Renault and Lotus extension confirmed; Pic named reserve

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It seems strange to say in modern Formula One that a team has shown up at a test without an official extension in place – gone are the days when a Minardi or someone of that ilk didn’t have an engine or tire deal done for that season – but until Thursday morning that was the case for the Lotus F1 Team.

Its engine partnership with Renault was expected, and a Renault block was in the car, but neither team nor engine manufacturer had issued a release confirming the official continuation of the partnership.

Until this morning, when they did, for what was deemed “2014 and beyond.”

A release from Renault this morning said in part:

Renault will supply the team with its Energy F1-2014 Power Unit for the coming season. … The extension continues the long and successful history of collaboration that first started in 1995 when Renault supplied its legendary V10 to Benetton, as the team was then known. … Renault’s decision to re-centre F1 activities around engine supply led to a majority shareholding being sold to Genii Capital in 2009 before the Luxembourg-based group purchased 100% control at the end of 2010. Renault has since remained involved as the team’s engine partner, aiding the team to re-emerge as a front running team in recent seasons.

While the official Renault release didn’t mention the length of the contract, the BBC reported the contract runs through 2018.

Taken at face value, that could mean a couple of things. It could mean Renault isn’t nearly as concerned about the Lotus cash flow for as bad as it seemed at times in 2013. Second, it guarantees the continued relationship of the two partners as this new engine formula for several years, without the risk of needing to change throughout the development process.

Lotus’ second day in Bahrain saw an improved number of laps – 18 by Romain Grosjean – but not enough to get past some installation issues. Pastor Maldonado takes over on Friday.

On another separate note, the team has confirmed Charles Pic, ex-Marussia and Caterham driver, as third driver for 2014. Pic will travel to races and conduct simulator work at the team’s Enstone factory.

“I am very excited to join a top team and Lotus F1 Team have certainly shown that they are a top team in this sport,” said Pic, via F1’s official website.

Other drivers in the Lotus test and reserve pipeline include Dane Marco Sorenson and Pic’s countryman, fellow Frenchman Nicolas Prost.

Schmidt Peterson hires IndyCar’s first female lead engineer, will work with Hinchcliffe

Photo courtesy Audi Sport
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Leena Gade, who helped lead Audi to three wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, has joined Schmidt Peterson Motorsports as lead engineer for the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda of driver James Hinchcliffe.

“I’m really honored that I’ve got a chance to come across and work in INDYCAR,” Gade said in a team media release. “When I was a kid, I used to watch Indy car (racing), especially when Nigel Mansell first came over (in 1993), and I followed it quite a lot.

“During my sports car days, it was a little less so, until I had friends come across to the U.S. to work in it like Piers (Phillips, SPM’s general manager).

“I’m quite honored to be given the chance. It is going to be something completely different to anything I’ve ever done before, so it’s a big learning curve, but it’s a challenge that I’m really relishing, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Gade, who grew up in India and is from Great Britain, is one of the most recognized engineers in all forms of international motorsports. She becomes the first female lead engineer in Verizon IndyCar Series history.

She’s also the second female lead engineer in Indy racing history, joining Diane Holl, who served as engineer for Adrian Fernandez, Tony Kanaan (Tasman Motorsports) and Richie Hearn (Della Penna Motorsports) in CART from 1996-2000.

Gade, who holds engineering degrees from the University of Manchester in England, has engineered cars in several race series and for several manufacturers, including F1, BMW, A1 Grand Prix, GT racing, Jaguar, Audi and most recently with Bentley Motorsport.

She became the first female race engineer to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2011, and followed that up with another Le Mans win in 2012, as well as being part of the World Endurance Championship drivers and manufacturers titles in the same year.

Also in 2012, she was named FIA WEC “Man of the Year” and was awarded the C&R Racing Women in Technology award from the Lyn St. James Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation.

Her team also won Le Mans for a third time in 2014.

“There was significant interest in Leena amongst the international motorsports community, so we’re really excited that she sees where we’re taking SPM, believes in what we’re doing and that she is now a part of our organization,” Piers Phillips said. “ I’ve known Leena for quite some time now and I’ve worked alongside her, so I knew the credit she’s been given is well deserved. We’re very much looking forward to throwing her into the deep end and seeing her add to the team’s success.”

Gade and Hinchcliffe go into the deep end that Phillips referenced when they take part in a team test Jan. 24 at Sebring International Raceway, the first time the pair will work together.