've tried to push the boundaries with a few things to make it a bit lighter and more efficient," he said. Marianne Hinson, Head of Aerodynamics agrees, "I can't give away too many secrets, but I think the front half of the car is quite a big step away from the 2010 car. Last year's car was a bit blocky in the side pod area, but this one looks a lot racier -- it's a lot smoother and curvier around the side pods."
The T128 is of course equipped with the much heralded adjustable rear wing, which should make if easier for drivers to overtake, The wing can only be operated at a certain area of the circuit and only when a driver is less than one second behind the car he wants to overtake. At Team Lotus engineers are quite optimistic about the new wing. "When I first heard about it I was quite excited; any opening up of the regulations is always a challenge and it's good fun," Chief operating Designer Keith Saunt said.
Hinson is equally enthusiastic about the new overtaking gadget, "Whenever something like that comes up in the rules, it's certainly a new challenge for us in terms of how to use it and what sort of performance we should be looking for aerodynamically. The challenge is working out what effect you'd like it to have in terms of optimum lap times."
Renault engine, but no KERS for Team Lotus
Team Lotus signed an engine deal with Renault last year, and expects the new engine contract with will pay off. Not only should the Renault engine provide more power, it also means Lotus will be able to use the gearbox and hydraulics from Red Bull Technology, which should also be a major improvement in terms of reliability. The hydraulics and gearbox provided by Xtrack last year, proved to be a true Achilles heel, all teams who used the by the FIA endorsed Xtrack system experienced many problems and even more failures.
Team Lotus has decided not to use the KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) system this season. Chief Designer Lewis Butler about this decision, "Well, the decision not to use KERS made the design job slightly easier, because packaging it in the car is always a bit more of a headache." Hinson agrees KERS would have complicated the design process," It's the same for us in aerodynamics: no KERS is actually easier because packaging all the bits you need for it is actually quite limiting for some of the aero shapes you need in some areas."
Saunt also thinks KERS is not a system that would have brought the new T128 much extra speed. "If KERS was going to get us from eighth to sixth then we'd have it. But when you look at the weight of it and some of the engineering challenges, I think it's a good decision not to start with it." Will Team Lotus use KERS at a later stage? "We might end up with it, who knows? But if we did we've got a lot of experienced people who could turn their hands to it," he commented.
Drivers Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen
Team Lotus (then Lotus Racing) decided to hire two experienced drivers for their debut in 2010, a decision that has paid off, they became the best rookie team of 2010. Team Lotus has retained the services of both Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen, and their expertise will certainly be of great help to understand and harness the characteristics of the new T128. Both drivers have visited the team's headquarters at Hingam, Norfolk for a final seat fitting session last week, and were impressed with the atmosphere and the facilities of Team Lotus.
Finnish driver Kovalainen is really and fully prepared for the new season. "The last six weeks have been fantastic for me, doing basic training initially, and I'm now shifting up a gear to get the performance levels right. It's been a great winter and I think I'm the best prepared I've ever been."
Trulli is, together with Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello, one of the most experienced drivers on this year's grid, and the 36-year old Italian will start his 239th Grand Prix at Bahrain on March 13 for Team Lotus. Trulli had a difficult first year with Team Lotus, but he expects this year's T128 will give him the opportunity to score points and is confident Team Lotus will be a midfield player.
Lotus will be present at the first pre-season test days in Valencia where Trulli and Kovalainen will get their first taste of the T128. Team Lotus will be heading to the first race in Bahrain for the second time in the existence of the team, but this year with a different attitude. "Last year we were just aiming to finish the race, this year we'll be aiming to finish in the points. But with the package we have, that should be achievable," an optimistic Trulli said.