Hello and welcome to the F1 Advent Calendar 2012, in which we pick out the key moments of the season just finished. The highs and lows, the winners and losers, and everything that happened in between - in the next few weeks, we should cover everything, in roughly three minutes each time. Let us begin with Day One - The first hurdle.
For many teams, the pre-season activity in early 2012 went as expected. Some last minute drivers were signed, cars were launched and testing in Spain got underway. The regulations had remained relatively consistent from 2011, but development never stops in F1, and the cars were looking strikingly different.
A significant step down in the nose meant they weren’t the prettiest looking cars you’ve ever seen, with unsightly bumps leading towards the less than beautiful front wing. Nevertheless, the cars were ready to go and there were plenty of laps to be completed in Jerez and Barcelona, data to be gathered, tyres to be tested.
For Lotus, however, things were not set to be very straightforward. The car for the coming season, the E20, was launched in early February with an online broadcast that revealed the chassis in all its glory. Co-owner Gérard Lopez also discussed the team’s grandiose aims of finishing fourth in the championship by season’s end. With Kimi Räikkönen making his big comeback after leaving F1 in 2009, and the fresh-faced Romain Grosjean ready to prove his worth, the drivers and the team were confident and ready to roll.
The first day of testing in 2012 saw Kimi top the times, completing 50 laps and finishing just one tenth of a second ahead of Paul di Resta in the Force India behind him. The rest of their first week in Jerez was strong, with Grosjean taking over duties midway through the week. Things were looking positive.
Testing moved on to Barcelona, and on the first day, Grosjean completed just seven laps before his running was curtailed by a problem with the chassis. It was a different body to that used in Jerez, and as technical chief Alan Permane said: “Once the car was on track it was soon evident that everything wasn’t quite as it should be. As a precaution we are returning the chassis to Enstone for further investigation.” He added that the car they used in Jerez was set to be sent over to Barcelona so they could continue testing, but just a few hours later, it was announced that Lotus were abandoning the test completely.
The team revealed that they needed to make some modifications to both chassis, after running simulation data back at the factory, and they were using the time away from the track to put things right, before returning to testing in Barcelona the following week. The team requested permission for an extra shakedown but the FIA denied them due to a timing issue. The regulations say you can’t test in the week preceding the first race, and whilst there was some argument over what that actually meant, the ultimate decision was no extra test for Lotus.
When they finally got to Barcelona with a car beneath them, Romain Grosjean put the team back on top with the fastest time by two tenths of a second, and 73 laps completed. In fact, Lotus managed to prove they had fixed the problem with the chassis by heading up three of the four sessions in that final test. Granted, on the day they didn’t lead the way, Kimi Räikkönen was actually last, and we know that testing times, just like free practice times, all must be taken with a pinch of salt, but it was definitely an improvement for the Enstone based outfit.
It had been a worrying start to the year for Lotus, but they managed to turn things around in super-quick time, without panicking. Whilst the fans and the media were losing their heads, the team sorted out the chassis and got things back on track, literally, ahead of the first race.
With testing complete, all the teams were ready to get the season going in Australia. Even HRT managed to finally get their new car on track, the Monday after everyone else was finished. It was time for the 2012 season to begin in earnest.
That’s it for this first episode of the F1 Advent Calendar 2012. Thanks for listening, and do join me again for the second episode where we’ll see what key moment of the season just gone will get the advent treatment.
All content in the series F1 Advent Calendar 2012
Filed under Mini Series
References Gérard Lopez, Kimi Räikkönen, Paul di Resta, Romain Grosjean
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