Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Lotus Revealed, Power Units, More
Lotus have unveiled images of the car with which they will compete in the 2015 Formula One season. The black, gold and red E23 made its debut on Twitter and the team website in computer-generated form.
But that's enough to see what it looks like, and of the two cars revealed so far, the Lotus is the more attractive. Can it keep its crown as launches come thick and fast toward the end of the week?
We should see all the new cars except the Force India before Sunday. The team showed off their new livery last week in Mexico City, but the car itself won't be seen until the start of the second test—it won't be ready for the first.
The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, however, will be ready when it hosts the Mexican Grand Prix in November. Parts of the circuit resembled a building site in some of Force India's photos, but the work is on schedule and should be completed in time.
Elsewhere, Mercedes customers are expecting big things from their new engine, Renault have more modest hopes, and 2014's GP2 champion Jolyon Palmer has explained why he joined Lotus as reserve driver.
Read on for a full roundup of the top stories from the last few days.
Lotus Unveil Computer Images of 2015 E23
Lotus have become the second team to (sort of) reveal their 2015 car. They eschewed the magazine semi-launch Williams gave the FW37 and instead threw a picture out on Twitter.
The team also released a series of high-resolution images of the car on their website. Like the Williams pictures we've already seen, they are computer-generated, but you can make out a high level of detail.
The E23 features a more attractive nose and two additional inlets on the sides of the roll hoop to aid in cooling unseen parts. It's a nice-looking car, and it raises hopes the 2015 grid will be a more pleasant sight than that of 2014.
It's a little light on sponsorship compared to last season's car (images here on F1Fanatic), but the most important sticker is visible on the rear of the engine cover, and it points to a more successful season ahead.
"Powered by Mercedes-Benz."
Meanwhile, the new Ferrari has a name, SF15-T, but still no pictures.
Mercedes Set to Make Significant Engine Gains
The Mercedes power unit that proved so dominant in 2014 is set to be even better in 2015.
There was also a hint Mercedes will be holding back some development tokens for a significant upgrade later in the year.
Customer team Force India's technical director, Andrew Green, told Autosport, "From the data we have it's definitely got better from last year. And I'm expecting another step in the middle of the season too. We're excited about that."
Lotus replace McLaren as Mercedes' fourth customer team for the coming season. After a dismal 2014 in which they scored just 10 points, the power unit is expected to propel them up the grid. Their CEO, Matthew Carter, is also quoted by Autosport as saying:
Having Mercedes is a huge opportunity for us. We don't know what Honda is going to be like, but Ferrari and Renault are obviously looking at doing changes later in the year—which means there will not be that much early on.
That could give us a bit of a big advantage earlier in the season.
The advantage Mercedes had in 2014 was so great that the works team could very likely hold its own this year without upgrading anything at all.
Their customers would maybe struggle, but fortunately for them, Mercedes won't be standing still. In December, Autosport revealed rival teams believe the 2015 unit could be as much as 70 horsepower more powerful than its predecessor.
If it is, 2015 will be a repeat of 2014. The gulf may even grow.
No wonder Ferrari want an F1 revolution.
Jolyon Palmer Hoping Reserve Role Leads to Race Opportunities
Jolyon Palmer feels his decision to join Lotus as their third driver was a "no-brainer."
The 24-year-old Brit won the GP2 title last season, but all doors to race seats were closed. Asked by Formula1.com whether he felt taking the Lotus job was the best way to get closer to a race seat in 2016, he said:
Yeah. I think the Lotus deal was a bit of a no-brainer to be honest. There was nothing available in terms of a race seat—and you hear stories even now about other teams making the grid, but you're dealing with a lot of unknowns there. For me it is about aiming for F1 in the future.
Basically the best way to do that is be a third driver and get as much mileage as possible and work extremely closely with a team—that gives me more experience and helps further my own potential. And in terms of the offers we had—track time and potential to work with the team—Lotus was the best. They're hopefully a team moving forward too, especially from last year.
He was also asked if he feels any degree of envy toward drivers such as Felipe Nasr, who will have a race seat in with Sauber 2015 despite finishing third in GP2. He replied:
Particularly Nasr? No. I beat him last year, he has got a seat this year—there's nothing I can do about that. Some people get different opportunities, but I don't think about what other people can or can't do too much.
I just have to focus on being the best I can be and hope I get rewarded if I do a good job. But I am envious of all grid in general, because those guys are all doing exactly what I want to do: race in F1.
With only 18 confirmed seats available this coming season, it has arguably never been more difficult to get into F1. Drivers require either exceptional talent or exceptional sponsor backing, and based on the available evidence, Palmer has neither.
While he was at times brilliant in 2014, it took him four seasons to win the GP2 crown, and his record in the junior formulae is mediocre. Palmer did beat Nasr in 2014, but he was driving for the leading DAMS team, and Nasr was not. When they were team-mates at Carlin in 2013, the Brazilian came out on top.
That kind of record on its own doesn't appeal to any team.
Palmer must have some financial support—Lotus would not give away Friday practice appearances for free.
But it doesn't appear to be enough. If he wants to make it to a race seat in 2016, he'll probably need the sort of backing Marcus Ericsson has—per the Daily Mail, around £10-12 million per year.
Renault Targeting 5 Wins, but Figures Not Looking Good
Renault are aiming for a minimum of five race wins in the season ahead as they seek to recover from a poor 2014.
Despite being in the back of the otherwise excellent Red Bull RB10, Renault engines managed just three wins last year—each one the result of Mercedes failures or poor driving.
The managing director of Renault's F1 arm, Cyril Abiteboul, is hoping for a better 2015. He told French TV station Canal+ (h/t NBCSports.com for the English translation):
We estimate that our gap to Mercedes at the end of the 2014 season was about 60 horsepower. We hope to close this gap by half at the [season-opening Australian Grand Prix] in Melbourne.
Unlike Mercedes, we will start the 2015 season with the 2015 version of our engine. To date, we have used about two-thirds of allowed  tokens to change our engine this year.
My goal is to claim at least five wins this season.
A deficit of 30 horsepower wouldn't be too bad, but Abiteboul appears to be hoping that's the gap at the first race—between what he expects to be a 2015 Renault with most of its tokens spent and a relatively undeveloped Mercedes.
How much will it be once the German manufacturer bolts on all its new parts?
Red Bull look set for another season of picking up the scraps—providing McLaren-Honda, Ferrari or a Mercedes customer doesn't get there first.
Mexican Grand Prix Work on Schedule
Work to bring the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez up to F1 standard is on schedule to be finished in time for the circuit to host the Mexican Grand Prix in November.
The venue last saw F1 action in 1992, and in photos posted after Force India's livery launch, the stadium area resembled a building site without a hint of a race track.
But we can rest easy, as everything is on schedule. Tilke GmbH director Christian Ebb told Spanish news agency EFE (h/t Grandprix.com):
The demolition of the pits is finished. We are halfway through the construction in that area and 60 per cent is ready.
In early March we will put down the asphalt, which is scheduled to be completed in late July. We are attacking the work on several fronts, it's going very well and we feel comfortable about the time frame.
Video showing the changes set to be made to the circuit has been posted to YouTube, showing a number of alterations to the old layout.
But despite the fearsome Peraltada falling on the sword of safety, the changes are mostly sympathetic to the venue's character. It won't quite be the same, but it should be more fun to drive than many of the modern Tilke circuits.