Two weeks is a short time in F1, but that’s how long Lotus has had to fit in several months of hard work. Since China, the team has unpacked and repacked 34 tonnes of freight, run an intensive series of tests on Chassis T127-02, fitted an entire upgrade package to the race cars, taken delivery of its newly painted race trailers and flown the race team back to Barcelona.
Mike Gascoyne: “Now the first four flyaway races are behind us and we’re into the European season. All the teams will have upgrades for Barcelona, but we’re hoping that ours is even more significant than our rivals because we received our entry so late and had to freeze the initial specification of the car very early in the design process. We do expect it to be reasonably significant – we have an aero package with revised sidepods, front wings and brake ducts, and a number of mechanical changes, but obviously we’ll have to wait and see what step forward our rivals will also make. Straight after Barcelona we go to Monaco which is a totally different challenge. It’s a unique place in terms of its configuration. Everyone runs maximum downforce and obviously it’s a very tight, bumpy street circuit, but the experience our two drivers bring, combined with the progress we’ve made at the factory and on track, gives me confidence we’ll put in a good showing at both races.”
Returning to the Lotus Racing factory in Hingham, Mike has seen a transformation in the team’s UK base. “It’s very gratifying to see the whole factory in full operation, with every department now nearly fully staffed but starting to work to their full potential. This means we can now look at more long-term development and R&D programmes, and start thinking about future cars. We’re through the hardest part of the team’s growth and we’re on a very good footing for the future.”
Heikki Kovalainen is now looking forward to the start of the European season having returned from China with the team on AirAsia: “I spent two nights at home in Switzerland then flew to Finland to see my family for the first time since Christmas. I’ve been doing various bits of work with my Finnish partners, relaxing a little and of course training like usual. I had some new golf clubs fitted by Nike Finland and have been practicing with them too, so my golf’s definitely improving.”
Looking ahead to the forthcoming races themselves he said: “It’s always good to get to Barcelona as it’s where most of the teams bring their first big updates. It’s a very fast track and all the teams spend a lot of time there in pre-season, so we know it very well, but it’s the complete opposite to racing in Monte Carlo. In Barcelona there are more chances to overtake but nowhere else has the same glamour or prestige as Monaco. It’s so busy there on track there’s no time to relax, and there are no run off areas so you pay heavily for any mistakes. I really like street circuits - you are rewarded for good car control so I’m looking forward to getting on track and seeing what steps forward we’ve taken with the updates.”
Jarno Trulli is also excited about returning to Spain, and Monaco, the circuit where he wrote himself into the history books by winning in 2004. “I made it back home from China with a number of the other drivers, but we got back safely and I’ve been home with my family since then. I’ve managed to fit in a number of good training sessions, and am looking forward to getting back in the car. I think I’ve had a fair bit of bad luck so far, but I’m looking to put that behind me and see how much further forward we can go with the updates. I’ve kept in close touch with the team about the tests they’ve put the car through, and am encouraged by the results they’ve had. I think we’ll take a good step forward in Spain.
“I like Barcelona - we all know every bit of it very well as we test there a lot, and have raced there for years. Monaco is obviously a very special place for me – a lot of my fans will be out in force, and I love going back to where I’ve won, so that’ll be a busy, but good week.”
Team Principal Tony Fernandes has been thinking about how the team has established itself, both on track and in the hearts and minds of F1 fans: “We’re back in Europe and I couldn’t be more pleased with the position we arrive in. The first phase of Lotus Racing’s life is now behind us, and the next challenge starts here. We’ve proved all the doubters wrong, and have shown that the hard work everyone in the team puts is making the dream we share come true. I remember the immense pride I had when I first saw the cars run in the pre-season tests in Spain, and in Barcelona we’re back, ahead of the other new teams and with a new package that will help us push on closer to the next goal, which is to take on the midfield. Ultimately it’s about taking Lotus Racing to the front of the grid and this marks the next step in that journey.
“On a personal level I’ve always loved coming to Spain, and with Monaco straight afterwards I’m very excited about seeing how our fanbase is growing into the traditional heartland of Formula One™. We’ve broken new ground in Australia, Asia and China and now we’re back at the scene of some of the most famous moments in the Lotus history.”