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Eric Boullier

Friday at the 2014 USGP

Friday at the 2014 USGP

Lotus F1 Team Builds "Mega-Watt" Project In Luxembourg

With the support of Lotus F1, team partner Wallenborn and Jerome D’Ambrosio personal sponsor Soleco have agreed on a deal that will construct a megawatt of solar power at the Wallenborn campus in Luxembourg.  The solar array, which is to be installed and managed by Dutch-based Soleco, will be the first of its size in the country and the largest undertaking by Soleco since its inception.  This partnership is a prime example of the networking and business opportunities that can be afforded to such companies who are involved in F1.  The deal was even struck at the Belgian Grand Prix during the first weekend of September.

According to Wallenborn CEO Franz Wallenborn, the entire array “will be installed on the roofs of [their] high security logistics warehouse.”  To put into perspective how much power 1 megawatt really is, Wallenborn’s net electricity usage could actually be negative during months of maximum solar intensity (depending on the size and power demands of the facilities).  Or put another way, Wallenborn could potentially “sell” unused electric power back to the utility company during times solar generation exceeds demand - resulting in huge savings in operating costs for the company.

As a power engineer by day, it excites me that industry and private citizens alike are taking action to offset their electric power usage.  I believe a diverse mix of green energy solutions – not just solar – is the best overall solution to a future of sustainable energy consumption.  Kind of like how KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) onboard today’s F1 cars supplement the gasoline-powered engines by providing an extra 80 HP boost.  With Lotus F1’s support of the Wallenborn solar project, perhaps we will see other renewable and sustainable solutions to make F1 engines even more efficient?

Lotus E20 Emerges

Jérôme d’Ambrosio, Romain Grosjean, Eric Boullier and Kimi Räikkönen proudly present the Lotus E20

Lotus had a rough morning today as millions of fans around the world tuned in to see the live launch of the 2012 car, dubbed the E20. But the information now emerging makes the technical difficulties seem trivial given what looks to be a very promising design with great potential for the 2012 season.

Lotus is receiving well-deserved praise from the F1 community for developing a very good looking car, and we share the sentiment. The now common platypus nose was mitigated well by the Lotus team, and the overall shape of the car is quite pleasing. We'll see how the new design translates to performance on the track beginning with testing on Tuesday in Jerez, Spain.

Backed by two championship winning drivers for 2012 - former F1 champ Kimi Räikkönen and GP2 Champ Romain Grosjean - Lotus' new driver lineup could help propel the team into a top tier finish, elevating the Lotus brand into the spotlight.  Kimi's return to the sport has drawn attention to the team as many hope to see the 'Flying Finn' back on the podium this season. The hope is for both drivers' experience to translate team synergy into points, providing serious competition across the F1 grid.

Lotus published a video on their YouTube Channel, which includes a twenty minute presentation of the launch and interviews with many of the key players in the team: Kimi Räikkönen, Romain Grosjean, reserve driver Jérôme d’Ambrosio, and team principal Eric Boullier. It offers great insight into the team's operations and a rare glimpse at the magnitude of the operations of an F1 constructor; be sure to check it out.

The website refresh is also live, including more press releases, media and fan interaction. Many of the teams are implementing more web-based and social media efforts for real time fan interaction - which we LOVE. Since Americans rely largely on the internet for our live F1 news and entertainment, we hope F1 teams continue to pursue and develop this channel for fans.

Failure to Launch

Formula 1 fans hoping to see the Lotus Renault E20 launch were met with constant bandwidth errors this morning //Update- High-Res images have been released.

This morning at 10am CST, the Lotus Renault F1 team was scheduled to launch their new E20 car in front of an internet audience around the world. With Autosport Magazine assisting with live commentary and feed, the launch was slated to rival the magnitude of McLaren's presentation, or even Monday's scheduled Red Bull Racing Launch, both via live web-feed.

However, fans were greeted with empty promises and 504 BAD GATEWAY errors as the website intended to host the stream went dead. Now 30 minutes later, the only available video is a guerrilla marketing piece clearly produced over the last few weeks, highlighting Kimi's return to the sport.

So far, the only photos released are on Lotus Renault's Facebook page, but still, in very limited quanitity. 

With the first launch scheduled at a time when both Asia, Europe, and the Americas could reasonably view the presentation, we were excited about the launch and anticipated that Lotus would capitalize on their truly global audience. Unfortunately, the result might be a much more sobering reality; that their fans expect a team to deliver a live feed with one of the largest racing publications when they say so, otherwise fans are left with a sour taste in their mouths.

The Comeback Kid: Kimi Raikkonen

Kimi in the 2012 Lotus GP race car (source Lotus GP)Rarely do successful athletes relive their glory days after taking a hiatus from their sport. Only a few of the best have accomplished this feat, with many quickly losing the edge on their game as age begins to take its toll. Michael Jordan is one of the few athletes to conquer this feat; he dabbled in baseball in 1994 after leaving his highly successful career in the NBA. With just a year of minor league baseball under his belt, Jordan ended up returning to basketball, making a great run for the playoffs but falling short of winning the title again.

Niki Lauda driving the McLaren MP4/2 in the 1984 Dallas Grand PrixIn the motorsports world, drivers don't often return to the hot seat; they either move on to another series or retire after competing in Formula 1.  The most recent reminder in the industry is seven time world champion Michael Schumacher who left the sport in 2006 and returned in 2010. Despite fighting hard for his position, Schumacher has not made it back into the championship spotlight and has struggled to keep his car in contention for points.

Former Formula 1 driver Niki Lauda made quite a comeback following a serious accident and retirement from the sport in 1979, and even went on to earn another championship in 1984 by just half a point over Alain Prost. However, since Schumacher's return to F1, he has yet to step foot on the podium and finish above fourth position. This is quite a disappointment in many respects, yet maybe not a surprise at all.

Before it sounds like I am joining the anti-Schumacher camp (I'm not, I promise), we need to turn the attention back on Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 Championship winner and a promising young driver who is making his comeback to Formula 1 this 2012 season.

Kimi had a successful early start in the sport and a great season in 2007, crowning him the world champ in his first year in the Ferrari car. Following a frustrating 2008 and 2009 season, he left the sport after failing to secure a contract with a team. From 2009 until 2011, Kimi had some short stints in other series, including a decent run in World Rally Championship (WRC) and races in both the NASCAR Truck and semi-pro NASCAR series.

Kimi Raikonnen with Lotus Renault GP team principal Eric Boullier Rumors began to run about of Kimi's return to Formula 1 last fall. Then, there was speculation that he would be joining the Williams team. However, on November 29 Lotus Renault GP announced they snatched him up for a two year contract beginning in 2012.

So, can we expect a modern day comeback to shake up the sport?  If Schumacher's sabbatical was an indication, any time spent out of an F1 car can feel like a lifetime.  Kimi, though ten years younger than Michael, must overcome additional obstacles. In addition to a two year hiatus from F1, the FIA rules have evolved (grumble grumble): back then we didn't have the same technical challenges that we have today, such as DRS. Luckily though, Kimi did get a chance to play around with the early KERS system in 2009 with Ferrari, though it was largely in it's infancy of development.

According to former Mclaren teamate David Coulthard and driver Jenson Button, Kimi's return will be stronger than ever before and a welcome sight for the sport. David says the following about Kimi while at the Race of Champions (ROC) this past December to Autosport:

"Kimi stopped too early in his career, there's no question about that," said Coulthard. "He's gone off and had some fun in rallying.

"I did an event with him earlier this year at the Red Bull Ring and he was just jumping on everything - whether it was motocross bikes or the different cars that were there, he just has a great feeling for pushing the limits. So I've got no doubt at all that he will be on the pace."

Even Jenson Button chimed in, offering his surprise about returning to the sport with Lotus Renault instead of Williams and the likely partying that will ensue:

"It was a shock to me that he's going to be racing for the team he is," said Button. "I was really surprised when they announced Kimi. I thought he had a chance at Williams."

"I think it's really good for the sport. As a driver, he's very, very competitive. If he really wants to race, he's going to be quick.

"From what I've heard from the engineers at McLaren, he knows what he's doing in terms of engineering and setting up the car.

"It's good to have him back and the races will be more fun and obviously the evenings after the races will be more fun..."

Kimi's return is likely to shake up the sport a bit, especially with the rise of the Lotus Renault team who has steadily climbed back into the spotlight this past year with a solid 5th position in the constructors championship, moving them into the 'top-tier' with the heavy hitters. Given the rough past couple of years at Williams, Kimi's decision to go with Lotus Renault may prove to be a great launching platform for him to return to the sport, get back into the groove of things, and pull off some great races this year. 

Finally, let's not forget that Kimi is likely to be a great personality for new and existing fans of the sport.  His stoic media contact has earned him the nickname of "Iceman," but off track, Kimi carries somewhat of a party animal reputation (just google "Kimi Raikkonen Boat Monaco"). Without a doubt, he's going to bring more excitement to the sport and cause quite a stir within the Formula 1 establishment. 2012 is going to be a great season.

// Lotus is doing a solid job of sharing info about Kimi's return via their site Lotus Renault GP, here's some Q&A's with Kimi.