Feb.15 (Lotus) James Allison, technical director of Lotus F1 Team, gives insight into the workings of his team during the crucial Formula 1 pre-season as they prepare the impressive E20 for Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean ahead of the 2012 Formula 1 season.
This week back at Enstone the team are focusing on the build-up of chassis two to be used at the Barcelona test. Is this process slightly easier now that you have experience from the first chassis build?
When you do the first chassis build of a new car there are always a couple of things that need to be re-positioned compared with where you expect them to be. When it comes to the second build you’re already aware of these elements, so it becomes a case of copying what you’ve done previously. So yes, it generally takes a little less time to do the second one than the first as you’re not having to find ways around things.
This year’s design is perhaps slightly more conventional than last year’s, particularly without the forward-facing exhaust concept. Has this also helped make things easier in the build process and on track?
Not having the forward facing exhaust has definitely made the car build part of the process simpler. It’s much quicker to get the car turned around every evening and get it ready for the next day’s running because it’s a more straightforward layout. In terms of running and analysing the car on the track, there shouldn’t have been anything inherently difficult about last year’s car, but it did turn out to be quite challenging as the exhaust system created several aerodynamic issues. So in that respect the E20 is easier to work with again. This means our race engineers can fill their boots with springs, roll bars, tyre pressures, cambers, and so on; all the conventional tools in the engineer’s arsenal.
With such an immensely complex design as a modern Formula 1 car, the build process must be far from simple. Do the team have a ‘Haynes Manual’ style guide to help them through?
Allison: Every part on the car is detailed in an assembly drawing, so typically each sub-system, like the power steering, the brakes or the front / rear suspension for example, has a drawing showing how it all bolts together and describing how it should be set up / operated. These drawings show in some detail what goes in what order. The race team then supplement the assembly information with an indexed photo library showing the best practise routing of the various cables and pipes. We don’t need to be quite as verbose perhaps as a Haynes Manual, because the guys who design the car are only upstairs from the guys who are building it, so you can have some dialogue in place of documentation.
With so much development still on going at this early stage of the season, how different will the E20 that sits on the grid in Melbourne be to the car we’ve already seen at Jerez?
Allison: The car we take to Melbourne will be significantly different to the one we ran in Jerez. There’s a lot of work still to do before the season opener, and so many elements will change; the front wing, rear wing, side pods, pod vanes, engine cover, barge board, floor, some suspension elements, and some small brake duct features to name but a few! As always, it’s going to be a very busy few weeks.