Lotus F1 Racing announce driver pairing of Trulli and Kovalainen – Q&A

Lotus F1 Racing have confirmed this morning that Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen will drive for the team in 2010. Team Principal Tony Fernandes first announced the news on his Twitter feed, “We have announced Jarno Trulli , Heikki Kovalainen and Fairuz Fauzy as our drivers for Lotus 1 Malaysia. We are serious.”

In a Q&A session published a few hours later he then went on to say, “…this is an historic day for all us at Lotus F1 Racing as we announce our first driver line-up. We have three drivers who I believe complement each other excellently and who I think represent what Lotus F1 Racing and 1Malaysia is all about.”

“In Jarno we have the F1 veteran who proved in 2009 that he is as quick and determined as ever. In Heikki we have a continuing rising star who is still hungry to prove himself, and in Fairuz we have a Malaysian national driver who is eager to progress up the F1 ladder to fulfil the hopes of a nation. It’s the full package if you ask me.” said Fernandes.

New Team Logo

Fernandes went on to say that his ambition for the team in 2010 was to “..quickly establish ourselves as the ones to watch in 2010 and beyond.”. He then went on to introduce the team’s new logo;

Lotus F1 Racing team logo

“We have thought long and hard about our team brand and logo, and I am very pleased with the end result. F1 aficionados will immediately recognise the classic green and yellow colour of Lotus, but we have given it a modern twist which is essentially what this team is about.

We are not pretending to be the Lotus of the past, but we are honoured to be able to bring the name back into Formula 1 at the start of a new decade of racing. We will draw on its heritage and use it to inspire and motivate our team, Lotus F1 Racing. I hope everybody likes the logo and enjoys a small glimpse into the livery of our race cars for our first season.”

Background

Lotus F1 Racing is flying the Malaysian flag in the championship with full support from the Malaysian government and its 1Malaysia initiative. The team is fully financed by Malaysian entrepreneurs which gives the team a strong Malaysian character throughout all areas of its operation.

The team’s top management is headed up by AirAsia founder and CEO Tony Fernandes in his role as Team Principal and Malaysian Riad Asmat, in the position of Chief Executive Officer. Formula 1 guru Mike Gascoyne oversees all technical development for the team in his position as Chief Technical Officer and has been working on Lotus F1 Racing’s new car for the 2010 season.

Lotus F1 Racing’s initial production and race team base will be at the established Racing Technology Norfolk (RTN) facility in the UK. The factory is conveniently located just 10 miles from the Group Lotus headquarters and will employ over 200 people by the start of 2010.

The Lotus F1 Racing factory in Norfolk

The team will also concurrently build a 1Malaysia F1 technical, R+D and manufacturing centre on an 8-hectare site to be purpose built at the Sepang International Circuit, home of the Malaysian Grand Prix.

As the team prepares for its debut season in Formula 1 in 2010, Lotus F1 Racing will operate from the 50,000 square foot facility in Hingham, UK, a fully equipped factory that will enable the team to face the challenges of an aggressive ‘car build’ programme.

Q&A with Jarno Trulli

Q: What were the reasons behind your decision to join Lotus F1 Racing?
A: “I am really pleased to be joining Lotus F1 Racing. It was quite a difficult situation at the start of November with my former team withdrawing from Formula 1, but I was convinced I would stay in Formula 1. I was in contact with Mike (Gascoyne, Chief Technical Officer) about the possibility of joining the new Lotus team and it became quickly clear that it would be a very good opportunity for me. I have been in Formula 1 for many years but there is something extremely motivating about helping to build a team from the ground level up. There is a lot of ambition from Tony (Fernandes, Team Principal), Mike and in fact the whole of Malaysia as a nation, and that level of enthusiasm is infectious for a driver. I am really looking forward to the challenge.”

Q: You are one of the longest-serving drivers in Formula 1 – how important will your experience be for the team?
A: “I have driven for quite a few teams in my career, both manufacturer and independent teams, so I have a wide range of experience. I hope that this experience will be a positive asset for Lotus as we begin this new challenge together. We should not underestimate the task in hand. Formula 1 in 2010 is an exciting prospect with brand new teams, established manufacturers fighting back and of course other young teams looking to repeat their 2009 success. Everyone will be fighting hard for results, but we still have all our foundations to set, so we have a lot to do.”

Q: Do you expect the team to be immediately competitive?
A: “We have to set realistic targets for the first year. We are one of the new teams, so we have to prove ourselves and to gain respect in the paddock. We have to establish ourselves as the best of the new teams and see what gap we have between us and the rest. Only then will we really understand what gains we need to make during the season. The points system has changed to reward the top ten drivers, so I would like to see us making progress towards the top ten by Abu Dhabi.”

Q: What do you think of the team’s approach to Formula 1 based on your previous experiences?
A: “Having spoken to Tony and to Mike, as well as being in Malaysia this week, I can see a very sensible attitude and professional approach to racing. Of course everyone supporting the team wants results but everybody knows that will take time. We certainly have the capabilities and the tools to do the job. I know Mike very well from our time at other teams and I have a lot of faith in his technical operation.”

Q: What do you think of having Heikki as a team-mate?
A: “It’s great to have a younger driver like Heikki on board. He has been in Formula 1 for a few years now, so he has matured into a competitive and well-rounded race driver. His experiences at other teams will certainly help Lotus F1 Racing as a whole and I am looking forward to working alongside him. He is bringing a different character and driving style to the team which I think will benefit all of us during 2010.”

Lotus F1 Racing drivers

Heikki Kovalainen

Q: You are entering your fourth season as a Formula 1 race driver by joining a brand new team in Lotus F1 Racing – what factors were behind your decision to join the team?
A: “For me there were a couple of major factors – Tony and Mike being the two leading figures in the project, and the backing behind the team were both very important, and having spoken to both of them I became aware that the whole operation has a lot of potential, and a very good chance of being a successful team in the future. I saw Lotus F1 Racing as the best choice for me to progress my career, after considering several other options that were available to me.”

Q: What have you seen of the team so far?
A: “I have visited the base of the team, as well as meeting Tony and Mike, and I can see that everyone involved is very motivated, excited and happy to be pushing this program forwards. The team has ambitious plans for the future and everyone will see Lotus F1 Racing in Bahrain GP as a professional, competitive yet very humble group of intelligent individuals.”

Q: What do you think of your new team-mate Jarno?
A: “I have known Jarno for many years now and I think together we can push the team forwards very quickly, and develop our car and the team in a professional way.”

Q: Do you have any specific targets for your first season with the team?
A: “I always race to win and I will do everything as if I was preparing to put the car on pole, but of course we have to be realistic and keep the focus on developing the team to a state where we can operate like any other current top F1 team. It will not be easy and we will have tough times at the beginning, there’s no question about it, but as long as we keep improving all the way through the year and have the earned respect of the other top teams on the grid, then we can be pleased about the first year.”

Q: Does the Lotus name add any pressure on you or the team?
A: “Well maybe at the beginning we will get away with some difficulties, but of course Lotus has been a winning team in the past and, like I said earlier, the team has ambitious plans to become successful, so after a little while we need to be making progress to keep the Lotus name at its current high status.”