Today features the two practice sessions for the Canada GP in Montreal. The second of the two sessions is going on as I write this post and while the established F1 writers will be talking about who is fastest and the Red Bull technical kerfuffle, I want to talk about the Lotus F1 team and why this is the weekend that they have to perform.
But first I want to take a moment to clarify the relationship between the Lotus Car brand (makers of the Elise and Exige with former CEO Danny Bahr) and the Lotus F1 brand (formerly sponsored by Lotus Cars). Lotus Cars was the title sponsor for the F1 team (hence the name) but that relationship was ended when Lotus was purchased by a Malaysian company (who fired Danny Bahr). Lotus F1 now gets its financing from Genii Capital who has reaffirmed its commitment to the F1 team and has also hinted at possibly buying the Lotus Cars company. This carries obvious branding benefits but I do not know what the going rate for the Lotus brand is and it may be out of Genii capital’s reach. Also recall that Danny Bahr had a very grand vision for Lotus. He wanted to reposition the company as a competitor to Porsche, similar to Aston Martin’s new strategy. These sorts of strategies are extremely expensive and incredibly risky which may explain Danny Bahr’s dismissal.
Be all that as it may, the Lotus F1 team is under immense pressure to perform to the car’s potential, a race win. As I have already commented, this season has changed the balance of development from aerodynamics to mechanics, an area where the Lotus team (formerly the Renault works team) has always been more capable (except last year with that forward exhaust). Based on early season comments from the team, the Lotus seems to succeed because it has relatively simple but clean aerodynamics and innovative mechanical set ups that allows for a lot of flexibility. There have been rumblings that the car operates better at higher ambient temperatures but I don’t necessarily agree. China would have seen a fantastic performance from Raikkonen if the team had not messed up the tire wear calculations.
This collection of characteristics should recall the Red Bull of 2011 minus some aerodynamic advantage. Theoretically, the team should have a relatively easy time of it, but they are not. This points to a deficiency in the communication between the drivers and the engineers. This plops the responsibility right on Raikkonen as the senior driver. An article on Raikkonen will be coming shortly.