21 February 2014
Lotus: F1 teams all expecting the unexpected!
The new 2014 F1 technical regulations will keep teams guessing well beyond the opening grand prix in Melbourne, according to Lotus technical director Nick Chester.
Lotus F1 technical director Nick Chester admits that reliability is expected to remain a concern for all eleven teams through to the opening race of the season in Melbourne – and maybe beyond.
Speaking as Lotus formally unveiled its E22 in the Bahrain International Circuit pit-lane, Chester could not avoid the talking point of the first two test sessions, even though his squad opted to skip the opening session at Jerez towards the end of January. Although the team subsequently claimed to have completed 100km of running during a private 'filming day' at the same venue shortly before departing for Bahrain, it has since encountered similar problems to the other Renault-powered runners, with Romain Grosjean's track time limited at BIC.
“[Reliability] is a big concern for all teams, as everything is so new and different from the cars we've used before,” he explained, “We've seen from initial testing that some cars were able to get a good number of laps under their belt very quickly and others were not. Every team will learn a lot in the first races and we all expect the unexpected!
“The racing in 2014 is going to be very interesting! We're all expecting surprises and it's difficult to forecast exactly who's going to be where on the grid at the start of a race weekend - and particularly difficult to forecast the order at the end of one. The challenges we all face with these new regulations, such as only having 100kg of fuel means the energy management through a race will be an area of tremendous focus. It's going to be quite exciting.
“I don't think any team will have as good a finishing record as in previous seasons as the last generation of cars were so well developed and their reliability was so strong. Our challenge is to get the 2014 cars to be as reliable as their forebears despite all the new technology included. That would be a tremendous achievement for F1.”
With other teams conceding that they may have taken packaging of the new-for-2014 'power units' to the extreme, Chester revealed the extent of the problem faced by designers when dealing with the various essential systems.
“The new power units incorporate waste heat and braking energy recovery systems and these form a much bigger percentage of the complete package than before,” he pointed out, “There is a bigger energy store to package, a lot more electrical cabling and the cooling requirements are much greater than we've seen in previous years. The systems are much more complicated.
“If you put the E21 next to the E22 and stripped off the bodywork, you'd see a lot of major differences. For example, the radiators on the E21 are significantly smaller than those on the E22 due to the far greater cooling requirements this year. The engine of the E22 – being a 1.6 litre V6 – is a lot smaller than the 2.4 litre V8s we've used most recently, but the latest gearboxes are larger than those we've seen before. Certainly, the energy recovery, storage and deployment systems, and all the electronics related to these mean the internal architecture of the E22 is every different from that of the E21.
“Trying to create an elegant package for the power unit and cooling systems has been difficult, but we're very happy of the progress we made in this area.”
With changes to cars already being seen between tests, Chester is certain that tweaking packaging and design will continue, not just up to Melbourne, but throughout the early part of the season.
“We're all still getting used to the new regulations, so I expect there will be a much higher rate of development through the season as we learn more about these cars,” he confirmed, “This will probably mean that the competitive order shuffles somewhat over the course of the year as different teams unlock the potential of their cars at different rates.
“It's going to be very interesting to see all the cars running together and fascinating to watch the first races unfold.”
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