While much of the fans’ attention will be at the front of the field, there are plenty of interesting World Championship battles further behind – including which of the three rookie outfits will be able to bridge the gap to the midfield teams in their second year of competition.
Of these three outfits, Team Lotus looks the clear favourite to do so.
Tenth place in last year’s Constructors’ Championship is now part of history, and the team is hoping that a new design, a fresh injection of key technical staff and a collaboration with Red Bull (rear end design) and Renault (its engines) will propel it up the order.
Team Lotus’ 2010 track record
Lotus Racing, as it was then known, was the last of the 2010 grid’s teams to be confirmed on the official FIA entry list, and that it was able to pull together and establish a complete F1 operation in less than six months was a phenomenal achievement for team boss Tony Fernandes and his team.
With an experienced line-up in Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen, the team set about with the aim of building foundations for future success: securing the use of Red Bull’s transmission units, new Renault engines, and hiring a host of technical staff familiar to the team’s bullish design boss, Mike Gascoyne.
Granted, the design of the T127 was very conservative, and the drivers were frustrated with a litany of reliability issues (usually with the hydraulics and gearbox), but the team achieved its stated aim of beating its rookie rivals, Virgin Racing and HRT, which it did comfortably.
Continuity is a key factor in success, and the team has kept is driver line-up and principal figures on the payroll.
But the elephant in the room is the off-track battle over the use of the ‘Lotus’ moniker in its team name.
Fernandes is suing carmaker Group Lotus over breach of contract when it yanked the license to have its name used after just one year of a five-year agreement, while Group Lotus – which has separately entered into a title sponsorship arrangement with Renault – is incensed that Fernandes’ is now running under the ‘Team Lotus’ banner.
Could these antics in the court potentially threaten to upset the potential the team has to move up the order? Let’s wait and see…
Watch the Richard’s F1 pre-season vodcast as Richard and Jen engage in some crystal ball gazing for Team Lotus’ 2011 season:
[Images via AUTOSPORT; video via Matt Lennon]
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