The Lotus F1 Team is first out of the gate in showing off its new contender for the 2015 Grand Prix World Championship. Dubbed the E23 Hybrid, this is the car that the crew from Enstone hopes will turn their fortunes around from an abysmal 2014 season.
The Team principles say this is a new car, for a new season and that this year, aided by a new engine package and better software integration the E23 Hybrid will turn their fortunes around.
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"The E23 Hybrid represents a new era for Lotus F1 Team, not only in the change to a Mercedes Benz Power Unit, but also it is the fruition of a busy winter behind the scenes," said Matthew Carter, Lotus F1 Team CEO. "As a team we are confident that the new car coupled with additions to the Race team will enable a huge leap forward and we are full of optimism going into the new season. It is time to put the disappointment of last season behind us and benefit from 12 months of hard work; we are ready to return to our rightful place at the pinnacle of the sport."
"The E23 Hybrid represents a massive step forward for us," echoed Nick Chester, Lotus F1 Team Technical Director. "It’s no secret that we struggled with last year’s car so we’ve targeted every area that caused us an issue. We’ve made strong progress in the wind tunnel as well as in areas such as packaging and cooling. We expect the E23 to perform far, far better than its predecessor."
CEO Carter continued, "Improvements within our Design, Aero and Simulation departments have all contributed to the development of a car which is a huge step forward."
By this, he is calling out three team departments that will be crucial in Lotus improving and moving up the grid. The Design department can loosely be defined as being responsible for overall packaging and design of the car; they are the folks that have to fit all the bits together. The Aero department is of course responsible for aerodynamic design. Aerodynamics being the highest altar that F1 teams have been praying at since that genie got out of the bottle in the mid-60s. The Simulation department exists largely due a quirk in the rules. In an effort to control costs, teams are severely curtailed in the amount of hours they can spend on track testing. As a way to work around this restriction, most Grand Prix teams have full-scale moving-base driving simulator rigs that are running around the clock. With the amount of data a modern race team collects, they are able to not only construct virtual copies of their cars, but also virtual versions of race tracks, down to the cracks in the pavement and changing weather conditions.
So what are the updates on the E23? "In terms of what’s new, obviously a massive change for us is a new Power Unit supplier," said Chester. "We made this change as it looked and looks to be the one area of the car which could bring us the greatest performance gain. It’s not just performance, but reliability and driveability as well as packaging and cooling too."
What Chester is referring to is the huge step that Lotus has taken by dumping last years engine supplier, Renault. In 2015 the team will be running Mercedes power units. This will, of course, be a big job for various technical departments within the team to cope with in the quest for greater "reliability and driveability." Sadly, the Renault lump in the 2014 Lotus seemed to have the lifespan of a fruit fly, but that second word, driveability, is really key, given that poor power systems integration and software control lead to last year's car driving like and unpredictable lumber cart.
"In terms of the suspension, we were delivered something of a blow last year when the front-rear interconnected suspension was outlawed mid-season," added Chester. "The E23’s suspension design is specific to the updated regulations so we’re not trying to update a system originally intended to work a different way."
The 2014 Lotus was designed around a clever engineering exploit that was banned halfway through the season. Its design and implementation was hugely secret, and Lotus never spilled the beans, but as near as I could figure out, it worked like this: There was a series of hydraulic lines connecting the front shocks to the rear shocks. Connected to these hydraulic lines were a number of computer controlled pumps and electromagnets to not only move the ferrofluid within the lines around (fore and aft) but also to increase or decrease the density, and therefore the stiffness, of the ferrofluid.
Yes, I know, that's really gee-wiz, moon shot levels of technology, but Lotus did it, and it seemed to work okay. It wasn't a game changer, and with all the other problems last year's car was suffering from it was hard to tell what the gains and losses were with the system, but it did seem to keep the car more stable through any given corner.
"We learnt a lot in many areas of the car over the course of 2014 so there are many lessons which have been applied," said Chester. "We know we’ve made a big step. We won’t know how our car will fare in relative terms until we’re out in action at a Grand Prix, but we certainly expect to be much more competitive than last year.”
Hopefully Matthew Carter and Nick Chester and the rest of the Enstone brain trust are right. After all this is the team that, if in name only, gave rides and championships to guys named Clark and Hill and Fittipaldi and Andretti. They better get with the program. They have a history to uphold.
Source: Lotus F1 TeamView gallery - 5 images