Lotus F1 Team History
Lotus F1 Team History
A pioneering name in sixties formula one is Colin Chapman’s Lotus, the cars at the pinnacle of the British Invasion. In total they have seven constructors championships and have won 80 grands prix and are one of the most successful teams in the sports history. The current Lotus F1 Team has it’s roots from the former Toleman Motorsport team who made it’s entry back in 1981. Each era in the sport has a lethal partnership, a combination of man and machine which is unparalleled anywhere else. Ferrari and Schumacher, McLaren and Senna, Fangio and Maserati, and in the sixties it was Lotus and Jim Clarke. Britain’s most famous racing driver won two titles for Colin Chapman and the Lotus team at the height of the swinging sixties. Lotus had overtaken Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Maserati to become the sports dominant force. Sadly this couldn’t be sustained and after the rise came the fall. The eighties and nineties were hard for the team and eventually they went out of business in 1994. They are, however, back, albeit under a different guise, the Lotus name still remains and it deserves to be cherished. The team first debuted in 1958 but their first victory didn’t arrive until 1961 when Innes Ireland won the 1961 USA grands prix. Jim Clarke’s talent was so great that he was soon catapulted into the Lotus seat by his friend and mentor Colin Chapman. The decision worked wonders as Clarke won a record seven races in the 1963 season to comfortably claim the world championship. The Scot narrowly lost out to John Surtees’ Ferrari in 1964, but returns with aplomb in 1965 to earn Lotus their second title in three years. Chapman’s cars were criticised for being too light, and built with just speed in mind. Their brittleness was on show when problems with Clarke’s car in the final race of 1964 cost him the chance to defend his title. Chapman’s cars were, many believed, not safe enough and the list of drivers hurt or killed in them is hard evidence. Nine drivers including Stirling Moss, Jim Clarke and Graham Hill. Lotus struggled to acclimatise to rule changes in the wake of Clarke’s success and had to wait until 1968 for a return to good fortune. At the season’s opening race Clarke led home a Lotus 1-2 in what would be his last race win before his untimely death. Clarke died in Germany driving last seasons car with a wing modification designed by Chapman. The strong personality of Graham Hill helped the team survive Clarke’s death and the Englishman valiantly won the 68 title. Chapman’s supposedly ‘weak’ cars were becoming a talking point up and down the grid. Jochen Rindt, while in contention in a Lotus for the 1970 title, crashed fatally at Monza. With his points total too big for anyone to challenge he became the first and to this day only posthumous world champion. Young and flamboyant Brazillian Emerson Fittipaldi lifted the title in 72 and Mario Andretti in 1977, but the good days of Lotus were beginning to fade as the sport reached a new era. The team did become the first constructor to reach 50 grands prix wins, beating Ferrari, who had been the sport for an extra seven years. Instead of employing the finest drivers on the grid, Lotus became a team who investing in the future and heped young drivers reach the top of the sport. Both of Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna past through the team in the eighties, while Mika Hakkinen spent a season there in the 1990’s. Results were unspectacular with no wins but solid championship finishes. With debts spiralling out of control in the mid nineties, the team folded and went into liquidation. One of the sports great names was lost. The last race was the 1994 Australia grands prix. In 2010 the name Lotus returned however under very strained circumstances. Litespeed submitted an entry for the 2010 season under the name of Lotus, creating controversy with Lotus owners. The Malaysian government backed the plans and businessman Tony Fernandes bought the rights for the name seeing Lotus back on the grid. They didn’t score a single point that season. Rivals Renault were pulling out of the sport and Group Lotus PLC did a deal to create Lotus Renault for the 2011 season. They faired little better and still failed to score a single point. This saw two ‘Lotus’ teams on the grid and only after support from the Chapman family did Lotus Renault become ‘Lotus F1’, supporting Group Lotus PLC and not Fernandes. The Malaysian’s team were renamed Caterham for the 2012 season. Lotus were far more successful in the 2012 season with Kimi Raikkonen winning the Abu Dhabi grands prix and finishing third on the championship. This season they have high hopes for the title after putting the Lotus name back on the amp.
Official Lotus F1 website: www.lotusf1team.com