Did you tune in to the Lotus launch last night? A strange event, not least for the fact it seems, upon rampant digital speculation, that the event was less a new car launch than an exercise in disinformation. Certainly the most scrutinised image was the car’s new steering wheel (above). We urge you to make your own close inspection with your coffee this morning. Because it’s excellent.
The actual new car under the bedsheet doesn’t actually seem to be the computer-rendered car in the photographs released. Will the real Lotus E21 please fire up? Er, probably not until the first test, and maybe not even then.
It is not unknown for teams to use one of last year’s cars with a few new bits at a launch to keep sponsors happy, and certainly Lotus was keen to be first to launch. Then again, the most remarkable thing about this year’s car is that, once again, it lacks the logo of a title sponsor. This is a winning team, TopGearers, do not forget. As we told you yesterday, it’s tough out there.
So what do we know about the car Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean will race in 2013? Well, it has what the F1 techies call a Coanda back end, just like last year’s Sauber and, rather more significantly, last year’s Red Bull. Dr Coand was a Romanian aerodynamicist who identified the need of moving stream of gas to find a surface to attach to. Dr Brian Cox would demonstrate it with a pingpong ball and a vacuum cleaner set to blow.
By aiming the exhausts at the surfaces around the rear break ducts, Sauber and Red Bull saw a way to seal off the airflow around the diffuser. Everyone, Lotus included, gave what became known as ‘cold blowing’ a go last year. The incredibly tight, Red Bull rear of the Lotus E21 suggests the team is committed to it this year. The team’s technical director James Allison — one of the most in-demand men in F1’s boffin market — looked confident at the launch.
Lotus also played around with a ‘double DRS’ system in 2012 – though Mercedes’ now outlawed version that plumbed air all the way from the back of the car to the front, caused complexities that might have cost them the whole season and Michael Schumacher and Ross Brawn their reputations. Lotus’ less complex execution was around from the middle of last year, but was never raced. On the E21 it was shown in the renderings but not on the car. And don’t forget, DRS can only be used in the DRS zones in both the race and practice in 2013.
Also due to be left behind in 2012 were the stepped noses, which, after initial problems with the aesthetics, we came to approve of. New rules allow for a ‘vanity panel’ to smooth the step between the aerodynamically-optimised nose and the front of the safety-optimised monocoque. Well, the step is still there. At least on the Lotus. At least for now. Both the car and the rendering had a step, but Allison was on hand to say they car might lose it if they can make a vanity panel light enough. Allison clearly has something in mind; the nose of the E21 ain’t designed to race or test. The real thing is still under wraps.
What else did we notice? Well, somehow RoGros has managed to lose even more weight. You do have to worry about the pressures on tall drivers in F1 to keep it light. Kimi? Well, you didn’t expect any change there. He continues to be a source of inspiration for the team, especially the team’s PRs.
And if you haven’t looked yet, take a closer look at that steering wheel...