New Monza package big test for Lotus 2014

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The success of Lotus’s long-wheelbase car will be a key barometer of the team’s technical approach to the 2014 Formula 1 campaign, according to team principal Eric Boullier.

The long-wheelbase version of the E21 will run for the first time at next week’s Italian Grand Prix and its development has been driven by the team’s driver-in-loop simulator, which came online last year.

It is the first time Lotus has used the simulator for such a major change after the team’s vehicle dynamics group suggested doing so.

Boullier believes it is important to try the long wheelbase car as it will validate the way the simulator is being used as a key part of the development process, particularly with a view to next season.

“We have to do it because we have to test our system,” Boullier told AUTOSPORT.

“The decision-making process is now much more complex because it includes the simulator, which gives more importance to vehicle performance. But we have to see if it works.

“It [the change] is vehicle performance driven. We had to test after to make sure there was no downside on the aero and it looks like there is actually some upside.

“In the end, the driver likes it in the simulator, so let’s see if this new way of working is delivering.”


dpl1325au181_krsIt is hoped the new-specification machine will boost Lotus’s form in the final eight races of the year.

Boullier accepts that Raikkonen’s retirement from the Belgian GP, which was caused by a discarded visor tear-off lodging in a brake duct, has effectively put the Finn out of championship contention.

But the team remains confident of a strong finish to the season that will allow it to climb from its current fourth place in the constructors’ championship.

“It’s a blow,” Boullier told AUTOSPORT. “We will not give up but it’s difficult to recover 65 points.

“We are trying to do our best to keep up the fight for constructors’ championship position.

“I’m more hopeful for the rest of the season [after Europe] because Spa and Monza were always going to be difficult.”

2 thoughts on “New Monza package big test for Lotus 2014

  1. Gonna share this feature because we Kimi fans deserve it after Spa disappointment:

    Lotus will introduce a long-wheelbase version of the E21 at Monza. EDD STRAW investigates what it could mean for Kimi Raikkonen’s season

    Realistically, the Belgian Grand Prix marked the end of Kimi Raikkonen’s 2013 world championship hopes.

    The gap of 63 points to Sebastian Vettel is not impossible to close, but given the relative pace of the Lotus E21 the Finn simply does not have the tools at his disposal to repeat his feat of 2007, when he closed a gap equivalent to 60 points in ‘new money’ to Lewis Hamilton to win the title. But there is hope…

    Lotus will try out a long-wheelbase version of its Lotus E21 at Monza, as revealed by AUTOSPORT last week. Achieved by angling the front suspension forward and expected to extend the wheelbase by approximately 100mm, at least one version of this new specification Lotus, which has been in the works for some time, will be unleashed.

    The process of adopting a longer wheelbase is not as difficult as some might suspect. One option is to extend the monocoque, but in the case of Lotus it requires only the production of new suspension parts and the extension of the nose in order to ensure the front wing is far enough forward of the tyres. But that’s not to say it’s simple enough to do to make it viable on a whim.

    The question is, why do it at all? Perhaps surprisingly, the answer lies in the team’s relatively new driver-in-loop simulator, which came online last season.

    “It’s one of the results of the new process we have with the new driver-in-loop simulator,” explains team principal Eric Boullier. “Different teams use different strategies for the simulator. Red Bull, for example, uses it as a third ‘virtual’ car [on grand prix weekends] which we don’t want to do.

    “We prefer to use it in the decision-making process. Because we don’t have the same money as Red Bull, we have to work differently. And to make sure we are even more accurate when we deliver parts to the race team, we have put the simulator into the decision-making process.

    “The vehicle performance group came up with the idea of changing the wheelbase. We then had to correlate with the windtunnel, so it’s a complex story. But in the end, all of the different groups believe it is a performance bonus, so we go for it.”

    The involvement of the simulator means even before the car hits the track at Monza, the drivers will haven ‘driven’ it. Well, one of them will. The long-wheelbase car has been tried out by Lotus development driver Nicolas Prost, but of the race drivers only Romain Grosjean has sampled it. As Boullier puts it: “Kimi is not very interested in the simulator.”

    A final decision has not yet been made on exactly how Lotus will run its two cars at Monza. Partly, it depends on whether Lotus can manufacturer the specific parts in time.

    “I don’t know yet,” says Boullier of plans for Monza. “There is a production lead time and I don’t know if we can supply both cars or one as we need spares. You can always bring two sets to the track, but you need spares or it does not make sense to do both cars. Maybe we will compare them – run one car in the basic configuration and one with the long wheelbase to see what the gain is.

    “Everybody has had to work on this new concept because it changes the set-up of the car, the suspension, the aerodynamics. Even the nose needed a new crash test, so it’s a big job.”

    With Lotus never quite having had the pace to emerge as a consistent challenger for victory this year, the logical question is whether it is hoped the lengthening of the wheelbase is about raising the ceiling of what can be extracted from the car. Boullier suggests this is not the case, insisting that it is for handling reasons that the change is being made, even though it turns out there is a small aerodynamic benefit.

    “I don’t think it’s driven by this idea,” he says. “F1 is mainly aero-driven in terms of performance, but the vehicle performance group has come up with something to help the handling of the car. It doesn’t change the car drastically and it’s more about the dynamics rather than the aero side. But maybe it will open some new doors in other areas.”

    Inevitably, there is a degree of risk in what Lotus is doing. But given the team’s position of fourth in the constructors’ championship, 122 points clear of McLaren, there is no tremendous downside. Hopes weren’t particularly high for Monza anyway, so in a worst-case scenario, if the long wheelbase doesn’t work out as hoped it will cost some practice time on a weekend that wasn’t going to be great.

    But Lotus is confident that the change will work. This is no blind gamble. Crucially, if it works it also validates the way in which the driver-in-loop simulator is being used.

    “There is always a risk,” says Boullier. “No team in the paddock can tell you bringing an upgrade to the track today carries no risk. It’s true that this one is maybe more risky because there are consequences to the suspension, the aero, the handling.

    “But we have to do it because we have to test our system. The decision-making process is now more complex because it includes the simulator, which gives more importance to vehicle performance. We have to see if it works.”

    Inevitably, the introduction of the long wheelbase car will also be seen as an acid test for technical director Nick Chester. Chester took the job vacated by the highly-rated James Allison, who quit the team before signing up for Ferrari.

    But Boullier is quick to stress that as Chester stepped up from within the team, where he previously held the role of engineering director, that change has been seamless.

    “It’s the same as before,” he says. “You have different models, like the Red Bull model with Adrian Newey delivering ideas, concepts and drawings, but ours is different.

    “We have a group of between 10 and 20 people who are suggesting ideas and concepts. It is not only down to one person; it’s a small group and the technical director is the final decision-maker except in the case where there is a big impact on the car, in which case it includes me as well.

    “Nick naturally stepped into the shoes of James as all the same people are still around. The flow of ideas and concepts is still the same.”

    Inevitably, any coverage of Lotus is always dogged by questions about the team’s budget. But the willingness to continue to develop its 2013 car, combined with the fact that facilities such as the simulator and, more recently, a gearbox dyno, have come online backs up Genii Capital’s claims that there is still some money there.

    “These are just typical rumours,” insists Boullier. “It’s true that we are tight on cashflow and are not spending money crazily, but we are still doing our development right.”


  2. Thanx a lot Saima, quite interesting but not really reassuring. Lotus were nowhere last year in Monza and i just hope the new package will enable Kimi to fight for 3rd place. unfortunately Monza is one of the 4 mythical circuit (monaco, spa, silverstone) where Kimi has never won and i hope we won’t have that regret when he quits F1. Lewis has done that feat i think. Concerning the rest of the season i’ll be happy if Kimi snatches one more victory, i won’t be easy though. Texas n India are the two best chances personally, the weather n0 the temperature should help the Lotus there. Singapore should also suit the E21 but i’m expecting the Mercedes n Bulls to be massively quick there, the pace of the 3 different teams should be quite on par but i’m expecting race to be ruined by bad quali or the rain which is supposed to disturb the race each year will happen this time. Anyway the championship is over for Kimi but i hope he gives it everything to finish runner-up, i think its quite a realistic target but Lotus will surely give up on the development of the E21. Beat Alonso n Lewis. C’mon Enstone


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