It’s official: the 2013 season is upon us with the news that Lotus have launched their latest car, the E21. The unglamorous name comes from the fact that it’s the 21st car to come out of the former Renault HQ at Enstone in the UK.
But what’s in a name? This is the car designed to build on a 2012 season where the E20 carried Kimi Raikkonen to third in the Drivers’ World Championship and Lotus to fourth in the Constructors’.
If you thought designing and building a Formula 1 car was a relatively straightforward matter, think again. Lotus tell us that a quarter of a million man hours went into the E21, which is the ‘first of the last’: the first car of a 2013 season that sees the V8 formula introduced in 2006 operate for the final time.
Let’s get the facts and figures out of the way first.
The Lotus F1 Team E21 has a carbon fibre/aluminium monocoque with Renault’s RS27-2013 V8 engine incorporated as a fully-stressed member.
Front and rear suspensions have carbon fibre upper and lower wishbones, the front operated by an inboard rocker with pushrods, the rear by pullrod-activated torsion springs.
The titanium gearbox is semi-automatic, seven-speed; the brakes have carbon discs and pads.
It is worth noting that all suspension systems are now limited to six members, the aim being to prevent wily designers from exploiting aerodynamic possibilities with more members and therefore more surfaces to work with.
Front track 1450mm, rear track 1400mm; length 5088mm, height 950mm, width 1800mm.
The car weighs 642 kilos with driver, cameras and ballast.
Renault’s 2.4-litre V8 RS27 is built on an aluminium alloy block and weighs 95 kilos; its cylinders are set in a 90° vee. The power output is 750 bhp, the unit running up to 18,000 rpm.
As Technical Director James Allison says, coming up with a new design is a two-part process: “Some parts of the new car are a ground-up redesign and in other areas we have further optimised the best bits of the design philosophy we’ve adopted for several seasons. The front and rear suspension layouts are substantially revised to try and give us better aerodynamic opportunities. The front wing is a continuation of the concepts we have worked on since the 2009 rules were published. For the rear wing system, we’ve continued to try to work on having a satisfactory level of rear downforce stability whilst having maximum DRS switching potential.”
Lotus have declined the option to ‘beautify’ their new car by hiding the ugly step in the nose with the permitted ‘vanity panel’. “I would not be surprised if the majority of the grid chose not to make use of it,” says Allison. “The panel will add a few grammes of weight and so is only likely to run on the car if a team can find a performance benefit for doing so.”
‘Lean and Hungry'
That’s how Team Principal Eric Boullier describes the Enstone camp, which in previous guises such as Benetton and Renault racked up no fewer than 47 Grand Prix victories. Kimi Raïkkönen’s success in Abu Dhabi last season means the team will reach 50 wins if he and Romain Grosjean can manage two between them in 2013. “Enstone knows how to win championships, but it is a while since we have won so we are very eager to taste glory again,” says the Frenchman.
Team chairman Gerard Lopez is equally straightforward. “We launch the E21 with lofty aspirations,” he adds. “Our 2012 challenger – the E20 – was a superb racing car; on occasions last season the fastest on track against significant opposition. With the E21 we want to build on this and achieve even better results.”
Exploiting E21: What The Drivers Think
As usual, Kimi Raïkkönen is playing his cards pretty close to his chest when it comes to hopes and expectations for his second year back in Formula 1.
“I’ve not driven the E21 yet so it’s difficult to say what could or could not be possible,” the 33-year-old Finn said at the launch. “We know we had a good car last season, but everyone is working hard to make the best car. I will be working with the team to help get the car as strong as we can, then in Melbourne we’ll have our first taste of results. It’s a long season from there. 2012 was a good start; let’s see what we can do in 2013.”
Getting better results this year means bridging the 75-point gap that separated Lotus from the top three in 2012. That translates into ‘Grosjean must do better’. The French driver contributed 96 points to his teammate’s 207; balancing that equation would make a top-three finish for the team a much less challenging target.
Despite continuing controversy around his driving in 2012, the 26-year-old is surprisingly cool about his prospects for 2013. “You start your career in Formula 1 thinking ‘Okay, that’s a new challenge, a tough challenge’ but then you work into the season and you think ‘Whoa! This challenge is even bigger than I thought!’ I know what I need much better now and that’s what I’ve learnt from last year.”
And it’s Grosjean who neatly sums up the drivers’ input into the new car for the 2013 season. “All through last year, the feedback given about the E20 was interpreted by the development team for the E21. This means there’s a lot of information from me and Kimi which went into this car,” he says.
“It’s difficult to say after the season ‘we would like this or that’ for next year. I think it’s more about the work done during the whole season; discussing this or that, or an idea about this or that. After twenty races you know more-or-less what has been good with the car and what hasn’t. Hopefully we’ve made the right calls for this year.”