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 will not race at the final two rounds of this season in the United States and Brazil, the Lotus team has confirmed. Raikkonen is set to undergo surgery on his back that will put him out of action for a few weeks.
Raikkonen has complained of back trouble for some time. He reportedly injured his back in a testing crash in 2001, and has apparently had problems ever since. Raikkonen’s back pain affected his race weekend in Singapore earlier this year, where it seemed possible that he would be unable to race. Raikkonen did race, although he struggled heavily in qualifying, and finished third in one of his more impressive drives of the season. Afterwards, he stated that he would likely seek treatment for his back after the end of the season. Based on these most recent developments, it seems that he is unable to put off treatment until the season is finished.
Before the most recent race, in Abu Dhabi, Raikkonen was embroiled in a dispute with Lotus over pay, and it was doubtful if he would race in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. But Raikkonen arrived and competed, and by the end of the weekend it seemed that he had come to an agreement with the team and would see out the rest of the season.
Whether or not Raikkonen and Lotus have in reality patched up their relationship is now irrelevant. His back surgery means Raikkonen’s time with Lotus is effectively over. It was announced some time ago that Raikkonen is to drive for Ferrari again from 2014, and this latest announcement means he has already driven his last race for Lotus.
The big question for Lotus now is: who will drive Raikkonen’s car in the final two races of the season? Davide Valsecchi is the team’s third driver this season, but he has not yet raced in Formula One. Valsecchi has driven this year’s Lotus on two occasions – once in pre-season testing and again at the Young Driver Test at Silverstone in July – but that is by no means ideal preparation for a race weekend. He has been present at the races this season in his role as reserve driver, and it looked possible for a while that he would race in Abu Dhabi before Raikkonen turned up.
In terms of team development, Valsecchi is the obvious choice. He is the team’s reserve driver, and they are presumably grooming him for a possible race drive in the future. If he is given the nod to race over the next two weeks, Valsecchi will have a chance to prove his worth to the team and justify the faith they have already shown in him.
Lotus are currently fourth in the Constructors’ Championship and aiming to catch Ferrari, who are 26 points ahead in third place. In order to do that, they need to score significant points at each of the two remaining races. While there’s no doubt that Grosjean is capable of two strong finishes, Valsecchi is an unknown quantity in Formula One. All drivers take some time to get used to racing in F1 machinery, and that suggests that Valsecchi might, through no fault of his own, struggle to produce performances that will help his team to third place in the Constructors’ Championship.
Therefore, Lotus might want to look to a more experienced driver as a safer option in terms of points scoring ability. In 2012, Lotus put Jérôme D’Ambrosio in Romain Grosjean’s car when Grosjean was banned for the Italian Grand Prix. D’Ambrosio did not score points on that occasion – he finished 13th – but he has 20 Grand Prix starts to his name, which is at least some experience.
There is the admittedly not very strong possibility that Lotus might try to lure Nico Hulkenberg away from Sauber for the final two races of the season. Hulkenberg has been linked with the team for a possible race drive in 2014. If that deal has in fact been done, it would make sense for Lotus to try to integrate Hulkenberg into the team as soon as possible. That would, of course, raise the issue of who would drive Hulkenberg’s Sauber in the final two rounds of the 2013 season.
Lotus have not as yet announced who the replacement driver will be. All they have said is, “The team will make an announcement about the replacement driver for the United States and Brazilian Grands Prix in due course.”
Williams development driver Susie Wolff has been confirmed as a competitor in this year’s Race of Champions. She will form an all-Scottish pairing in Team GB with former Formula One driver David Coulthard.
The Race of Champions is an annual event that sees competitors from various motorsport disciplines pitted against each other in a series of races in equal machinery. Pairings from various countries compete for the Nations Cup and there is also an individual competition, the winner of which is crowned “Champion of Champions”. Last year’s individual winner was Lotus F1 driver Romain Grosjean.
Team Germany, consisting of four-time Formula One World Champion Sebastian Vettel and retired F1 legend Michael Schumacher, has won the Nations Cup six years in a row. Schumacher has confirmed that he will be back this year, and Vettel is also expected to compete.
In the team event, Susie Wolff and David Coulthard will represent Team GB (Great Britain), and will be aiming to dethrone the all-conquering Germans.
Wolff and Coulthard have competed on the same track quite a few times, when both raced in the DTM series from 2010 to 2012. They will be competing with each other again in the individual event of this year’s Race of Champions. Last year Coulthard reached the semi-final stage, proving that he still has plenty of skill behind the wheel despite having retired from racing.
This will be Susie Wolff’s first Race of Champions, and in fact the first appearance in the competition by a woman. Wolff has plenty of racing experience, although she hasn’t competed full-time in any racing series this year while she’s been concentrating on her job as development driver for the Williams Formula One team. Before joining Williams, Wolff competed full-time in DTM for seven years.
Susie Wolff expressed her enthusiasm for the upcoming event:
“Any driver would love to be invited to do the Race Of Champions,” said Wolff. “It’s an event I have watched as far back as I can remember. What is so exciting is that the cars race head-to-head and you can see how close it is: it always comes down to hundredths. Jumping in and out of the different cars is going to be the real challenge. You need to make sure your car control is as good as it can be because you don’t have time to get a proper feeling for the car, you just get in and go.
“Then there’s the ROC Nations Cup, where I certainly feel responsibility to make sure we do well as a nation. I know David from our time in DTM and I rate him really highly so to be part of the team alongside him makes me very proud. Of course we’ll be up against drivers who are absolutely at the top of their game. So I know it’s not going to be easy but I’m relishing the challenge.”
The Race of Champions will take place in Bangkok on 14 and 15 December 2013.
Sebastian Vettel was so confident after his first run in the final part of today’s qualfiying session, he decided not to go back out on fresh tyres and instead watched from the garage as the other drivers attempted unsuccessfully to beat his early lap time.
It almost went horribly wrong for Vettel. In the dying moments of the Q3 session Mark Webber, Nico Rosberg and Romain Grosjean all delivered strong lap times that secured each of them a top four grid slot, but they didn’t quite have the pace to knock Vettel off the top spot. As a result, Vettel will start this weekend’s race from pole position, his fifth pole of the season and the 41st of his career.
The top five drivers are not much of a surprise, although behind Vettel the order would have been quite difficult to predict. Vettel, Webber, Rosberg and Hamilton have been in the top few places in each practice session this weekend. Grosjean struggled on Friday but showed his pace when he was second fastest in final practice. The big surprise of qualifying came from Kimi Raikkonen, who failed to make Q3 and will start Sunday’s race from 13th on the grid.
Raikkonen’s woes started on Friday, when he hurt his back on the bumpy street circuit. In Saturday’s FP3 session, his running was limited by his back pain, which hurt his qualifying preparation. After having an injection for the pain, he was in the car for qualifying, but struggled to maximise the car’s potential. For Sunday’s race, he will be in the car, but it remains to be seen how well he will do at a very physical track while in a state of discomfort.
Fernando Alonso was outqualified by Felipe Massa for the fifth time this season and the second race in succession. Massa will start sixth, just behind Lewis Hamilton, with Alonso following in seventh place. The battle of the Ferrari drivers could prove entertaining tomorrow, as Massa has stated publicly that he no longer intends to help Alonso now that he is out of a drive at Ferrari at the end of this season. Only once this year has Massa finished ahead of Alonso in a race, and that was in Malaysia where Alonso crashed out.
This qualifying session marked the first time Esteban Gutierrez has featured in Q3 in his F1 career. He opted not to run in Q3 in order to save tyres and have a choice of tyres on which to start the race, but nonetheless qualified 10th, improving on his previous best of 14th. Gutierrez has yet to score points in Formula One, and will be keen to break that duck in tomorrow’s Singapore Grand Prix.
Full results from qualifying:
|1||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||1:45.376||1:42.905||1:42.841|
|4||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull||1:45.271||1:43.727||1:43.152|
|9||19||Daniel Ricciardo||Toro Rosso||1:45.379||1:44.407||1:44.439|
|12||18||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso||1:45.657||1:44.588|
|15||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India||1:45.960||1:45.185|
|17||14||Paul di Resta||Force India||1:46.121|
|20||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham||1:48.320|
|Q1 107% Time||1:51.489|
Sebastian Vettel seems determined to clinch his fourth Drivers’ Championship at the earliest possible opportunity in the 2013 season. He’s won the last two races to take his victory tally to six this season, and he’s setting the pace in Singapore ahead of Saturday’s qualfiying session.
The only driver who’s managed to come anywhere close to Vettel on the supersoft tyres this weekend is Lotus’s Romain Grosjean. The Frenchman finished FP3 just 0.191 seconds slower than Vettel, an impressive performance in a Lotus that looked off the pace on Friday.
For Mercedes and Ferrari, things are not going quite so well. Nico Rosberg put his Silver Arrow third in the final practice session, but he was over half a second off the pace, which is a long way to catch up if he is to challenge for pole position.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who desperately needs a win this weekend to keep Vettel in his sights in the title race, was sixth fastest, a full second off the pace of Vettel. It’s possible that Ferrari were hiding their pace in order to lull Red Bull into complacency, but even so a second is a lot of pace to hide.
The only drama of the session was provided by Paul Di Resta, who spun under braking for turn 5. He managed to keep his Force India out of the barriers and carried on, but will have done his tyres no favours in the process. He finished the session all the way down in 16th place.
Full results from FP3:
|1||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||1:44.173||15|
|4||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull||1:44.906||0.733||14|
|11||18||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso||1:46.084||1.911||15|
|14||19||Daniel Ricciardo||Toro Rosso||1:46.358||2.185||16|
|16||14||Paul di Resta||Force India||1:46.879||2.706||16|
|18||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India||1:47.249||3.076||19|
|19||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham||1:48.931||4.758||17|