Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Lotus Comeback After 16 Years

Sunday, February 14, 2010

After just five months worth of preparations, Lotus has returned to the Formula One scene after a layoff of 16 years. Initially out of the running of a place on the Formula One grid, the team was given a grid slot at the eleventh-hour.

The long wait for the launch of the car has finally ended too. On the 12th of February, the team launched its car at its Norfolk base in the UK. The car sports a combination of predominantly green and a blend of yellow as its colour scheme, which are the traditional colours of the Lotus brand.

Actually, Lotus’s feat in getting its car fired up in five months is anything but sublime. That is because most new teams in the recent past had taken over the base and technology of its previous owners. For example, Brawn had taken over the remains of the Honda team whilst the Force India team had taken over the reins at Spyker.

So, Lotus had to essentially put up a team from its very essence. The engineers, designers and other staffs had to undergo interviews before being signed. Then, the car had to be planned from nothing as they had no previous model to work on. It had to get the sponsors too, in addition to picking the right drivers that would be spearheading their challenge this coming season.

One of the main reasons as to why this has been possible is because of the level of commitment and devotion that has been showed by the Lotus team principal, Tony Fernandes. For the maverick he is, he has got everything sorted out for the team.

His wide experience in the corporate sector has been a boon too. Add that to the technical intelligence of Mike Gascoyne and you get a team never lacking in inspiration to go the full distance. 

Many would not be aware of the fact that it was under the banner of this team that the legendary Formula One racer Aryton Senna once drove for. There is much history and heritage to the name of Lotus, as it had been synonymous with the international motorsports arena years ago. Therefore, the present Lotus team face a daunting task, which is to live up to its reputation.

As a Malaysian, I feel a high level of patriotism to this venture that has been made by the Malaysian government and a group of high-profile Malaysian entrepreneurs. When the Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Abdul Razak, announced on the 15th of September that Malaysia was going to be directly involved in Formula one, many people raised a suspicious eyebrow. “What a dream...” I thought.

That ‘dream’, however, is no more a mere dream. It has become a part of reality, and this has proven doubters, me included, terribly wrong. With this, Malaysia as a nation stands to gain a lot. With plans in the pipelines to bring the whole operation to Sepang, the corresponding R&D (Research and Development) and technological gains would be an asset to the nation.

Not only that, but for people like me, this has given the platform for Malaysians to pursue a career in motorsports engineering. That is because I aspire to be a renowned Formula One race car engineer some day, and with this, it has made me realise that I am a tad closer to achieving that dream.

Whatever happens this coming season would be irrelevant to Lotus’s long term project. For this is their first season, it would be a steep learning curve. So, they would be finding their feet this season, and in the process learn as much as they can to launch a serious title challenge next season. However, don’t count them out as they could very well spring a surprise.
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