January 26, 2015 / 3:43 PM / 3 years ago

Motor racing: Lotus expect huge step forward in 2015

LONDON (Reuters) - Lotus expect to be far more competitive this season with a new Formula One car that they hailed as a massive step forward on Monday.

Lotus Formula One driver Pastor Maldonado of Venezuela drives during a free practice session of the United States F1 Grand Prix at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas October 31, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Stone

Pictures of the Mercedes-powered E23 were released on the team website (www.lotusf1team.com) with a standard nose replacing the ‘twin-tusk’ solution that failed to deliver results last year.

Technical director Nick Chester said the car was “a massive step forward” for the team, who finished fourth overall in 2013 but dropped to eighth last year with 10 points.

“It’s no secret that we struggled with last year’s car so we’ve targeted every area that caused us an issue. We’ve made strong progress in the wind tunnel as well as in areas such as packaging and cooling,” he added.

“We expect the E23 to perform far, far better than its predecessor.”

Lotus, who have had financial difficulties, have switched from Renault to Mercedes power and retained their line-up of Frenchman Romain Grosjean and Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado.

Chester said the engine change was likely to bring the biggest performance gain as well as greater reliability and driveability.

“The E22 did deliver good figures in the wind tunnel, even if it was difficult to unlock its potential, so we’ve paid more attention to making the characteristics of the car more adaptable,” he said.

“We know we’ve made a big step. We won’t know how our car will fare in relative terms until we’re out in action at a Grand Prix, but we certainly expect to be much more competitive than last year.”

Chief executive Matthew Carter said Lotus aimed to run the car at the opening pre-season test in Jerez on Feb 1.

“There is a huge push to get the car finished, but we are on course to be there,” he told autosport.com.

Carter said the team, who have lost some sponsors to Williams, had possibly shed too many staff last year but had rectified the situation.

”Our budget for this year, although reduced compared to 2013, is similar to last season,“ he said. ”We have a couple of new sponsors that, although not featured on the car today, will be there for the first race.

“A lot of the back office work at the business is producing results, so financially we are looking good.”

The season starts in Australia on March 15.

Editing by Mark Meadows

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