LOTUS E21 LAUNCH: THE BLACK AND GOLD MISSILE

Back in 2011, when Kubica severely injured in a rally crash, Lotus lost their ace driver and opted to contend with veteran Heidfeld. Despite managing to secure podiums in the opening two rounds inconsistency let them down with no real car development came as the season progressed . Lotus arguably had the innovative car on grid but hit with the same issues a non-factory backed team usually does.

The blown diffusers were effectively outlawed this past year leaving Lotus to draw a different approach to take the fight to their oppositions. After the dismissal of Petrov and Senna, the Iceman Raikkonen came back to F1 after two years in rallying. Grosjean was hot on heels after crowing as GP2 champion and set to have a second stint with the enstone-based outfit only to take early showers in most of the race Sundays.

With the arrival of more promising investors and the untiring work of James Allison’s technical group there appeared some light at the end of tunnel. Lotus have found what it takes to be on top in consistent basis. Raikkonen seemed slow and steady but with perfection finished races within points in all races but one. Perhaps it took him until Abu Dhabi to taste the champagne on podium’s top step but not so long to tie down  his critics.

Romain, on the other hand, was bloody quick but so curious as he earned a title ‘first-lap nutcase’. Good thing about Lotus was that they started the season as they meant to go on and the momentum persisted till chequered flag fell at Brazil. Meanwhile, the 2007 champion went onto finish third in the drivers’ race five places ahead of his team-mate. The team finished a well-deserved fourth; an audacious performance considering the fact that they were scraping away for places in the far field at the end of 2011.

Let’s get back to what is in store for this season, Lotus become the first team to reveal publicly its 2013 challenger at their Enstone base in Oxfordshire.  The driver line-up remains unchanged with the reigning GP2 champion Davide Valsecchi takes the third driver role. Grosjean’s stand-in for Italian GP Jerome d’Ambrosio continues as a reserve driver.

The car boasts a black and gold traditional Chapman’s Lotus livery with airbox, sidepods, rear wing  endplates and front wing painted red. I rather prefer E20 in terms of looks though. This car is largely a carryover as the rule changes remain the same to allow freedom to the teams for Turbo era of next term.

As James Allison said, ‘Devil is in the detail’. The car still features a front push rod suspension and pull rod at the rear but substantially revised. It is more likely to have a Double DRS system incorporated with well optimised rear downforce wing which they first tested in Germany. Teams are allowed to cover up the ugly step-noses with a laminated panel. Unless it gives a performance advantage no one is going to add the burden of having more weight at front.

Of the step-nose designs, Lotus’ looked pretty neat last year and they stay put it.  This svelte packed design in its launched guise featured a  Coanda ramp and tunnel arrangement that gave a decisive step forward for Red Bull in the later half of  last season. The sidepod ends have a concave-shaped finish which pulls the exhausts down to the floor and under the diffuser for more aero effect.

The car is designed out of inputs from both drivers and achieving target of third in the championship is firmly in sight. Bringing back the glory days to Enstone is not far from getting I reckon. Mclaren’s MP4-28 launch up next tomorrow !

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