31 January 2011

Team Lotus is back!

Team Lotus have just launched the T128; the car which the team hope will take them to no less than 7th in the constructors championship in the 2011 season. I was going to write a feature on the Ferrari F150 launched a few days ago, however was disappointed to see it looking basically the same as the F10 from last year. The T128 however is RADICALLY different!

You may recall me writing an article last week talking about how I disagreed with team owner Tony Fernandes bringing back the ‘Team Lotus’ name, when he could never live up to the legacy of radical innovation that it became known for throughout the 70’s and 80’s. I said that in this day and age of Formula One, teams could not innovate to the levels that Colin Chapman and his team did back in the day and that Mr. Fernandes would ruin this once classic image. Well... I may just have to eat my words!

The T128 features front and rear suspension which appears to be missing its’ uprights. Forget Red Bull’s pullrod system; Lotus have gone for the full no-rod! The wishbones are wafer thin and how the track rods (used to turn the wheels) are enclosed in them I have no idea! Definitely some serious innovation going on there. If this suspension system actually works, then expect the rest of the teams to feature it on their 2012 cars because aerodynamically at least, it would present a significant performance gain.

As for the rest of the car, the team have opted for the ‘fin’ roll hoop pioneered by Mercedes last year and the car now also features (as very much opposed to the T127) very beautifully sculpted sidepods. Whilst the front and rear wings look pretty much the same as those run on their debut car from 2010, expect them to change dramatically as the first race in Bahrain draws closer. The nose of the car is also much more attractive; now wider and more proportionate to the rest of the car.

The only thing I don’t like about the car (at least in the launch photos) is the paint work. Not so much the livery, as I think it looks quite smart, but the detailing seems to be quite ‘dodgy’. Along the top of the monocoque and down toward the nose, it appears as though two different colour greens were used. The lines separating the different colours are so obvious that it almost looks as though an under-performing high school manual arts student has done it! I also don’t like how the yellow and white stripe down the middle is interrupted so often with sponsor decals; it kind of takes away from its’ effect. Instead of being a stripe, it has become a series of yellow rectangles placed randomly along the car.

Aside from that however, the car looks very very good indeed and I can now take a massive sigh of relief, knowing that the Team Lotus legacy appears to be in very good hands. Nice work Mr. Gascoyne!