Is Kimi’s return already hurting Lotus?

Posted: January 24, 2012 in Drivers, Formula 1, Teams
Tags: , , ,

I presume you are all aware that Kimi Raikkonen has started testing with Lotus @ Valencia this week. The team use the 2010 car with last year’s tyres, in an effort to bring Kimi up to speed, i.e. familiarize with the electronics, the tyres and the various procedures. Reports state that Kimi completed 300 kms yesterday (23.01) and will do another 400 kms today.

At this point, it is clear that Lotus aren’t testing anything meaningful for the 2012 season. They can’t do that with their 2010 machine and it would make very little sense. It’s all about assessing Kimi and helping him find his feet. However, the team (as per the Article 22.3 of the FIA Sporting Regulations) are limited to 15,000 kms of testing, per calendar year. A chunk of that time has already been wasted during the season in straight-line testing and the Abu Dhabi young drivers’ test day. Kimi’s Valencia test means that another 700 kms must be deducted from that amount; 700 kms that have nothing to do with car development or reliability testing. That’s a big chunk of mileage to give away.

Pre-season testing will be crucial for 2012. Many teams will be experimenting with radical exhaust solutions, marginal cooling (just look at all those different sidepod ideas floating about) and other mechanical solutions such as uber-slim gearboxes, liquid mass dampers, etc. Pirelli will also introduce new tyre compounds, which will require testing and understanding. Some teams, if you recall, had problems with some of the Pirelli compounds throughout the entire last season.

At times like this, it’s hard to justify throwing away testing mileage like that. If Kimi turns out to be his pre-2006 self, then it might be worth it. Although I have no doubt with regards to Kimi’s talent or ability behind the wheel, his motivation remains a big question mark. Whether Kimi retains his motivation after a few races fighting for 12th place remains to be seen.

  1. No, it doesn’t hurt Renault, as I think this year is gone for them. Why?
    – They have a former world champion returning, who hasn’t driven F1 car for the past 3 years.
    – They have Romain Grosjean, who’s a bit of rookie when it comes to F1 mileage.
    – Renault have already been told not to go with their ride height system, so the hidden weapon is gone.
    What’s more left for 2012? Adaptation for both drivers, lessons learned and possible attack of the front places in 2013, when, presumably, the rules won’t change much, thus benefiting from a solid base from 2012.

    It may seem that I’m completely writing Renault off, but honestly, I don’t see it any other way, unless they have some very clever stuff hidden deep in their secret, secret stash with smart inventions.

    P.S. I always tend to comment first, because I’m spending too much time in front of my computer (apparently).
    And yes, I’ve subscribed to new posts, arriving in my mail box directly, apologies in advance to the rest of the readers and people commenting 🙂

  2. ahw3ll says:

    In terms of their flexibility for testing new innovations this year, the familiarisation test has hurt them a little bit. Though in terms of publicity, it seems to be paying off. IIRC, Kimi Raikkonen was trending yesterday on Twitter, as a sign of how many people were talking about this little test.

    I think the real damage to Lotus’ chances was done when the FIA banned their fancy rideheight gizmo. As we saw last year, the team are willing to design their entire car around a system if they think it’ll give them an advantage over the rest of the field – even if it limits their possibilities for development in other areas.

    • abu says:

      I don’t think it’d be such a nuisance to run the car without that gizmo. It’s not like the forward facing exhausts which was such a radical concept that it affected the entire airflow from the cockpit backwards…

      • ahw3ll says:

        OK, but if they turn up at the first test with a dolphin integrated into the sidepods and tell us that it was there because of their rideheight gizmo and its too late in the process to remove it, I’m going to be very smug.

      • abu says:

        If that happens, you’ll have the right to be.

        And more.

  3. warnzee says:

    In this article on the BBC website (which i admittedly skim-read) it says

    “Raikkonen is not allowed to drive a 2011 car because F1’s testing restrictions forbid it, but teams are allowed to run outside these rules – which strictly limit testing – as long as the car used is at least two years old.”

    I don’t know if that means older cars are exempt from all testing regs though?

    However, I would say that it is definitely a positive to get Kimi behind the wheel as much as possible and that having him at less than 100% is potentially more damaging to results throughout the season than not finding the extra tenth or two from the car halfway through the season.

    • abu says:

      Actually, track testing (as per Article 22.1) is considered any track running time (not part of an grand prix) which uses cars which conform substantially with the current F1 regulations, in addition to those of the previous and subsequent year. Therefore, testing a 2010 car, as you suggest, is not considered track testing. However, a 2010 car could be used as a mule to carry mechanical and electrical components to be used in 2012, to test for reliability purposes. It can even be used to simulate 2012 expected downforce levels. Is this allowed? I am not so sure. Also, track testing must take place in F1-approved race tracks, as per the rules. Are Lotus allowed to test in any venue they see fit, even if it falls short of F1 standards…? Again, I am not so sure. You may have a very valid point there, but if I was a Lotus competitor I would be challenging their “right” to do unlimited testing with 2010 machinery.

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