Lotus become first F1 team to launch a 2013 car, the E21 - and keep the 'boxer's nose'
Team bosses set target of top three Constructors' finish
By Pete Gill and James Galloway
Last Updated: 05/02/13 9:09am
The team's new charger, the first of the 2013 cars to be made public, was put on display at Lotus' Enstone base on Monday night in a ceremony broadcast live on Sky Sports News.
Contrary to pre-launch expectation, the car still bore the type of 'boxer's nose' design that became a regular, and largely-unloved, feature of the 2012 season, with the team eschewing the option of bolting on a 'modesty panel' that the FIA have decreed can be used to improve the sport's aesthetics.
Lotus have also confirmed they will continue to persist with the 'passive DRS' device they pioneered last season but did not race due to its unreliability.
Nonetheless, the E21 looks to be a sleeker, more tightly-packaged evolution of its predecessor, the race-winning E20, and the team are confident it will pose an even more formidable challenge to the likes of Red Bull and McLaren.
"The rules for 2013 are very, very similar to those of 2012 so you can expect a lot of family resemblance from a 2012 car. But as ever in F1, the devil is in the detail, and the detail of this car adds up to a significance amount of performance," technical chief James Allison told Sky's Craig Slater.
"So it's a mixture: there are some neat new ideas in there and a lot of pushing of the same sort of concepts we have been working on for a few years."
Aerodynamics were the strength of last year's car and the rear of the new E21, and around the exhaust area, looks particularly svelte with Allison's design team appearing to have taken further steps in optimising the Coanda effect that came to widespread prominence last season.
"Lotus launch car mostly the 2012 spec with one big exception: it's got a Red Bull style exhaust and back end," reported Sky Sports F1's Ted Kravitz.
The launch-spec car also features slightly revised livery with blocks of red around the airbox and centre of the sidepods, creating a more striking contrast to the predominant legendary black and gold scheme.
Behind the wheel of the E21, the team continue to boast a driver line-up capable of mounting a sustained title challenge, with the wild but quick Romain Grosjean continuing alongside Kimi Raikkonen, whose comeback season in 2012 was arguably the surprise success story of the year.
Victor in Abu Dhabi, the Finn was a model of consistency as he completed every lap on the calendar and it would be to nobody's great surprise if the former World Champion emerges as Sebastian Vettel's chief rival in a 2013 season which begins on March 17 in Australia.
"We've tried to improve on all areas and for sure if we qualify higher up then it will help us win more races," commented Raikkonen, whose moderate Saturday form during 2012 was the solitary blemish in an otherwise outstanding campaign. "But it's the whole package which we want to be faster and hopefully we have done that."
And with the team as a whole having finished a strong fourth in last year's Constructors' Championship, their hierarchy made clear the minimum target for 2013 was to move into the top three - which in effect means breaking Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren's recent stranglehold on the sport.
"Our expectation is to do better than we did last year, which is quite a lofty expectation, but that is what we are shooting for," declared owner Gerard Lopez.
Eric Boullier underlined that target, stating: "We will try definitely [to do better]. Third place is at least an achievement we would like to have next year.
"We obviously expect to build on the momentum from 2012. Stability in the regulations, both drivers I think more eager than ever and 500 people here at Enstone who delivered quite a nice car and are really keen to do better than 2012.
"So we will fight everything we can to be in [the] top three."
Lotus also confirmed that they had signed reigning GP2 Champion Davide Valsecchi to the role of third driver for 2013, with Belgian Jerome D'Ambrosio continuing as the team's reserve.
The 2013 car launches
Lotus - January 28th, Enstone.
McLaren - January 31st, Woking.
Force India - February 1st, Silverstone.
Ferrari - February 1st, Maranello.
Sauber - February 2nd, Hinwil.
Red Bull - February 3rd, Milton Keynes.
Mercedes - February 4th, Jerez.
Toro Rosso - February 4th, Jerez.
Caterham - February 5th, Jerez.
Marussia - February 5th, Jerez.
Williams - February 19th, Barcelona.