Lotus targets podium with new F1 car
London - Kimi Raikkonen's Lotus team won the race to be first to show off their 2013 Formula One car on Monday with a challenger that put performance over beauty and turned up its nose at cosmetic surgery.
In one of the few rule changes for the year ahead, teams are now allowed to use 'modesty panels' to streamline the ugly 'broken noses' that caused gasps of dismay when first sighted last season.
The fairings, fitted over existing structures, do not affect the car's aerodynamics and teams are not obliged to use them.
The black, red and gold Lotus E21 decided to remain defiantly immodest, retaining the distinctive step of its race-winning predecessor from 2012, although the team did not rule out a future makeover.
“We have not done it yet because the cosmetic panel would weigh a few grammes and with a Formula One car, putting a few grammes on that you don't need to is really anathema to us,” explained technical director James Allison.
“However, if we find a cosmetic panel that looks nice but, much more importantly and crucially, develops us a bit of downforce than we'll pop it on as quick as you like,” he grinned.
DEVIL IN THE DETAIL
Allison said that while the car looked similar to last year's, as ever in F1 the devil was in the detail “and the detail of this car adds up to a significant amount of performance.
“There's some neat new ideas in there and a lot of pushing of the same sort of concepts as we've been working on for a few years.”
The presentation was broadcast live from inside the Enstone factory, after high winds forced a retreat from a marquee outside, on YouTube and Sky television with Raikkonen and French team mate Romain Grosjean pulling away the cover to reveal the Renault-powered car they hope will take the team to at least third place overall.
On the side below the cockpit was written the line #ImSexyandIKnowit.
Lotus finished in fourth place last season, with Finland's 2007 world champion Raikkonen winning the floodlit Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and ending up third overall in his comeback season after two years out.
That win was the team's first since double world champion Fernando Alonso won in Japan in 2008 under their former guise of Renault.
“Our expectation is to do hopefully better than we did last year, which is quite a lot” said team chairman Gerard Lopez.
Team principal Eric Boullier agreed: “Third place is at least an achievement that we would like to have...we expect to build on the momentum from 2012.”
With the rules stable, teams are likely to be closer than ever in performance but Boullier said his drivers would be more eager than ever to succeed.
“We will fight with everything we can to be in the top three,” he said.
Grosjean had a torrid time in his first full season, earning a one-race ban after a collision that put title contender Alonso out of the Belgian Grand Prix with the Spaniard lucky to escape serious injury.
“We keep faith in him, we believe he has the potential to deliver,” said Boullier. “He can qualify well, he can race well...we want to deliver this year a top three position so we need both drivers and obviously Romain to bring as often as possible some big points.”
McLaren will be next out, with a launch at their Woking factory on Thursday, followed by Force India and Ferrari on Friday and Swiss-based Sauber on Saturday. Red Bull, with triple champion Sebastian Vettel, unveil their new car in Milton Keynes on Sunday.
The first test of the year starts at the Jerez circuit in southern Spain on Feb 5, the day after Mercedes and 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton take the wraps off their car. -Reuters