Having proudly watched the chassis he helped to conceive prove to be arguably the best of the new teams in the opening races of the F1 2010 World Championship, the Lotus Racing T127's consultant chief designer Mark Tatham now has his sights set on other projects in the top flight, possibly even as soon as this year.
Tatham – whose 20-year F1 career has seen him work with Tyrrell, Williams and Toyota – was taken on as a consultant by Mike Gascoyne's MGI Motorsport to play a central role in the design of Lotus' 2010 challenger. The task included specification for the car design and development and management of an engineering team to undertake the work.
Heikki Kovalainen's 15th and 13th-place finishes in Bahrain and Australia respectively, allied to team-mate Jarno Trulli's 17th place in Malaysia, meant that Lotus was the only one of the three new teams to see at least one of its cars take the chequered flag in all three of the first grands prix of the campaign. The Finn subsequently added to that record in Shanghai by coming in 14th in Shanghai last time out, impressively ahead of Nico Hülkenberg's Williams.
“It has been a very encouraging start to the season,” admitted Tatham. “To see the car crossing the finish line as the best of the new teams in Bahrain and Australia were extremely proud moments.
“I've been involved in this project with Lotus Racing right from the very beginning, providing technical support to the team for the FIA selection process and then managing a complete 'clean sheet' design of the car in an incredibly short time frame. For our creations to be starting the season so strongly is a great achievement for me and all the guys at Lotus Racing.”
After graduating from the prestigious Cranfield Institute of Technology in the UK with a Masters Degree in Automotive Engineering, Tatham's F1 career began as a race engineer with Tyrrell in 1990. He was promoted to senior design engineer in 1994, before spending nine years in the same role at Williams from 1996 to 2005. More recently, he was chassis project Leader at Toyota and was responsible for the design and development of the TF107 and TF109 models, the latter of which was a regular podium finisher in 2009.
“The Lotus Racing project was probably the biggest challenge of my career so far, but also one of the most enjoyable,” he candidly reflected. “It was a massive undertaking, but exactly the kind of challenge that makes F1 the pinnacle of this sport and so enjoyable to be part of.”
The project was handed over to Lotus Racing in Norfolk prior to the start of the season, and Tatham's recently formed MTO Consulting is now working on other ventures in various sectors of the motorsport and automotive industries. However, he has not ruled out more involvement for the company at the highest level this year.
“There are several projects that are of interest to us, but my background is in F1 and if the opportunity arose for MTO Consulting to work on another F1 programme, then we would certainly consider it,” he conceded.
“We have a thorough understanding of the 2011 technical regulations and a proven track record of getting a car on the grid in a short time frame, so if we were approached by an existing team or by whoever the FIA awards the 13th entry to, then I'm very confident that we could do it again next year.”