Being the “hard hitting F1 journalist” that I am, I thought it best to go out and see a factory first hand, and what better place to start than at Enstone. Yesterday, the Enstone family at Lotus F1 Team kindly hosted me as their guest for the day. My adventure started in Oxford, where barely having recovered from my jet lag, I found myself sitting outside of the train station with two coffees. One for myself (needed), and one for Aurélie (also needed) who had kindly agreed to collect me from the station. I did Google Maps the journey to Enstone via public transport, but the route involved two bus changes, followed by a 30 minute walk along a field, so Lotus offered to pick me up from Oxford.
Once I received my fancy visitors card I met with Ian, who’d I’d been in contact with. My tour started as Ian led me into a room telling me “Don’t hold your breath, it’s nothing special”, opening the doors to the conference room where Michael Schumacher’s 1994 and 1995, and Fernando Alonso’s 2005 and 2006 championship winning Benettons and Renaults lined the wall.
As ingenious as the E22s twin tusk nose, Lotus’ Computational Fluid Dynamics centre is built in an underground James Bond style bunker to get around planning permissions. Though the feel of the building has more of a Teletubbies feel than a spy bunker, that is, if the Teletubbies were working on state of the art technical developments for the E22…
I don’t mean to brag, but when I sat on the wheel the car moved about a quarter of an inch back, so *technically* I have driven a Formula 1 car. Just saying… Move over Pastor, I’m coming.
We then moved along to the wind tunnel, where I was given a lesson in how the tunnel transforms the fast turbulent air generated from the fan, to fast smooth air by the time it runs over the 60% scale model of the E22. I wasn’t able to take photos in this area, but the scale of the tunnel is quite impressive. With the power needed to generate the fan, being enough to run a small village. Impressive.
The tour continued to the 3D printing facility, where an entire mock up of the car, from gearbox to front-wing end plate can be printed using a sophisticated combination of lasers, powder and/or liquid. Moving through the factory, I was taken to visit the composites department, where just next door Charles Pic’s chassis was being repaired. On closer inspection I noted that some of the bodywork on the car was being held together with masking tape, but just until the glue dried I was assured by Ian.
After lunch in the Lotus cafeteria (I had a lovely fresh tuna sandwich in case you were interested), I went upstairs for a chat with Andy and Aurélie in the media communications office to get some advice on pursuing a career in motor sports. My VIP day ended with a visit to the trophy shelves, where I couldn’t resist taking a couple of “trophy selfies”, and hugging the headless manikin on the Lotus race suit.
At 5pm, I left the factory with aching cheeks from my Daniel Ricciardo impersonation all day*. Andy dropped me back to Oxford station so I could get back to London. I’ve always heard rumours of the Enstone family being the friendliest in the Paddock, and I can confirm, that’s true. No other team would be that hospitable to a young (slightly F1 obsessed) Australian girl who’d flown 12,000 miles to ask for career advice. So thank you very much Ian, Aurélie, Andy, and the Lotus F1 Team for such an incredible day.
* Ie. I couldn’t stop smiling.