Meet the Lotus E23…a Williams killer?

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Car reveals can be a fun time in the Formula 1 year and while the past used to have grand events at exotic locations, one of the “interweb’s” down sides is that we don’t have those anymore. Probably for the best, though, as they were expensive to host and that money could be saved for other uses. Now all the cars are released “online” with little fanfare.

It’s also been a tough year for Lotus. Having once challenged for podiums, it seems that Williams has supplanted them as the new darling of the paddock as sponsors have left Lotus to joint he rising star with the cool Martini stripes, dynamic driver duo, female reserve driver and female team boss. It’s an appealing elixir for any would-be sponsor and the charming love that F1 fans have for Williams doesn’t hurt either.

Having said that, Lotus have also struggled financially and their staff have been the target for poaching as well as layoffs and they were a key voice in the cost-cutting dialog at 2014’s end of season discussions. Facing a mounting issue of lean staff, lost sponsors and sparse resources, the team have soldiered on and made the best of a bad situation given their dismal 2014 performances on track.

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Today the team announced their new 2015 challenger, the E23. It’s a beauty of a car with one aim—taking the fight to the paddock nemesis, the ever charming and on-the-rise Williams.

Matthew Carter, Lotus F1 Team CEO:

“The E23 Hybrid represents a new era for Lotus F1 Team, not only in the change to a Mercedes Benz Power Unit, but also it is the fruition of a busy winter behind the scenes. Improvements within our Design, Aero and Simulation departments have all contributed to the development of a car which is a huge step forward. As a team we are confident that the new car coupled with additions to the Race team will enable a huge leap forward and we are full of optimism going into the new season. It is time to put the disappointment of last season behind us and benefit from 12 months of hard work; we are ready to return to our rightful place at the pinnacle of the sport.”

Nick Chester, Lotus F1 Team Technical Director:

“The E23 Hybrid represents a massive step forward for us. It’s no secret that we struggled with last year’s car so we’ve targeted every area that caused us an issue. We’ve made strong progress in the wind tunnel as well as in areas such as packaging and cooling. We expect the E23 to perform far, far better than its predecessor. In terms of what’s new, obviously a massive change for us is a new Power Unit supplier. We made this change as it looked and looks to be the one area of the car which could bring us the greatest performance gain. It’s not just performance, but reliability and driveability as well as packaging and cooling too. The E22 did deliver good figures in the wind tunnel, even if it was difficult to unlock its potential, so we’ve paid more attention to making the characteristics of the car more adaptable. In terms of the suspension, we were delivered something of a blow last year when the front-rear interconnected suspension was outlawed mid-season. The E23’s suspension design is specific to the updated regulations so we’re not trying to update a system originally intended to work a different way. We learnt a lot in many areas of the car over the course of 2014 so there are many lessons which have been applied. We know we’ve made a big step. We won’t know how our car will fare in relative terms until we’re out in action at a Grand Prix, but we certainly expect to be much more competitive than last year.”

While the team’s commentary via a press release are all well intended, AUTOSPORT revealed the target of their 2015 campaign:

“We are hoping that we can challenge and get around where Williams are,” said Carter, who revealed that windtunnel figures for the new E23 had been hugely encouraging.

“I don’t want to be too optimistic, because it is important to be realistic, but finishing third or fourth in the constructors’ championship is really our target.

“But that is largely dependent on how Red Bull cope with Renault, what Honda do with McLaren and where Ferrari get to.”

Now I’ll admit that I, like throngs of other F1 fans, like Williams a lot and have always wanted them to return to glory and do well. However, just to keep things frosty, I’ll be a bit cheeky this year and say that I’d love to see this team take the fight to Williams and get back to where it was in 2013—on the podium.

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This Enstone team has faced a lot of adversity including tragic loss of an employee on site, poached employees and brain trust, sponsor departures, the Tony Fernandes effect, the Danny Behar and Lotus war, Spygate and dwindling capital. Keep in mind that this is the team that won two titles with Michael Schumacher as Benetton and two title with Fernando Alonso as Renault. It got its start as Toleman with a turbo engine and the late Ayrton Senna drove for them.

It’s history as a rich, complicated story of highs and lows. I, for one, hope their new Mercedes engine will push them up to the front with the new E23 and that this team will find success again, even if that means kicking Williams in the shin in the process—don’t worry, Williams is tough, they can take it.

Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT and Lotus F1

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