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Caterham and Formula One

It has recently been announced that the management team behind Team Lotus have bought small sports car manufacturer Caterham and the impact is being discussed by Formula One enthusiasts.

 

The use of the name “Lotus” has been the subject of dispute with Tony Fernandes, the boss of the Formula One Team Lotus, at odds with Group Lotus, who now sponsor the Renault F1 team.

 

However, the purchase of Caterham by Fernandes has intrigued motor sport watchers. Caterham is a niche sports car manufacturer that produces simple, light and super-fast vehicles that are based on the original Lotus Seven. It seems that with Lotus looking to exit the low cost sports-car market and aim for the premium market, Fernandes will look to fill the gap with Caterham.

 

The problem might be that the current Seven-based model offers no doors, windows or air-conditioning and may not suit the Far East markets that Fernandes knows so well. The solution would seem to lie in the introduction of new models and the takeover looks to have provided the funds necessary to implement this business plan.

 

The connection to Formula One will certainly help the marketing push as far as those who watch formula 1 are concerned. The Caterham brand already oozes motor sport heritage but the link to Formula One will provide worldwide exposure and help to sell the new models across the globe.

 

Fernandes has already used Formula One as part of his marketing mix to promote his budget airline, Air Asia, and his Tune Group with great success. If Fernandes wins the battle to retain the use of the Team Lotus name then everything will be in place for the development of the Caterham brand into a worldwide sports car. 

Pirelli to have biggest say at Turkish Grand Prix

As if the trend hadn’t already established itself this season, then the Turkish Grand Prix looks set to be the race which proves that it is not how quick the car is, but how quickly the tyres on the car wear.

The outcome of the Chinese Grand Prix, hailed as one of the greatest races of modern times, was largely down to tyre degradation and strategy, with Sebastian Vettel leading the way before his two-stop strategy left him on tyres showing increased sign of wear, enabling McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton to pass the German with four laps to go on fresher rubber.

Before each race Pirelli must nominate two different types of tyre each team must use during the race and for the live f1 race in Turkey, the Italian tyre manufacturer has once again nominated its hard and soft tyres as the prime and option tyres respectively.

The hard will be used for lengthier stints at a slightly slower rate, while the soft tyre will be used in order to increase pace, but will be susceptible to heavy degradation on the abrasive Turkish surface.

Similar to the Malaysian Grand Prix earlier this season in terms of wear, the Istanbul Park circuit will be the most difficult for the Pirelli tyres, which were introduced this season, according to the company’s director of motorsport, Paul Hembery.

“The next race in Istanbul is very tough on tyres - and is probably the worst for us as a tyre maker. So that will change again the type of strategy needed in a race.”

“But we have had a lot of credit from a lot of people about the nature of the races so far and if we continue like that we will have a great season.”

In truth few teams have been able to avoid the rapid degradation of their tyres – although Sauber’s Sergio Perez remarkably finished the Australian Grand Prix having pitted just once compared to the rest of the field having to stop two or three times – and the fact that the Istanbul race will be a nightmare for tyres will not particularly favour anyone hugely.

Red Bull will be slightly concerned that their tyre wear seems slightly heavier than their race rivals, but if the Chinese Grand Prix proved anything, it was just how important it is to be at the right place at the right time with each set of tyres.

If Red Bull, or anyone for that matter, are caught out like the Milton Keynes-based outfit were in Shanghai, then it could swing the advantage dramatically.

Rubber nearing the edge of the cliff can cost up to three seconds a lap, something Vettel’s team-mate Mark Webber was able to use to full effect as he surged up the field to secure a spectacular podium finish.

Expect to see anything up to a four stop strategy which could also affect the race outcome. Over 60 stops were executed in Sepang, and one false move could hand an advantage away, something Jenson Button will be all too familiar with after his disastrous error in the pit-lane handed a race position to Vettel in China.

Updates to the McLaren cars are expected to close the gap at the front of the grid, while Mercedes displayed hitherto unseen pace in Shanghai which will stand them in good stead as Formula 1 returns to Europe, something which could spell trouble to Renault’s podium ambitions.

McLaren and Red Bull will continue to fight it out for race wins for the remainder of the season, and while the Woking outfit has closed the gap on Red Bull, their updates will need bedding in before that gap is reduced further. Vettel’s spectacular qualifying lap to put him on pole for China show they still have the quickest car, and Red Bull once more be the team to beat in two weeks time.

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