Lotus, a name that will spark many memories of a golden age in Formula One, is returning to the sport it once dominated, the name resurrected by a variety of Malaysian backers. In fact, although the team is currently based just a few miles from the Lotus car factory in Norfolk, the intention is for the team to move to a purpose-built facility near the Sepang circuit in Malaysia. The cars may have the yellow and green logo on them, but a lot has changed since Graham Hill, Jim Clark and Ayrton Senna were charging around the circuits.
The T127 was launched in London, with drivers Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen lifting the covers with the help of test driver Fairuz Fauzy. The entry into Formula One wasn’t quite so easy though, as the squad were only awarded a grid slot after BMW announced their withdrawal partway through 2009. This has meant that the car has been hurriedly designed and built, and although the squad boasts some experienced talent behind the scenes, the timing could have been a lot better for the new team.
Tony Fernandes is the name that will be most associated with the Lotus F1 project, a Malaysian entrepreneur who has founded many companies, most notable to Formula One was recent Williams sponsor AirAsia. Interestingly though, while Fernandes has been key to getting everything at Lotus up and running, he intends to step down from his team principal role as soon as he can, suggesting this may happen during the 2010 campaign. Mike Gascoyne, a well-known and successful technical director, has been drafted in and with the Briton comes a wealth of knowledge and experience of running a Formula One squad.
Of all the new teams, Lotus boast the most experienced line-up as well, having confirmed Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen soon after the 2009 season closed. Trulli will bring with him the knowledge of developing a chassis, something he did reasonably well recently with the Toyota. His race craft though can be a little inconsistent. Kovalainen is still a bit of a mystery to most; a driver who can turn the wick up when needed, but all too often gets left behind by his team mate. Perhaps it is unfair to say that though, the Finn’s most recent partner being Lewis Hamilton. It is fair to say that Kovalainen’s time at McLaren is not generally regarded as a highlight in the driver’s career, despite a victory in 2008.
The car itself sport’s a modern twist on the classic Lotus livery, utilising the green and yellow of the company’s logo. The colour scheme works well though and it is great to see dark green return to the sport – the Jaguars always looked good with their livery. Like the Jags though, a good livery does not make a good car. The front section of the T127 is fairly straight-forward, with a high nose and one of the more interesting front wings. The wing on the T127 appears to be one of the more complex designs seen thus far in the pre-season launches. The remainder of the machine appears similar to most, the sidepods are perhaps not as shapely as the RB6, and the engine cover currently does not feature a shark-fin.
With the name comes a lot of expectation for Lotus. Although the team may have strong Malaysian roots, Lotus was and will always be synonymous with Britain, and despite the sad demise of the former team, one will always remember the glory days of the ’60s and ’70s. The great successes won’t happen overnight, but if the squad can stay around for long enough, they may just be able to recapture the magic of the lost era of Formula One.
Lotus’s car designation system refers to the word Type, and an incremental numbering system that for 2010, has reached 127. Hence, T127. It should be noted though that I am assuming this. The most recent Lotus to have been built was, I believe, the 109, which raced in 1994. However, incrementing up the number to 2010 brings us to 125.
Note the blue wheelnuts on the right side.
Note the red wheelnuts on the left side.