Lotus has targeted “great things” in this year’s Formula 1 world championship with its new Lotus E21 design, which was unveiled at the team’s Oxfordshire base yesterday.
With few major changes to the F1 technical regulations over the winter months, the Renault-powered Lotus E21 is an evolution of last year’s successful E20, which Kimi Räikkönen drove to third place in the championship and victory in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
“Some parts of the new car are a ground-up redesign and in other areas we have further optimised the best bits of the philosophy we’ve adopted for several seasons,” said technical director James Allison.
“The front and rear suspension layouts are substantially revised to try and give us better aerodynamic opportunities. The front wing is a continuation of the concepts we have worked on since the 2009 rules were published. For the rear wing system, we’ve continued work on having a satisfactory level of rear downforce stability, whilst having a maximum DRS switching potential.”
One rule change concerns the ugly ‘duck-bill’ style noses that most teams adopted in 2012. The regulations now permit teams to fit a ‘vanity panel’ to smooth the shape of the front end, but Allison thinks most teams won’t use it.
“Such a panel is optional, and I would not be surprised if the majority of the grid chose not to make use of it. The panel will add a few grammes of weight, and so it is only likely to run on the car if a team can find a performance benefit from doing so,” he said.
Allison added that the team would continue to develop the trick ‘double DRS device’ aerodynamic system that it trialed last season. Whereas some of the systems – which boost top speed by ‘stalling’ the drag effect of the rear wing – have been outlawed by the rules, the one developed by Lotus has been deemed fully legal.
“This is an area we continue to explore and the passive nature of the switching of our device means it is not outlawed by the latest regulations. It is not something that will be a silver bullet to transform our car, but it is something which could add performance as part of the overall design,” he said.
Both Räkkönen and second driver Romain Grosjean have been retained for the forthcoming season, with Jerome D’Ambrosio also continuing as reserve driver. Reigning GP2 series champion Davide Valsecchi has joined as third driver and Nicolas Prost will perform development driver duties.
“I think it is fair to say that great things are possible from the team and the E21,” said Lotus team principal Eric Boullier. “The leap we made from 2011 to 2012 showed what we are capable of. Naturally we want to build on 2012 and do better.