Clive Chapman – son of Lotus founder and legendary innovator Colin Chapman – has presented Lotus Racing team principal Tony Fernandes with the famous black cap that his father used to throw in the air each time the team triumphed in a grand prix, 'for when next needed', as Peter Warr opined that 'Colin would have been proud' of the revived and re-invented squad's achievements to-date.
Having gained its 2010 F1 World Championship entry the latest of any of the – initially four but subsequently three, following the very public failure of USF1 to make the grade – newcomers this year, Lotus faced a race against time to play catch-up, but on the evidence of the curtain-raising Bahrain Grand Prix at Sakhir at the weekend, the team is already very much on its way.
The only one of the new contenders to see both of its cars classified in the final results in the desert kingdom – in fact the only one of them to get any cars to the end of the race at all – Lotus might have seen former Monaco Grand Prix-winner Jarno Trulli forced to stop out on circuit on the final lap with hydraulic issues, but considering neither Virgin nor Hispania (HRT), nor even Sauber or Renault saw the chequered flag at all, it was undeniably an excellent showing.
To top it all, Heikki Kovalainen in the sister T127 – evocatively decked out in Lotus' iconic Racing Green and Yellow livery – set a fastest lap time just over a second adrift of that of highly-rated Williams rookie Nico Hülkenberg and two-and-a-half seconds off that of record-breaking seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher on the German's comeback with Mercedes Grand Prix.
As a reward, a beaming and palpably proud Fernandes was presented with Chapman's celebrated black cap, in a box and accompanied by the message 'For when next needed'. That moment might still be some time away yet, but the Malaysian entrepreneur is convinced that it will come.
“I think we are vindicated in our approach, in that we always said we were going to do it steadily and right,” he told Reuters
. “It's a great day for me. We had to build everything from scratch. At the middle of September we only had three staff and an empty factory in Hingham. I am very proud.
“What made the day for me was Clive Chapman coming to me and giving me his father's black cap...he said 'you are the man who is going to carry on my father's tradition'.”
The Anglo/Malaysian concern's esteemed and experienced chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne – who confessed to having been a lone ranger in the design department when Lotus Racing initially formed seven months ago – concurred that the cap would act as an inspiration to everyone within the team. The Englishman lauded the progress made thus far – and argued there is plenty more still to come, given that the primary focus up to now has been on perfecting reliability rather than extracting out-and-ort performance from the car.
“If we'd have had another three or six months, we'd have been not far behind the established teams,” the 46-year-old contended. “We made some compromises; the car is actually over-cooled and we were running tape on the radiators [in Bahrain]. That means we can take weight out of it, we can push it. We think we made the right calls and the right decisions, and now we need to make it quicker.