Insight: Spirit of Innovation

With fewer variables to control, teams must think differently

It’s only six years since Fernando Alonso won back-to-back championships with the then Renault team, and given that many of the same engineers are still working at Enstone, it’s perhaps not surprising that Lotus has proved capable of joining the 2012 title hunt.

In fact team owner Gerard Lopez insists that his guys are doing an even better job than they did back then.

“They will tell you that it’s different these days,” he says. “They won championships with Alonso during a tyre war – let’s put it this way, they had more control over more variables than today, when everybody has the same tyre on. Renault was the Michelin car, that sort of thing.

“As far as the team goes I would venture that they are doing an even better job these days, given how tight how the pack is, and how much your own input pays versus external input. Now you have to come up with your own goods. I’m extremely proud of the fact that we’ve been able to crystallise the potential that was in this team.”

In 2011 technical director James Allison took the bold step of introducing side exhausts. Even though the path of blown-diffuser development rendered this arrangement less competitive as the season wore on, the experience hasn’t dissuaded the team from innovating.

Lotus continues to push the boundaries, putting considerable effort into a ‘reactive ride’ suspension that was banned by the FIA in February. That was frustrating, but the so-called ‘double DRS’ system Kimi Räikkönen tested in practice in Germany and Hungary, with a view to a debut at Spa, showed that this is still a team with ideas.

The E20 has been highly competitive in race trim, and perhaps most importantly, consistent at all types of circuits – a quality that has eluded some of Lotus’s rivals.

“F1 is about having everything right, isn’t it?,” says Allison. “We’ve got two drivers who are getting the job done, we’ve got a car that happily is kind to its tyres, we’ve got a car that’s got reasonable aerodynamic efficiency, and it’s going all right.”

Adam Cooper