In-Depth: Have Lotus Stolen Force India’s Design For 2010?
One of the more interesting stories of this week, although not as imporant as Toyota’s exit from F1, was the accusation from Force India’s senior management of concerns regarding the new Lotus F1 teams car.
Photos of the windtunnel model of the first Lotus were released a few weeks ago, and a paddock mole rooted out that Force India’s top management had held meetings regarding what it felt was robbery of design and intellectual property.
It is alleged, that the front wing assembly especially, and other dimensions of the model are sharing exact replicas of aerodynamic pieces and sizes used on early versions of Force India’s 2009 car.
The model, created by a company called Fondtech, a parent company of Aerolab worked with Force India until midway through 2009, when their partnership with Lotus was announced. Fondtech, based in Italy, have made this model for Lotus’ windtunnel testing use. Mike Gascoyne is the senior technical director of the team, overseeing large parts of the design and recently worked with Force India.
Following big stories like crash-gate and spy-gate this seems relatively minor, and considering Scuderia Toro Rosso used repaints of Red Bull’s cars and have done since their entry into F1 in 2006, it seems almost trivial. But it is interesting to see this element of design carried over, and with a ruling stating no two cars can have the exact replica designs to cut out “customer cars” as part of the 2010 regulations and FOTA’s preferred regulations, it will be interesting to see if the FIA take any action over the allegeations.
Mike Gascoyne gave a short interview to Autosport Magazine who brought these allegations to the public eye. He claims that generic wings were used on the model, almost suggesting that because of Fondtech’s recent partnership with Force India that the designs could be very similar.
“It [The Windtunnel Model] is based around a 2010 chassis, because there is a big fuel volume in it, it has a Cosworth engine, an Xtrac gearbox, our suspension, and other stuff designed by us. The Fondmetal guys put some generic bodywork on [for the tests].” Gascyone told Autosport
“Some of the staff had been working on different projects. And whereas you cannot copy anything or take anyone else’s IP, you can use your expertise – and you will base that on what you know and what directions you know have been happening. That is what has happened.”
Aerolab, the front base of operations for parent company Fondtech have not taken the criticisms lightly and are now sueing Force India over breaches of contract.
“It is quite unusual for us to comment on negative matters but we have been given no other choice but to make public the facts after press reports in recent days suggested that Aerolab has passed on information to parent company Fondtech which enjoys a close technical relationship with Lotus F1 Racing,” said Aerolab’s managing director Jean-Claude Migeot.
“These rumours are designed only to tarnish the company’s reputation and professionalism and to divert attention away from the facts.
“The truth is that Aerolab is suing Force India for not fulfilling its obligations.”
Quite a storm has been created down the end of the grid, so we shall keep looking at what occurs with the allegeations, in a week where Force India recieved nearly $5million payout from Etihad Airlines for cutting short its contract and swapping to sponsor front runners Scuderia Ferrari.
The above winglet from the Force India is a telling design when compared to the Lotus, apart from the two tier winglet which goes towards the nose from the end plate, the design of that winglet is replicated onto the Lotus. Te curved end plate with small carbon upright is also evident on the black Lotus aerodynamic model above. As are the sweeping carbon pieces which direct airflow under the car.