Lotus withdraw from Barcelona test after chassis problems

2012 F1 testing

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Lotus hit trouble with their second E20 chassis

Lotus have announced they will take no further part in this week’s four-day test at the Circuit de Catalunya.

The team curtailed its testing today after discovering a problem with its second E20 chassis.

Romain Grosjean completed just seven laps before pulling into the pits. He later said the car “wasn’t responding as it should”.

Despite having completed 404 laps – more than any other team – at Jerez two weeks ago with its original chassis, Lotus say the problem discovered today will require changes to both E20s.

Grosjean was due to test tomorrow with Kimi Raikkonen taking over from him in the final two days.

Technical director James Allison said: “Before we were due to fly chassis E20-01 out to Barcelona in replacement of chassis E20-02 – damaged this morning – we ran a series of simulations at the factory based on the data provided by our brief running on track today.

“As a result, we were able to identify an area which requires some additional work. It will be more productive for us to carry out these modifications to both chassis at Enstone rather than send E20-01 out to this week’s test. We’ll put the right measures in place and we will be able to fix the problem before next week.”

Team principal Eric Boullier added: “Not running this week has been a tough decision to take, but we feel that our choice is the right one.

“On the positive side, we have quickly identified the issue with the chassis and our design office has already devised a solution. We will be present at next week’s test in Barcelona. We draw faith from the fact that the E20 was quick out of the box in Jerez and showed its reliability there. We have a lot of work ahead of us over the next week but everyone at Enstone is ready for this challenge.”

The loss of almost four days of testing could be a major blow for the team. After the current test there are only four further days of running scheduled before the season begins.

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Image © Lotus F1 Team/LAT

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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67 comments on “Lotus withdraw from Barcelona test after chassis problems”

  1. Let’s hope this is not RIP Raikkonen 2.0.

    Brings back memories of how they started so well last year and suddenly Kubica had his accident.

  2. OK, silly question but…

    Mercedes missed a day of the first test and were allowed one day of private testing. Does that rule not apply in this case because Renault Lotus haven’t elected to miss the remaining days of the test but are being forced to miss them because or reliability issues?

    1. @jodrell I suspect they would be allowed to go testing somewhere else to make up for the shortfall, but there’s also problem of fitting it in the schedule and finding somewhere.

      Exclusive track time plus last-minute transport and accommodation – all at short notice – won’t be cheap.

      Not to mention the added hassle of refitting their two chassis at the time when the factory’s geared up to produce all the new parts for the season ahead. It’s a huge headache.

      1. Question: Do they have to test at one of the pre-determined test locations, like Barcelona again or Mugello, or are they free to test at Silverstone if they wish?

        1. I don’t think they are allowed a private test on a track they will race at.

          1. What about Merc at Barcelona yesterday?

          2. They were about to test there anyway, so I’d imagine that’s different.

          3. I thought Mercedes tested their car at Silverstone prior to barcelona (where we saw the first spy shots of the new merc)?

      2. Maybe try to do what Mercedes did and bring the old car over?

        1. @victor – What good would that do?

          1. Comparing the performance of new and old tires is always beneficial…

      3. I suppose that they could join with HRT and Marussia, assuming their cars turn up. Of course I imagine Lotus would still have to foot the majority of the bill, but it could benefit them a bit (or if those 3 teams stay behind after the next test).

        1. To be honest, I would expect HRT to have problems even footing their own fuel and work bills for those, Marussia might have a bit of cash to spare, but not much.

          But maybe doing one or two days at Silverstone might be an option with them.

      4. I heard the Nurburgring northern loop is free at the moment…


  3. Interesting that they are not saying much about the actual problem….?

    1. Cracks in chassis, mate… Serious enough to abandon the test, what you think?

  4. Woah this is bad news. From what they’re saying it sounds like a pretty fundamental issue, structural integrity or something. It’s compounded by the fact that Barcelona is a better test track than Jerez, so arguably the data from here may be worth more.

    They’re going to have to hit the track hard at the third test!

    1. Indeed, something must be really bad with the car, I would say. Although on the fun F1 site badgerGP they also mentioned some rumours of Kimi not wanting to turn up for this test, whatever that might mean …

      1. If it’s a problem which takes a week to fix and the cars are dangerous to drive in these conditions, it must be serious. However in Jerez nothing happened, so either we were lucky or the problem isn’t so bad.

  5. Wow, this must be quite a serious issue for a team of this calibre to actually miss the rest of this week’s testing…

  6. this is going to spoil their whole season…

    1. I hope not. I think it will leave them less prepared at Melbourne, but if they had a good car it shouldn’t be long until they are on the ball again.

      Unfortunately, Renault seems well prepared at the beginning of a season, but then lose out on the development race. If they start the season poorly, they might not improve as much as their rivals.

  7. Now, this definitely isn’t just a ‘minor setback’ and ‘ a ‘small chassis issue’ that the team were talking about this morning.

    Actually this is more in line with my earlier expectations of the team. I never thought they could achieve a lot in 2012 and all the hype built by Autosport and the quickest lap times at the first test somehow felt strange. Is the bubble starting to burst?

    1. I don’t know. Would this be an elaborate hoax to save money without admitting their pockets are empty? Nah.
      So probably no burst yet.

  8. Actually I’m starting to think this is just a smoke-screen and they just wanted some private testing. They didn’t say what was the nature of the failure, only saying it was a “small issue”. Sounds all fishy to me.

    1. @cyclops_pl I don’t think there’s any chance that’s the case.

      It rests on the assumption that they’ll still be able to complete all the testing mileage they would have been able to do, and that they’ll be able to arrange private tests at short notice as I described above.

      Or that they secretly booked track time, flights, hotels, etc.. in advance for the extra tests they assumed they’d be able to have, without anyone finding out.

      Either way it sets off the Implausible Conspiracy Theory Alarm.

      1. That’s all true, but wouldn’t it be more reasonable to bring the previous version of E20 than just… go home? They would still get at least some valuable data, allow Grosjean and Raikkonen to get more mileage in 2012 car etc. I don’t understand their logic, so I suspect there’s something we don’t know.

        1. I don’t think this ‘new’ E20 is a modification of the ‘previous’ E20, I think it’s literally the second one that they’ve manufactured, and therefore the same problems exist with the first one; it’s just that these problems were not exposed at Jerez.

          1. It certainly sounds like it is not quality control problems but some design flaw that now surfaced and needs to be corrected on all chassis.

            The positive here is only in that it could be worse as at least they found this problem and know a workable fix before the start of the season. It will set them back in producing updates as Keith says above.

            Not a great start to this year, though not as bad as last year as they have a direction and team leader to keep them moving forward.

          2. I don’t see why it would be a design flaw… Not that much has changed that it should be the case.

  9. This does not sound good for Lotus. Hope they really have a fix for there problem. Lets see how they do in the next round of testing.

  10. their season is over

    1. Very insightful comment!

    2. I thought the season hasn’t started yet :P

    3. their season is over

      It is believed that they can correct the problem. Autosport’s technical analysts suggest the problem is a manufacturing error, rather than a flaw in the design that has compromised the chassis entirely; they seem to think that the problem is the engine mountings. If this is the case, Lotus should be able to correct the problem on one chassis in time for the third test, and on the chassis that has been sent to Melbourne. It is only a problem if the team has to build a car from scratch and ship it out to Australia in twenty days.

      The worst-case scenario is that the FIA inspect the cars in Australia and refuse entry to the race because they are not satisfied that the cars are safe. But if that happens, the E20s should be ready for Malaysia two weeks later.

    4. Perhaps the car is so good they don’t want to tip the opposition off! Kimi for WDC!

  11. Is Barcelona more of a load heavy track in the turns than Jerez?

    I speculate that maybe something in the E20s chassis or suspension design wasn’t fit enough for heavy loads in turns. Maybe the E20-02 experienced high stress in Barcelona whereas in Jerez the E20-01 performed very well due to the absence of high stress in the chassis and suspension from heavy loads.

    Just my guess.

    1. Barcelona has high speed aero-dependant corners which is what makes it such a good track to test how well their aero works (and why the races tend to be dominated by the high downforce car), Jerez doesn’t really (hence it doesn’t show a comprehensive picture of how good the cars actually are).

      1. Thanks mate!

        I wonder if hitting higher speeds in the long sweeping turns with copious amounts of downforce is wreaking havoc in the telemetry. Engineers probably tapped Red Bull on the shoulder to ask for a 24 pack of Red Bull. “It’s gonna be a long week….” -Lotus Engineer

  12. Definitely not in 7 instalation-like laps they have had today.

  13. Hope this isn’t going to be the nail in the coffin before their season starts but I imagine they will be ok. Admittedly they won’t factor in this sort of set back but something tells me they will be ok.

  14. What’s with the ridiculous conspiracy theories? Kudos to Lotus for accepting the issue and retiring immediately to rectify the problem rather than send their drivers out in what could be unsafe cars. While i’m sure there’s more work than applying a band-aid/plaster involved, I don’t think they’ll fall too far behind the position that they would be in without the issue. Hopefully they get up and nibble the heals of the big boys, can’t wait to see Kimi throw that thing around Monaco…

    1. Exactly, without the test they will have had roughly the same amount of track time as Merc… It’s really not that huge an issue.

      Set back, yes… but definitely not something to get hugely upset about.

    2. What’s with the ridiculous conspiracy theories?

      People want Lotus – and Dany Bahar – to be proven wrong. Simple as that.

      1. Also, I think some people like the idea of a Rocky Balboa-style fairytale of Kimi Raikkonen conquering insurmountable odds to win in Melbourne.

      2. I rather think its because people love conspiracy theories, far more interesting than the plain truth, that a mistake was made and they now try to do what they can to correct it!

        1. I could maybe understand that if it was just one or two people … but I’ve seen dozens suggest that Lotus staged the problem to get a private test – which would be of no benefit to them, and which (as Keith has outlined) would be ridiculously expensive.

          1. Not to mention the huge costs involved in shipping out a faulty chassis to Barcelona, plus team…all for an elaborate ruse…

  15. Interestingly, it seems Lotus are not the only team with chassis problems which weren’t visible in Jerez but are in Montmelo. Taken from GPUpdate:

    Head of Track Engineering for Sauber, Giampaolo Dall’Ara … “In the morning we had some doubts related to the structure, which didn’t occur in Jerez and therefore appear to be track related…”

    1. I guess that shows why testing the new chassis is important!

  16. you can write off any chance of them scoring a win now. they had a mountain to climb before this setback.

    1. Why? If the car was good enough for a win before this test, why can’t it be now?

  17. Not good news for them…

  18. hang on. i heard they’re shipping the old chassis over and will be running sometime on wednesday?

    1. Nope – they ran some precautionary tests on the chassis that ran in Jerez, and found that it suffers from the same problem.

  19. I’ve had high hopes for Lotus to be mixing it up towards the pointy end this year, and this has to be a significant setback. That said, the car performed very nicely at the first test, so I’m hoping that they only have a “minor” issue to address. Maybe an extra layer or two of carbon fiber somewhere on the chassis? Maybe I’m dreaming? We shall see!

  20. Oh dear this is a big blow for them,just the time they were coming to shape they lost it. So the question remain whether they will get to test those 3 days that they will miss?

  21. what can I say?
    LOTUS = Lots Of Trouble Usually Serious

    1. yeah, seems they might have really picked up on L.o.t.u.s. now :-)

  22. They have you all fooled! This is their secret weapon, they have taken Mercedes line and will dump this test to be able to test in private.

  23. The Iceman causeth the chassis to crack :D !

  24. Could be a ruse to test away from prying eyes, with this much time left before the first race they could copy and test what they see faster than you can say Jack Robinson!

    1. Could be a ruse to test away from prying eyes

      And what would they possibly have to gain from that, considering that the E20 ran on all four days in Jerez?

      The idea that Lotus has staged this to get a private test is ridiculous. As Keith has outlined, they would need to book an approved circuit, and arrange for transport and accomodation for every member of the team, plus ship all of their freight around – and they would have to do it on short notice, which would be very expensive. There is one more four-day test planned for next week, and then the teams will all start making preparations to get themselves and their cars to Australia a few days before the event.

      So while they certainly could have set this up as a ruse, they also could decide to do the Australian Grand Prix in the nude. At the end of the day, it boils down to this: Lotus had a problem. It forced them out of the Barcelona test. They might be able to hold a private test – if they can manage it – to make up for lost time. There is no subterfuge here.

  25. Apparently the new parts are already being manufactured, at least they could fix the problem quickly. Obviously not quickly enough to get back to Barcelona before the end of the week though.

  26. Chris Goldsmith
    22nd February 2012, 12:31

    I thought that chassis design was homologated before the start of testing and couldn’t be modified afterwards? Of course, a material defect might be the cause, but if it’s a design issue then will they actually be able to make the changes they need to?

  27. The positive aspect of this is atleast now, with a bit of luck, Lotus can sort this out. Better to have problems now than during the season, thousands of miles away from the factory. However, it is a concern in the fact that both chassis have been withdrawn for what I can only assume to be related issues. When will this outfit catch a break? As if losing Robert Kubica a year ago a big enough setback, yet something else goes wrong. You have to feel sorry for Kimi Raikkonen too, he’ll have to be fresh out of the box at Melbourne thats for sure!

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