Lotus F1 Team Technical Director James Allison talks about Lotus E20 race car 2012 Formula One season
How different is 2012 likely to be from 2011? If you casually flicked through the regulations you’d be forgiven for thinking that there aren’t many differences from last year, however nestling in there are some fairly profound changes. The most notable changes relate to the exhaust. The teams decided around Silverstone in 2011 that we were going to get rid of exhaust blown rear diffusers, and that point alone requires a very different design concept. Recent car designs have been heavily influenced by their rear exhaust configurations, and the intent of the rule is to stop that happening.
The rules on the exhaust geometries themselves have been reinforced by some engine operation rules which don’t sit in the technical regulations, but which arrived by Technical Directive quite late last year. The exhaust issue, although agreed in principle at Silverstone, continued to unfold as late as mid- November, so the challenge has been to roll with the punches as the detail emerged over a fairly extended period – trying to make the best of each version of the rules as they’ve come out, whilst trying to anticipate where the end position is going to be. It’s certainly been an area which has preoccupied us and I imagine the rest of the grid too.
How much will the new regulations affect what we see on track? Last year’s cars had quite a variety of exhaust layouts, with differing levels of success. If the latest rules really have been successful in resetting the power of the exhausts to a much lower level, then that’s an opportunity for a reshuffle of the pack.
What are your feelings on working with two new drivers for 2012? Romain put in two very promising sessions at the end of last season, having not driven an F1 car for more than a year. He jumped in the car and was immediately competitive with our race drivers at the time, in a quite impressive fashion. I think that has gone a long way to getting him the ride for this year. So we’re looking forward to a strong start with him.
Kimi’s recent test in Valencia with the R30 showed that he has lost none of his speed and that he is full of appetite for the season ahead. It is going to be great for us to work with a driver of such clear quality.
What is completely new and what is more familiar on the E20? Depending on where you look, 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.
As far as the exhausts are concerned, our forward exhausts would now be illegal under the new rules and didn’t live up to our expectations in any case. So that part of the car we say goodbye to and welcome in a complete re-design. 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. The rear wing system, we’ve continued to try to work on having a satisfactory level of rear downforce stability, whilst having a maximum DRS switching potential.
How do you expect the E20 to perform? We’ve worked hard and long on the car. We have tried to react to the regulatory picture as it’s unfolded, but we will only really start to be able to judge how well we have done once we start to run the car in pre- season. Even then we won’t really know until qualifying in Melbourne.