Lotus Technical Director Nick Chester is virtually writing off the first two races of the season, but feels that by race three the E22 will be “on the pace”, although he admits that it all depends on how Renault progress with the required fixes for their problematic V6 turbo power unit.
Chester told ESPN ahead of next weekend’s season opening Australian Grand Prix, “The first couple of races will be difficult. By the time we get to race three we will be back into a much better position. It does depend on how quickly the Renault fixes come in during that time.”
Renault are not alone in lamenting the amount of track time allocated to testing the all new, and highly complicated, new power units. Mercedes and Ferrari have also bemoaned the lack of testing time for the engines.
“I don’t think it’s a lack of understanding [of the Renault engine], it’s a lack of running,” expalined Chester. “We understand the power unit, we just need a lot more mileage. Renault need more mileage to make sure they understand the power unit will cover everything they want, and we need it to make sure the chassis will be reliable over a race distance.”
The E22 raised eyebrows from the day the first photos were released back in January, the unique twin tusk design causing a stir in the F1 world. However limited laps, engine and related problems during testing in Bahrain means that the jury is out on how effective the design will be.
“With the chassis itself the level of grip isn’t too bad, even though we’ve lost a little bit of downforce. The biggest problems are how the chassis works with the power unit and how the energy recovery system works.”
“So there are some inconsistencies there which are making it very difficult for the driver to predict what he is going to get when he arrives at the corner. The system is not doing exactly the same thing every time and that is disturbing the driver and losing us a lot of time,” disclosed Chester.
Lotus won the season opening 2013 Australian Grand Prix with Kimi Raikkonen at the wheel, but it is unlikely that their 2014 drivers Pastor Maldonado or Romain Grosjean travel to Melbourne with any hope of emulating that achievement.
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