Heikki Kovalainen, Lucas di Grassi, Monza, 2010

Lotus do justice to historic name in first season back

2010 F1 season reviewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Heikki Kovalainen, Lucas di Grassi, Monza, 2010
Heikki Kovalainen, Lucas di Grassi, Monza, 2010

Of the three new teams that entered Formula 1 in 2010, Lotus were conclusively the better outfit. They were quicker and they finished more races.

This was despite them beginning their preparations later than Virgin and HRT did.

While those two teams were among the three original outfits to be granted a place on the grid in 2010, Lotus only got the nod after BMW later announced their departure.

Lotus team stats 2010

Best race result (number) 12th (1)
Best grid position (number) 13th (1)
Non-finishes (mechanical/other) 12 (10/2)
Laps completed (% of total) 1742 (77.15%)
Laps led (% of total) 0 (0%)
Championship position (2009) 10th (n/a)
Championship points (2009*) 0 (n/a)
*using 2010 system

Lotus benefited from not having originally conceived their plans under the budget cap planned by then FIA president Max Mosley.

With the budget cap ultimately not being used in 2010, and the less constricting Resource Restriction Agreement taking its place, Lotus were arguably in a better position.

In Mike Gascoyne they had a designer who had been active in F1 more recently than the other new teams did. Several ex-Toyota staff, including Jarno Trulli and his race engineer Gianluca Pisanello, helped shore up the team’s experience level.

At its launch the simple, straight lines of the T127 made it look like an F1 car from a few seasons ago.

But the conservative approach paid dividends as from the off the team had a car that could complete a Grand Prix distance. Both Heikki Kovalainen and Trulli brought their cars home in Bahrain.

Here the team also benefited from having a pair of experienced drivers who, on the whole, brought the car home when it was reliable.

Trulli stayed true to his career form by usually qualifying the best of the six new cars. But Kovalainen was often the first to finish the race.

On two occasions Kovalainen was able to keep one of the drivers from the established teams behind him. He did it to Nico H???lkenberg in China as the Williams driver made six pit stops in tricky conditions.

And he withstood an attack from Vitaly Petrov’s Renault for the last ten laps of the race in Canada.

Kovalainen posted two of the most dramatic retirements of the season. He served as a launching pad for Mark Webber’s terrifying flight in Valencia when the Red Bull driver misjudged just how much earlier the Lotus driver had to brake for corners than he did in an RB6.

Then in Singapore a severed fuel line caused a huge fire at the rear of the car. Kovalainen pulled up opposite the pits and set about the rear of his car with a fire extinguisher.

But by far the majority of the technical failures hit Trulli’s side of the garage. He wasn’t a classified finisher on seven occasions and every time it was because the car had let him down. And on more than one occasion he kept an ailing car running until the end.

If anything the team’s performance off the track was even more impressive than what they achieved on it. Reacting to a string of reliability problems involving the gearbox and hydraulics they successfully pursued a deal with Red Bull which will see them use the world champions’ systems in 2011.

This also brought about a move away from Cosworth engines next year, which will be replaced with Renault units.

Clearly the biggest setback for the team is the dispute over their use of the name “Lotus” with the company Lotus road cars. The matter is before the courts at present.

Group Lotus have advanced the Lotus name in other areas of motor racing such as IndyCars. If they harbour F1 ambitions of their own surely they would be better served by allying themselves with this outfit who have made rapid progress in 2010 and already look like an intriguing proposition for 2011.

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