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Monday, 26 January 2015

Lotus-Mercedes E23 Hybrid Nose What's Best

Lotus-Mercedes E23 Hybrid unveil render (3D model)
Things can only really get better for Lotus (well, I suppose they could always go bust, but that's another blog post). Last year's E22 was slow, unreliable, hard to drive and sported a somewhat hideous "twin tusk" nose design. After scoring podium finishes and even a win or two in 2012 and 2013, the 2014 season yielded nothing but bad news and disappointment for the Enstone-based team, who under two previous names - Renault and Benetton - have been a championship-winning outfit in the past. Granted, they now have to contend with Pastor Maldonado's uncanny knack for spinning and/or crashing into things, but typically cheery Frenchman Romain Grosjean was seriously underrepresented in the Renault-powered E22 and had nothing but bad words for it, even live on the pit radio during a race weekend. "Bloody engine!"

This year is already shaping up to be a marked improvement. First of all, the "bloody" Renault engine has been ditched for the lighter, more powerful, better-packaged, more heat-efficient, more driver-friendly and more reliable Mercedes-Benz engine. With this Lotus has now completely cut its ties with the French manufacturer, although if we're splitting hairs, Lotus has almost completely cut its ties with this very car, their name appearing only as a favour on the part of the people who actually own and run the team, investors from Luxembourg-based financial advisory firm Genii Capital.

So that's step one for making Lotus competitive again sorted: get the best engine. Now at the very least they should be level pegging with the likes of Force India, regularly scoring points. Unless Maldonado crashes. Step two would be to make the car easier to get around a corner without it fishtailing around... or Maldonado crashing it. In recent years F1 cars have used a "Front-to-Rear Interconnected Suspension System (FRIC)," essentially a passive version of the McLaren 12C's self-balancing suspension that kept cars riding level over bumps and improved tyre life, which Lotus pioneered and relied upon heavily... until it was banned halfway through 2014. Technical director Nick Chester says of the heavily-revised 2015 set-up "The E23’s suspension design is specific to the updated regulations, so we’re not trying to update a system originally intended to work a different way." This should make the car behave itself a little better... in Grosjean's hands, at least.


However, the most noticeable change on the car is the new nose. We saw Lotus testing something similar at COTA during a free practice session for the US Grand Prix, and the new nose design is exactly what everyone wants to see: a single tapering nose with no strange protrusions. It could almost be a 2015 interpretation of a 1990s F1 car. We've already seen "thumb-tip" noses from Williams and Force India, so whether this is the right direction in terms of aerodynamic efficiency, we are all yet to find out. But hey, even if they're only in the mid-field this year, at least it's not ugly! Well, not until Maldonado bends it out of shape...

Lotus are highly confident in their new car. It's got the ingredients to be a much nicer car to work with than last year's E22. The question (other than how long Maldonado can last without hitting anything) is whether it's actually enough to move them far enough up the grid. Improving on last year is easy, especially for the Enstone team, but improving overall performance relative to everyone else is another challenge, especially as there are now four fewer cars at the back of the grid to hide any poor showings. Roll on Australia!!

Oh, and here's hoping that SOMEBODY can find some cans of coloured paint for this year's F1 grid. There's less red on this Lotus than last year (and smaller gold accents), fewer colours on the Force India, the possibility of a white McLaren and chrome-silver Mercedes, a white Williams, no green Caterham or red Marussia... soon the only two teams on the grid that are going to have any significant colour to them will be Scuderia Ferrari and Red Bull Racing. That's not good enough! I want more colours, dammit!

Images from F1 Fanatic






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