Crash.Net F1 News
Barcelona 'must see next step forward' for Lotus
18 May 2011
Mike Gascoyne has said that it is imperative that Team Lotus takes another bite out of the gap between itself and the F1 midfield at this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix, and is confident that the Hingham squad's latest development upgrade will help achieve that aim.
Still to score points since its return to the top flight in 2010, Lotus had hoped to be mixing it with the likes of Williams, Force India and Toro Rosso this season but, apart from the odd result to that effect, has yet to make the T128 a regular member of the midfield pack. The team's best result of the season remains Jarno Trulli's 13th place in Melbourne, as improved reliability throughout the field has highlighted the car's lack of outright performance compared to its anticipated rivals.
The second European race of the season, however, returns the field to a familiar hunting ground, the Circuit de Catalunya, and Gascoyne is hoping that the update package being brought for the T128 will help transform it into a contender for points.
"What was pleasing about Turkey was that the qualifying performance was really good, but we hadn't brought any updates as most of the other teams had," he told the team's Lotus Notes e-zine, "Our update package is coming for Barcelona and that is a very significant upgrade package.
"We think our update is going to allow us to take a clear step into the midfield so that we are qualifying with them and out-racing them more and more. I think that we are reasonably happy, but Barcelona has got to see the next step forward."
The gap to a struggling Williams team in qualifying at Istanbul Park was around nine-tenths of a second, but Gascoyne is hopeful of closing that gap, and maybe more, once the latest package is fitted to the cars of Trulli and team-mate Heikki Kovalainen.
"It might take us a couple of races to fully exploit it, as I think it is going to depend on the blown floor and engine strategies - some people have more experience than us with that - but we expect our update to be significant. I think we'll see a big step and I think there is more to come over the coming races."
The development centres on a new diffuser and, despite speculation that the FIA was going to crack down on the effectiveness of exhaust-blown systems, a revised rear end.
"It's a Red Bull-style exhaust and diffuser package," Gascoyne confirmed, "We didn't implement a blown diffuser package last year, [and] were only able to really evaluate [this year's] in the windtunnel from Christmas onwards, so we were playing catch-up in this area.
"I think, with a lot of teams, you can see it's been a hot topic at the start of this year, so it's pretty natural that that was going to be an area we looked at. We've seen from the development we've done that it a very big step - far bigger than you would normally expect to be making, which is why everybody else has obviously done it. The good thing is that it means we can catch up with those in front who already have it.
"You'll get more downforce and that will switch the tyres on more quickly. The one question is can we keep the better tyre degradation in the race? Or do we start to suffer like the other teams? In the race, we're very kind with the tyres, so you saw us beating Williams in China by doing one stop less than them. But the unknown is whether we start to get higher degradation when we get more downforce."
Despite having Marussia Virgin and HRT comfortably in the rear view mirror this season, and tenth place in the championship beckoning once again, Gascoyne still insists that it would not yet be appropriate to switch newly arrived Mark Smith to work on the 2012 car.
"Not really," he admitted, "I think we won't abandon the 2011 car because there are no real rule chances fort next year, so it's really just a question of when you stop putting upgrades on one car and develop them for the next one."