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Saturday, November 27, 2010

2010 eval: Lotus Racing

Feb. 10, 2010 - Jerez, Spain - Lotus Racing logo, during Formula One Testing.


Synopsis: The best of the new teams in 2010, led by Malaysian Tony Fernandes and featuring the much traveled Mike Gascoyne as technical boss. Known as 1Malaysia F1 Team in Malaysia, the team received a late entry into the sport after BMW Sauber left, but defied the odds by having their challenger ready for the season opener. Reliability was an issue all season, but structurally the team looks sound.

Points: 0

Highlight: Nailing down 10th in the championship, out dueling HRT and Virgin. Despite reliability questions with the gearbox, Heikki Kovalainen rattled off a string eight classified finishes to close out the season.

REFILE CORRECTING TYPO Flames and smoke are seen pouring out of the car of Lotus Formula One driver Heikki Kovalainen of Finland after it caught fire during the Singapore F1 Grand Prix at the Marina Bay circuit September 26, 2010. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad (SINGAPORESPORT - Tags: SPORT MOTOR RACING IMAGES OF THE DAY)


Lowlight: Celebrating the team’s 500th race in June was a bit irksome. A protracted legal battle over rights to use the Lotus name with automaker Proton continues into the winter.

Drivers:

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 12: Lotus Racing drivers Jarno Trulli (L) of Italy and Heikki Kovalainen of Finland pose with the Lotus T127 during the Lotus F1 launch at The Royal Horticultural Halls on February 12, 2010 in London, England. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)


  • Some part of Heikki Kovalainen must be in shock at how quickly it all turned around. From defeating the old hands at the Race of Champions to rides with Renault and McLaren, the Finn looked to be on course to battle for a championship. Instead, he spent 2010 battling for scraps with a new team. Still, he drove a solid campaign, including a string of finishes at the end of the season and consistently bettering his teammate. Kovalainen surly would like to get back into the top 10, but with little movement on the driver front this year, looks likely to stay where he is.
  • Jarno Trulli turned in a competent season, and at 36 gives Lotus an experienced veteran presence behind the wheel. Trulli had a NASCAR test over the summer, and there are rumblings he could jump to another series, but that seems unlikely to happen. Both drivers have shown an interest in staying for 2011, saying all the right things in the press, and the team’s young drivers don’t yet look ready to push out one of the vets.

JEREZ DE LA FRONTERA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 19: (L-R) Lotus F1 Chief Technical Officer Mike Gascoyne and Lotus F1 Team Principal Tony Fernandes talk during winter testing at the Circuito De Jerez on February 19, 2010 in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain. (Photo by Vladimir Rys/Bongarts/Getty Images)


A look ahead: Interviews with members of this team seem to genuinely think it is on the road to success, and it is hard not to think this team could challenge for the midfield in the next few seasons. It has the funding HRT lacks, and the commitment Virgin seems to lack. The team has addressed the reliability issues, turning to Renault power and Red Bull Technology for the gearbox. Essentially, the car will be Gascoyne’s take on the Red Bull, less the billion-gazillions of development money of the champions. Fernandes made a friendly bet with fellow airline enthusiast Richard Branson in the 2010 championship, it might not be out of line to consider making a similar bet with Vijay Mallya for 2011. Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six

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