The Circus Kicks off in Enstone

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The world watched with bated breath as Romain and Kimi slowly drew back the barely see-through cover. Will this finally be the car that puts the Enstone squad back on top? Will this be the car that makes Kimi a double world champion. Will this be the first car that Romain doesn’t crash?

All of these questions will have to wait until Melbourne, for even testing doesn’t give a clear indication of what will be the performance hierarchy of that particular season. Mclaren and 2011 testing can attest to this.

What the world does know is that F1 in 2013 is fully underway, even though we have yet to see a new car on track. Right from the moment that cream colored canvas was drawn away from the Lotus E21, Red Bull, Mclaren, Ferrari, Mercedes and all the other teams on the grid for this year were scrutinizing the car to the last detail to see if there was something they missed that Lotus though of. While good looks of the car on the technical side of things wasn’t realistic, you’d be surprised what you can notice from a quick glance.

For example, the Lotus E21 has vanes over the side pods. If they look familiar to you, you should recognize them from the post-Germany 2012 Mclaren. These additions help direct airflow down over the exhaust, manipulating the direction of the airflow to the diffuser. Exhaust flow will once again be a bid talking point throughout the season as teams try to regain lost downforce after the blown-diffusers were banned after 2011.

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Lotus have also drawn some technical inspiration from Red Bull (who wouldn’t?) with their exhausts. The Coanda effect was put to use in the latter half of 2012 to improve exhaust flow towards the diffuser. This technique utilizes a sort of concave part at the exhaust exits to which the gases will adhere to, thus keeping the flow in the direction of the floor. What Lotus have done, is taken inspiration from Red Bull’s design, with a tunnel shape. This shape is more vertical than last years’.

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With a lot of technical inspiration drawn from other teams, will Lotus have something original up their sleeves to spank the competition?  Most likely not.  The stable regulations for this season don’t exactly encourage revolution.  Evolution is more on the menu for 2013.  The revolution will come for 2014. Something that Lotus could have an advantage with, though, is their passive double DRS.  They explored this concept during the middle part of the season.  What this system does is stall the rear wing via an attachment near the gearbox which will activate at certain speeds.  They tested this in Hungary, Spa and Italy but abandoned the project for the 2012 season so they could focus on it during testing.  Their experience with it will certainly be an advantage, especially considering this technology will be the most highly explored 2013.

Aesthetically, I find the E20 very pleasing.  The splashes of red on the side-pods (which reminds me of the red on the Mclaren side-pods), front wing and roll hoop gives the famous black and gold livery a bit of excitement.  The car as a whole is pretty slick if you ask me.  The stepped nose is still here for 2013.  Technical director, James Allison, said at the launch that the extra (if minute) weight from the optional panels available to use to cover the step was not worth it.  He did say that if they could make a panel that added downforce, they would explore it, but for now, it’s baby steps to their acceptance.  I don’t find the noses particularly annoying, even though they aren’t that good looking.  Everyone thought they would hate the F1 cars that came from the 2009 regulation changes, but now we love them.  They’re just something we’ll get used to.

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Certainly, the Lotus will be at the sharp end of the grid in 2013. Whether it will be a contender for the occasional win or the whole championship is another matter.  Regardless, the future looks bright for the Enstone squad.  They have two extremely talented drivers capable of wins and championships.  They just need the car to do the same.  Only time and testing will tell if this circus we call Formula One will have a black, gold and red machine as the star of the show.

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