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First image of Lotus E22 released

Lotus E22 (Image: Lotus F1 Team)

Lotus E22 (Image: Lotus F1 Team)

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.

Lopez replaces Boullier as Lotus Team Principal

Gérard Lopez (right) has replaced Eric Boullier (left) as Lotus Team Principal (Andrew Ferraro/LAT Photographic)

Gérard Lopez (right) has replaced Eric Boullier (left) as Lotus Team Principal (Andrew Ferraro/LAT Photographic)

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.

2014 Lotus to skip Jerez test

Romain Grosjean tests the Lotus E21 at Jerez in 2013 (Andrew Ferraro/Lotus F1)

Romain Grosjean tests the Lotus E21 at Jerez in 2013 (Andrew Ferraro/Lotus F1)

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.

Successful back surgery for Raikkonen

Kimi Raikkonen has undergone successful surgery on his back (Andrew Ferraro/Lotus F1 Team)

Kimi Raikkonen has undergone successful surgery on his back (Andrew Ferraro/Lotus F1 Team)

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.

Kovalainen to race for Lotus in USA and Brazil

Heikki Kovalainen will race for Lotus in the USA and Brazil (Image: Caterham F1)

Heikki Kovalainen will race for Lotus in the USA and Brazil (Image: Caterham F1)

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.

Schumacher turns down offer to race for Lotus

Michael Schumacher has turned down an offer to race for Lotus (Image: Mercedes)

Michael Schumacher has turned down an offer to race for Lotus (Image: Mercedes)

Retired seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher has rejected an offer to race for Lotus in the final two races of the 2013 season. Schumacher retired from Formula One for the second time at the end of 2012 after making a three-year comeback to the sport with Mercedes.

Lotus are in need of a competitive driver to fill in for Kimi Raikkonen, who is unavailable for the US and Brazilian Grands Prix due to the need for surgery on his back. So far, Lotus have approached quite a few drivers, if the rumours are true, and Schumacher is among them.

Sky Sports F1 quoted Schumacher’s spokesperson Sabine Kehm as saying,

“Michael’s performance against Nico (Rosberg) and Nico’s performance against Lewis (Hamilton) made a lot of people aware of how good Michael still was,” she said.

“Plus, he is still very fit. But he just feels so good in his new life.”

A second, albeit brief, comeback by Schumacher to Formula One would have created quite a stir in the sport, particularly as it would have taken place in the United States and Brazil, two countries where he enjoyed an enormous amount of success during his time with Benetton and Ferrari.

Nico Hulkenberg, who currently drives for Sauber, also turned down an invitation from Lotus to take over Raikkonen’s car for the remainder of the season. It seems that Lotus are not interested in giving their official reserve driver, Davide Valsecchi, a chance, as he has no experience racing in Formula One and Lotus are in need of strong results as they chase after second place in the Constructors’ Championship.

Based on the rumours currently doing the rounds, the most likely driver to take over Raikkonen’s car is Heikki Kovalainen. Although he has not raced in F1 this season, Kovalainen has taken part in six Friday practice sessions for Caterham, for whom he raced from 2010 to 2012. Before that, Kovalainen spent two seasons at McLaren, with whom he won the 2008 Hungarian Grand Prix.

US Grand Prix – Preview

View of the climb up to turn 1 at the Circuit of the Americas (Image: Mercedes)

View of the climb up to turn 1 at the Circuit of the Americas (Image: Mercedes)

11 Formula One teams head to Austin, Texas, this weekend for the United States Grand Prix. It’s the second running of the event at the Circuit of the Americas, which was purpose-built for Formula One.

The track is one of just five anti-clockwise circuits on the F1 calendar, the others being Singapore, Korea, Abu Dhabi and Brazil. The Circuit of the Americas consists of 20 corners, including some that are reminiscent of well known curves on other tracks – notably part of the first sector strong resembles the Maggots-Becketts-Chapel complex at Silverstone, and turns 16 to 18 are a mirror of the long, flat-out triple-apex turn 8 at Istanbul Park in Turkey.

Of the drivers racing this weekend, only Lewis Hamilton has ever won the United States Grand Prix. He won the last event held at Indianapolis in his rookie season of 2007 and won again last year when F1 returned to the US at the Circuit of the Americas. If Hamilton is to maintain his perfect record in the US (he has only raced there twice, and won both times), he will have to beat Sebastian Vettel, who is certainly the form man in Formula One after winning his fourth World Championship just a few weeks ago.

Kimi Raikkonen

This weekend, for the first time since he returned to Formula One in 2012, Kimi Raikkonen will be absent from a Grand Prix. The Finn has elected to miss the final two races of 2013 in order to have surgery to alleviate pain in his back that has apparently troubled him since a heavy testing crash back in 2001.

Lotus have yet to announce the identity of Raikkonen’s replacement for these final two races. Nico Hulkenberg’s manager confirmed this week that Lotus had asked Hulkenberg to race for them, but Hulkenberg turned down the request as he is still committed to Sauber for the rest of the season.

Although Lotus have a full-time reserve in Davide Valsecchi, it looks increasingly unlikely that he will be asked to step in for Raikkonen. The strongest rumours at present are that Heikki Kovalainen will drive for Lotus in the USA and Brazil. The popular and highly-rated Finn has not raced in F1 this season, but has taken part in some Friday practice sessions for Caterham. Kovalainen previously raced for Lotus (when they were called Renault) in 2007, before moving on to McLaren, where he spent two seasons and scored his only F1 victory to date.

Tyres

Pirelli are bringing their two hardest compounds – the hard and medium tyres – to this weekend’s race. Pirelli’s motorsport boss Paul Hembery explains the choice of tyres and what we can expect in terms of pit stops on Sunday:

“The hard and medium tyres are the best choice for the United States Grand Prix, because it’s a circuit that places several high-energy demands on the tyres, so you need the most durable compounds in the range. There are some fast corners and many rapid elevation changes as well: in that respect it’s a bit like Spa. When you have more energy going through the tyre, you have a bigger heat build-up – which is what increases wear and degradation.

“Now that we’re coming to the USA for the second time we have a better idea of what to expect, whereas last year – when we also nominated the hard and the medium – it was much more of a step into the unknown. This year’s compounds are softer, so we would expect around two pit stops in the race, depending also on the rate of track evolution. Even though it’s November we’re still likely to have warm weather, which obviously affects thermal degradation too.”

Stats

Circuit Length: 5.513 km
Corners: 20
Race laps: 56
Race length: 308.405 km
Lap Record: 1:39.347 – Sebastian Vettel / Red Bull Racing (2012)

2012 results:

Race winner: Lewis Hamilton / McLaren
Pole position: Sebastian Vettel / Red Bull Racing – 1:35.657
Fastest lap: Sebastian Vettel / Red Bull Racing – 1:39.347

Weather forecast for the United States Grand Prix from Accuweather.com

Weather forecast for the United States Grand Prix from Accuweather.com

Weather

Accuweather.com is predicting a chance of rain on Saturday, which could result in a mixed-up qualifying session if the weather does intervene. Formula1.com, the official Formula 1 website, is showing a forecast of thunderstorms for Saturday. Friday and Sunday are expected to be dry.

The weekend should generally be warm, which will be good for racing and for race fans who will hopefully turn out in great numbers as they did last year.

Race Prediction

If anyone other than Sebastian Vettel wins on Sunday, it will be an unlikely result. Vettel has won the last seven races in a row in commanding fashion, showing that he is in arguably the form of his career. At this point of the season, the Red Bull RB9 is easily the fastest car in the field, which makes it certain that Vettel and team-mate Mark Webber will be competitive this weekend. Vettel is the firm favourite to win in Texas on Sunday.

Qualifying could provide an interesting battle of the team-mates. In recent races, Mark Webber has found a bit of extra pace and has had two pole positions, including last time out in Abu Dhabi where he produced a stunning lap in qualfiying to relegate Vettel to second on the grid. With just two races left in his F1 career, Webber will be keen to end on a high note, and starting from pole position this weekend would certainly help his cause in that regard.

 

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