It’s disappointing to see that this year’s crop of Formula 1 cars are going to follow their predecessors in being comprehensively beaten by the ugly stick. That is, if the work of Lotus, the first team to show off its 2013 design, is anything to go by.

The Lotus-Renault E21, launched at the team’s base in Oxfordshire yesterday, retains the ungainly stepped ‘duck bill’ front-end treatment that most Formula 1 teams adopted for the first time last year.

To be fair, the Lotus doesn’t look too bad because it carries that striking and evocative black and gold livery, but a quick straw poll of the Autocar office failed to throw up anyone who actually likes the underlying design.

The nose itself is a necessary evil, due to rules that stipulate that the nose of the car must be no more than 550mm high, but the section behind it can be up to 625mm high. A rule change has been brought in this year to give teams the opportunity to add a ‘modesty panel’ to cover up the awkward step, but it seems unlikely that many teams will bother to adopt it because of fears that it could confer a small weight disadvantage.

And therein lies the rub. The stakes in Formula 1 have never been higher, and the teams in F1 have little choice but to interpret the technical regulations in the way that offers the most competitive advantage. If the design of a component could contribute to a tenth of a second improvement in lap time, aesthetic concerns go right out the window.