Introduction It was always the wish of former FIA president Max Mosley to get some fresh blood in Formula One; he predicted that the manufacturer teams would leave Formula One as a result of the economic recession, and unfortunately he was right.
It was always the wish of former FIA president Max Mosley to get some fresh blood in Formula One; he predicted that the manufacturer teams would leave Formula One as a result of the economic recession, and unfortunately he was right. Honda, Toyota and BMW have turned their back to Formula One, and only car manufacturers Renault, Mercedes and Ferrari will be present at the Grand Prix circuits in 2010. However, Renault sold out to investor Genii and is therefore a manufacturer team in name only.
Peter Sauber managed to save the BMW team and will be competing under the BMW-Sauber name, though without BMW participation. Without the new teams there would only be nine teams or 18 cars at the start of the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 14th. It could have been worse, as without the rescue of Renault and Sauber, only seven teams with 14 cars would compete in 2010. It seems I owe Mr. Mosley an apology for not sharing his skeptical, but correct view on the manufacturer teams as he expressed earlier in 2009.
If we were to go back to 1989 and 1990, we would find a record number of teams in Formula One: twenty teams raced during those two seasons. A few names from those days: Lola, Eurobrun, March, Osella, Dallara, Minardi, Onyx, AGS and Coloni. With so many teams, the FIA was even forced to organize pre-qualifications with four drivers eliminated after pre-qualifying, and after the normal qualification another four drivers were eliminated. Like it is in the current format, only 26 cars were allowed on the start grid in those days. Engine builder Cosworth supplied 10 out of those 20 teams in 1990, in 2010 Cosworth will supply five teams: Williams and the four new teams.
In 2009 the FIA admitted the four new teams: Lotus F1, Virgin Racing, US F1 Team and Campos Meta. Over the next four days we will take a closer look at these new teams and the people who are behind each of them. In this first part of our story we will examine Lotus F1.
With this team the name Lotus, which has been absent in Formula One for the past sixteen years, will return to the Grand Prix circuits. The original Lotus team was active from 1958 until 1994, and was led by the legendary Colin Chapman who died in 1982. During that period Lotus scored 73 wins, 102 pole positions, and clinched six Drivers' Championships and seven Constructors' Championships in 489 races. Lotus employed many of the great Formula One drivers of those days: Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Stirling Moss, Emerson Fittipaldi, Jochen Rindt, Mario Andretti, Ronnie Peterson, Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna.
However, the people behind the new Lotus team, feel it is a 100 percent Malaysian enterprise, and except for the name, has no ties with the old British Lotus team or the car manufacturer. The team is currently based at the RTN (Racing Technologies Norfolk) facility at Hingham in Norfolk, Great Britain, but there are plans to move the team's facilities to Malaysia.
The new team was setup by Malaysian entrepreneur and AirAsia airline owner Tony Fernandes in September last year, and has the support of the Malaysian government. But it must be said, Lotus doesn't get any financial support of the government, most of their sponsor monies come from the Malaysian private sector.
Fernandes' airline, together with its Indonesian and Thai affiliates, now operates 82 new Airbus A320s and flies to more than 65 destinations in Asia from hubs in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. The company employs almost 7,000 staff and has carried more than 75 million guests in its short history.
The team's management is complemented with CEO Riad Asmat (MAL), who is an expert in motorsports and public relations, Head of Operations Mia Sharizman Ismail (MAL), Chief Operating Officer Keith Saunt (GB) and General Manager Paul Graig (GB).
Technical director Mike Gascoyne has more than two decades of experience in Formula One. He has studied fluid dynamics at Cambridge University, and joined the McLaren team in 1989. After that he worked together with Tyrrell's famous designer Harvey Postlethwaite, and in the early 1990s he joined the Sauber team as head of aerodynamics.
In 1993 he returned to Tyrrell until the team's demise in 1998. At the end of that same year he joined Jordan and in 2000 he moved to Benetton, which would later become Renault F1. From 2004 to 2006 he worked for the Toyota team, and after that for Spyker and Force India.
Lotus has signed up experienced driver, Italian Jarno Trulli, and young Finnish driver Heikki Kovalainen. Both drivers only won one Grand Prix in their respective careers, Trulli won the Monaco Grand Prix in 2004, and Kovalainen won the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2008. Trulli has also worked with technical director Mike Gascoyne at Jordan, Renault and Toyota.
The team also has a young driver programme, head of the driver programme in Asia is former Formula One driver Alex Yoong, and for Europe Nino Judge, the team principal of the UK based Litespeed Formula Three team.
At the end of 2009 preparations for the new car were well on their way, a scale model of the car was tested at the Aerolab facility in Italy, and the team had also tested the new chassis. In November the Lotus chassis passed the FIA-standard side impact and nose box crash tests.
However, a complete functioning car hasn't been presented by the team. There are pictures of wind tunnel testing on the Lotus website, but those pictures show a scale model, and not a full sized car. Gascoyne has recently admitted the car will not be ready for testing on February 1st at Valencia, but will instead participate in the third series of testing at Jerez later that month.
This concludes the review about Lotus F1, tomorrow we will take a look at Virgin Racing.