Lotus have unveiled, at least partly, their 2014 F1 car, the E22, on Twitter. The image was released just moments after McLaren’s official unveiling of their car, the MP4-29.
The Lotus features a quite different front end to the McLaren. Where the MP4-29 has a single, centred, narrow nose, the E22 features an unusual-looking double-pronged nose. It remains to be seen whether or not any of the other teams have adopted a similar approach.
The Lotus features the longer sidepods and rear-exiting exhaust required by the 2014 regulations. The livery is an evolution of that seen on last year’s E21, with the front end seeing the major changes in terms of paint-work.
The E22 will not be present at the first pre-season test that starts in Jerez, Spain on Tuesday. Instead, the car will make its track debut on 19 February in Bahrain.
With immediate effect, Gérard Lopez has replaced Eric Boullier as Team Principal of Lotus, a statement from the team confirmed today. This comes amid rumours that Boullier is headed to McLaren to replace Martin Whitmarsh.
In the Lotus statement, Lopez confirmed that there are quite wide-ranging changes taking place at the team. This could perhaps partly explain the strange decision to not attend the first test at Jerez next week. Lopez said:
“Lotus F1 Team has never stood still and we head into what promises to be an exciting 2014 season with an innovative new car, new partners and a new management structure at Enstone.
“Great things have been achieved over the past years and we need to continue this momentum. With this in mind, we are proud to announce that we have concluded an agreement with YotaPhone and its shareholders. YotaPhone shareholders will become important partners to Genii and YotaPhone a sponsor to the Lotus F1 team this year.”
Considering the relative success that Lotus has had over the last few seasons, Lopez’s comments about Eric Boullier seem rather muted: “We thank Eric for all his hard work over the past four years and we are confident we can continue to fight as one of the top teams in Formula 1 over the seasons ahead.”
The new Lotus, the E22, will be unveiled ahead of the second pre-season test, which begins in Bahrain on 19 February.
Lotus Technical Director Nick Chester has confirmed that the team’s 2014 car, the E22, will not be unveiled until after the first pre-season test. As a result, the car will not run in Jerez at all and will make its track debut in Bahrain on 19 February.
“We’re going to keep our car under wraps a little longer than some other teams”, said Chester. “We’ve decided that attending the Jerez test isn’t ideal for our build and development programme. We are likely to unveil the car before attending the Bahrain tests, and in Bahrain we should really be able to put the car through its paces in representative conditions.”
The decision to miss the Jerez test is a bit surprising, as there are just 12 days of track testing available to the teams before the season gets underway in Australia in mid-March. The major technical regulation changes that have been introduced for this season make every lap important as the teams learn about their new cars and work to make them quicker and more reliable.
It’s possible that Lotus simply need more time to prepare their car before putting it on the track. It’s also possible that they have come up with some interesting solutions to the technical challenges that all teams face in advance of this season. If that is the case, they might want to keep their secrets under wraps until the last possible moment, to prevent other teams from copying their ideas before the season starts.
The Lotus E22 will be raced in 2014 by Romain Grosjean, who has been retained by the team, and Pastor Maldonado, who has moved to Lotus from Williams.
Kimi Raikkonen has undergone successful back surgery in Europe, according to his Lotus team. Raikkonen is missing the last two races of 2013 as a result of this surgery.
Lotus F1 Team released the following statement today:
“As planned, Kimi Räikkönen underwent back surgery yesterday at The University Hospital of Strasbourg. Lotus F1 Team is happy to report that the operation was totally successful, according to Professor Afshin Gangi.
“Kimi will now rest for a few days and he will start his recovery process as early as next week. Everyone at the track and at Enstone wishes him a quick recovery.”
Raikkonen is out for the rest of the 2013 season, and will return to Formula One action for pre-season testing at the beginning of 2014, when he re-joins Ferrari. For the rest of 2013, Raikkonen’s Lotus is being driven by Heikki Kovalainen.
Heikki Kovalainen will fill in for fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus for the final two races of 2013, the team confirmed today in a statement on the Lotus F1 Team website.
Kovalainen has been released from his contract with Caterham for the remainder of the season so that he can compete for Lotus. He had been assisting with the development of this year’s Caterham car by taking part in Friday practice sessions for the team.
When Raikkonen announced last week that he would not be available for the final two races of the season, Lotus had to scramble to find the most competitive driver possible to fill Raikkonen’s vacant seat. In particular, Lotus needed a driver who could help them in their quest to take second place in the Constructors’ Championship.
Among the drivers approached were Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg, who turned down the offer so that he could see out his season with Sauber, and retired seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher, who was disinclined to make a second comeback to the sport he dominated so thoroughly a decade ago.
Kovalainen is an experienced and highly rated driver, which explains his appeal for Lotus. They approached Kovalainen and Caterham and it was arranged that Kovalainen would be able to return to the grid with Lotus this weekend in Austin, Texas.
Lotus team principal Eric Boullier explained the decision to put Kovalainen in Raikkonen’s car:
“Obviously we had to move quickly following the news of Kimi’s non-participation in the final two races of this season, and we found ourselves facing a difficult decision in terms of who should take the wheel in Austin and São Paulo. On the one hand we had our reserve driver Davide Valsecchi – who is a talented young driver that has shown a great deal of promise – and on the other we had the opportunity to bring in a seasoned Formula 1 competitor in Heikki.
“Whilst we have every faith in Davide’s abilities, we are obviously involved in a tight Constructors’ Championship battle, so it was decided that the experience Heikki could bring to the team would be invaluable as we aim to finish the year in the best position possible. We must thank Tony Fernandes and Caterham F1 Team for their professional conduct in allowing Heikki to join us for the final races of this season.”
Kovalainen expressed his enthusiasm for the task he faces in the next two weeks:
“It is a fantastic opportunity for me to join Lotus F1 Team for the final two races of 2013. We’ve seen this year that the E21 is a car which can win races and finish on the podium, so I will be pushing hard for the best results possible. Jumping into a car so late in the year when you have not been competing in the races all season will be a challenge, but I know the team at Enstone well so I have no concerns about getting up to speed. This is a great opportunity for me, so I would like to thank Tony Fernandes and Caterham F1 Team for allowing me to take advantage of it.”
To date, Kovalainen has competed in 110 Grands Prix and has scored one victory, four podiums and one pole position. He will be in a competitive car again this weekend for the first time since he left McLaren at the end of 2009 and will be looking to make the most of the opportunity to score points again in Formula One.