Lotus to skip first F1 pre-season test at Jerez

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Lotus has confirmed that they will not be present at the first Formula One pre-season test at Jerez de la Frontera, Spain at the end of this month. Instead, the team is aiming to unleash its upcoming E22 challenger ahead of next month’s sessions at the Bahrain International Circuit.

“We’re going to keep our car under wraps a little longer than some other teams,” team technical director Nick Chester said on the Lotus web site this morning.

“We’ve decided that attending the Jerez test isn’t ideal for our build and development program. We are likely to unveil the car before attending the Bahrain tests, and in Bahrain, we should really be able to put the car through its paces in representative conditions.”

Chester reports that the E22 is almost ready for homologation, citing that the car has “made very good progress” through the process and has just a “nose test” to pass before it is ready to go. He also says that chassis fittings have been made for both of their 2014 drivers, Romain Grosjean and newcomer Pastor Maldonado.

“Certainly, our partners who have seen the car have reported themselves to be very impressed with the layout and various solutions to the new technical challenges,” Chester said.

However, while insisting that development on the E22 has been positive so far, he said that Lotus is working with “very little idea” of what their competitors have in mind for 2014.

“This is the first year of radically different regulations which means that all teams are developing their cars along potentially quite different avenues,” he said. “It’s fascinating for us engineers and I hope it is fascinating for the fans too.

“We think we have a very good solution to the challenge and hopefully this will be seen when the E22 turns its wheels in anger.”

As a result of Lotus’ decision to skip Jerez (Jan. 28-Feb. 1), the E22 will have just eight days of on-track running prior to the start of the 2014 season in mid-March at Australia. The Bahrain tests run from Feb. 19-22 and Feb. 27-March 2.

However, the fact that Lotus is opting out of Jerez may not be all that surprising; the team reportedly asked last month that this particular test be delayed by a week.

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.