They made us wait but finally, the Lotus E22 made its first public appearance today at the opening day of the first Bahrain Test, with Romain Grosjean behind the wheel. The car looks almost identical to its render released back in January, with the controversial ‘twin-tusk’ nose which pushes the envelope of the regulations. Lotus experienced a poor first day of official testing though, as Grosjean managed just 8 laps on a day Renault’s technical woes appear to have struck the Enstone squad as well, as software and battery problems hindered their progress.
|Romain Grosjean debuted the E22 today, with its dramatic twin tusk nose design
(c) Lotus F1 Team
The Multipurpose Development
When the renders were originally released, it was acknowledged that the E22 looked very tidy in its design, however, analysts attention was drawn to the radical approach the team had taken to the new front wing regulations. Not only did the design feature two ‘prongs’ or ‘fingers’, but the spar on the right hand side was longer than its left counterpart, by about 50mm. While it was speculated that the minor aerodynamic advantage yielded by this would lead the team to alter the prongs so that they were both of equal length, the 50mm difference still remains and was abundantly visible today.The reason for the noticeable extension is in compliance with the FIA’s regulations stating that the tip of the front wing has to be 185mm in front of the reference plane; the additional 50mm means that the nose as a whole conforms to these regulations, as only the right hand prong counts as the nose tip. The left is considered as merely an additional piece of bodywork.
While it has been criticized on both an aesthetic and sporting basis, it cannot be denied that the approach is an intelligent interpretation of the rules. By employing this design, Lotus are hoping to direct more air to the reference plane and create more rear downforce, yet the two prongs themselves are integral. They are multipurpose as the right hand spar not only acts as the nose tip but also acts as the support pillar for the front wing and a turning vein, as does the left hand equivalent.
Williams Will Watch With Interest…
Evidently, the E22 seems to be an intuitive interpretation of the regulations and a car which should be competitive. However, we cannot be certain that the radical nature of the car will ultimately benefit the team. Williams infamously unveiled their 2004 challenger, (the FW26) with the ‘Walrus Nose’ – a design similar to that of the E22, where two vertical spars merged the duties of the front wing support pillars and the nose tip. This design was also qualified as key to optimizing airflow around the car and was accompanied by a twin keel design front suspension. Similarly to the E22, its unveiling caused a stir amongst rival teams and it seemed to be a strong ideology which would greatly benefit aerodynamic efficiency.
However, the design proved to be counter-intuitive and the team struggled to be competitive. While the winter was largely successful, Williams had found difficulty in passing the crash tests, as the front impact structure not sufficient, (which is the same issues as those faced by Lotus this year.) To solve the problems, Williams had to increase the weight of the nose and ultimately, this hindered the balance of the car. As a result, the team redesigned the nose prior to the Hungarian Grand Prix and fitted a more conventional nose. However, by this point, the damage was done and Williams’ campaign was severely hindered.
I am positive Lotus will have examined all potential issues regarding the ‘twin-tusk’ design and will have treated the unfortunate shortcomings faced by Williams as vital information. It is always risky to go against the grain in any design area of a car, but considering the importance of the front wing, it is an even more ambitious move. I commend Lotus’ approach yet they will hope for a better session tomorrow after a poor opening day of testing.
An analysis of today’s action from Bahrain will be out later this evening…