With its evocative black-and-gold livery and a world champion sat behind the wheel, the Lotus F1 Team’s ambition is clear to see.
The Lotus name is on seven FIA World Constructors Championship trophies and six Drivers’, while the Enstone team – under its previous guises as Renault and Benetton – won four Drivers’ and three Constructors titles, the last time being in 2006 with Fernando Alonso.
Now, with Lotus’s investment in the team, it’s time to consolidate this experience and start afresh.
Lotus’s Formula One effort flatlined in 1994 but the racing marque was revived in 2010. After some legal wranglings over the rights to the name, it has now been settled and there is just one Lotus team on the entry list for 2012.
Lotus F1 Team Chairman Gerard Lopez is determined to see the team move forward this year.
“If you look at the history of Enstone, there were World Championships won in 1994-95 and 2005-6. This ten year cycle obviously appeals and we are set on repeating this history. We want a step nearer our goal in 2012.
“If we finish in fifth place in the Constructors’ Championship we will be disappointed. If we finish fourth we can reflect over a good step forwards. If we finish in third position we will be very happy. We know the competition is intense, but that is why we compete.”
Kimi Räikkönen makes a race return to Formula 1 after two seasons contesting the FIA World Rally Championship as well as selected NASCAR outings. He has nine years’ experience in F1, with the 2007 Drivers’ Championship, 18 race wins, 62 podiums, 16 pole positions and 35 fastest laps from his 156 race starts. He entered the sport in 2002 despite having only 23 races in junior categories under his belt. Kimi finished as runner-up in the Drivers’ Championship to Michael Schumacher in 2003 and Fernando Alonso in 2005; and won the title in 2007, in his first year driving for Ferrari.
Everyone calls him the "Iceman", and he often raids the freezer for Popsicles during red flag periods.
Romain Grosjean makes a race return to Formula One after previously contesting the final seven grands prix of 2009. Prior to that Romain had secured the 2007 Formula Three Euroseries championship and won the inaugural GP2 Asia Series championship in 2008. After his 2009 F1 foray, Romain contested the inaugural FIA GT1 World Championship in 2010, winning the opening race of the season. He competed in his first Le Mans 24 Hours that year too. It wasn’t long before he returned to single seaters, with partial campaigns in the Auto GP and GP2 seasons, and he ended with the GP2 Asia Series and GP2 Series championship titles secured.
Based on the English translation of his surname, some wags call him ‘Johnny Fat’.
After contesting the 2011 season as a race driver for Marussia Virgin Racing, Jérôme D’Ambrosio joins Lotus F1 Team for 2012 as third driver. Prior to his F1 debut, Jérôme contested the GP2 Series and GP2 Asia Series, and won the inaugural International Formula Master series.
His nickname throughout the pitlane is ‘Custard’.
The E20 – named in honour of its Enstone HQ – has several differences over last year’s Renault R31.
For example, new rules banning blown floors mean the forward-blowing exhausts have been dumped in favour of top exit chimneys.
One of the most noticeable changes with most of the 2012 field is the nose – most are flat followed by a sudden bump to accommodate the pedal box. If this was Hollywood they’d all be queuing outside a plastic surgeons right now, but no doubt we’ll get used to it. There is, of course, a reason for the change; safety. It’s to ensure the nose is below the height of the cockpit sides in the event of a t-bone type crash.
The E20 is powered by a 3 litre Renault RS27-2012 V8 with an output roundabout 750 horsepower at a restricted 18,000RPM . Performance depends entirely on wing settings, but the car is capable of speeds far in excess of 320km/h, it reaches 200km/h from standstill in 4.9 seconds, and takes just 1.6 seconds to brake from 100km/h to zero.
It has a Kinetic Energy Recovery System which provides an eco-friendly power boost when the driver is in attack and defence mode, and this is a system that is finding its way onto the new generation of Lotus road cars.