Development drivers and Lotus


Lotus clearly believe they have lots to do in developing their 2015 E23.

The Enstone team have announced Hong Kong born Adderly Fong will join Carmen Jorda as their second development driver and recently the plight of Suzie Wolff has focused many F1 fans minds on what exactly this title means.

Pat Symonds made it clear when Valtteri Bottas was unfit to race in Australia that Wolff was merely a development and test driver – not a reserve driver.

So development drivers don’t get to race even should one of the race drivers become unable to drive in a GP or qualifying. These drivers often bring a level of finance to the team and in return are awarded an agreed number of FP1 sessions during the season.

Test and development drivers tend to perform a lot of simulator based work in in order to benchmark developments being considered for the real car. They can also be utilised to entertain sponsors and VIP guests, though Fong’s racing schedule may see him less of a gopher than was GP2 series winner and ex-Lotus test and reserve driver, Davide Valsecchi.

Adderly Fong was a late starter, beginning his racing career aged 14. Last October, Fong completed an F1 test with Sauber where he clocked up 99 laps at the circuit in Valencia driving a two-year-old C31.

This year, Fong will combine his Lotus F1 Team duties with competing in the GP3 Series and GT Asia seasons.

Matthew Carter, CEO, Lotus F1 Team: “It’s great to have Adderly join the team. We have an aggressive development programme with the E23 so he will be able to both learn from our engineers and race drivers as well as contribute to our car through the course of the season. We have a very strong driver line-up which Adderly will join so he has a great opportunity to learn ahead of him. We are committed to moving back up the competitive order and Adderly’s work behind the scenes will be invaluable in assisting us to achieve this.”

A naturally delighted Adderly Fong had this to say. “This is a great opportunity to further my racing career; I’ll be able to learn how an F1 team operates during race weekends as an integral part of the team and these invaluable experiences are going to lay the foundations of my future development as an F1 driver. I am happy but I am not going to get carried away, for this is only the first of many steps. I aim to become the first Chinese driver to compete in a Formula 1 Grand Prix which will assist to promote the sport in China and also in Hong Kong. There is great potential for me with Lotus F1 Team so I can’t wait to get under way in my new role.”

Despite the rhetoric, given Lotus track record, Fong will get nowhere near a race seat for the team. When Kimi Raikkonen bailed out of the team in 2013, Lotus did not turn to one of their ‘in house’ divers to replace him. Instead they recruited an unemployed and past it Heikki Kovalainen, who managed two 14th place finishes failing to score any points for the team.

20 responses to “Development drivers and Lotus

  1. He just wanted to hang with Carmen Jorda. That would seem to be the only reason I can think of, since it’s clear no development driver for Lotus will ever get near race seat, regardless of talent.

    • The crying shame about this is that it’s Esteban Ocon that has been sidelined, someone who beat Max Verstappen in F3 last year. He’s the real talent that should be the Lotus reserve/development driver, shown by the FP1 in Abu Dhabi, while Palmer brings some backing to be the test driver as Ocon gets ready for F1 (and with the lack of Lotus backing… his GP2 seat was taken by Lynn, so now he moves to GP3 instead).

  2. the suzie wolf thing is so silly. such a great opportunity to create huge global interest squandered. so incredibly dumb that they’d rather not start a car than put suzie in it and see what happens. I’m flabbergasted

    • Does Wolff even have a super licence? I’m not seeing how she could possibly qualify for one under the new regulations.

      And what huge global interest would it create? We’d have a female driver racing in F1. Great. A female driver who, based on her racing career results, most likely would be utterly smashed by anyone with a car even remotely competitive against the Williams. Including of course her own team mate, who mind you over the course of the whole weekend only managed to actually hit the turn 3 apex about as many times as Maldonado completed a race lap. How would it any good at all for the whole, “Women drivers in F1” cause to drop in an entirely unqualified driver JUST because she’s a woman, only for her to be absolutely demolished out on track?

      We’re talking about a driver who, in the years in DTM when Paul di Resta finished 2nd, 3rd and 1st, managed only 18th, 16th and 13th. In 7 years of DTM she never even managed to finish a year in the top 10, let alone anywhere near the front. The only reason she ever got the Williams gig was because of Toto. But much like Carmen Jorda, Susie Wolff hasn’t a hope in hell of ever landing an F1 race seat anyway, unless the FIA want to temporarily disregard their own super licence requirements.

        • Probably de Silvestro or Visser, but dig a little under the surface, and it’s likely you can find someone not very well known and probably making waves. That or someone already retired!

        • Theoretically still Danica Patrick, but she chose money over success by going NASCRAP.
          In non-openwheel competition there have been a few very successfull racers: Jutta Kleinschmidt, Claudia Hürtgen, Sabine Schmitz, Ellen Lohr to name a few.
          Others never really got the chance as they had to limp around in uncompetitive machinery in small teams – Cyndie Allemann springs to mind.

      • Actually this year’s regs would allow Wolff a superlicense, next years not so much. Wehrlein too, finds himself in a bind, needing a license if he wants a seat next year.

        AS far as Wolff, her speed or lack thereof, is not relevant. She can drive the car and as the first woman in forever to try to qualify, the interest she would generate would far outweigh any loss of championship points, even were she to be as slow as you intimate. Frankly, anything would be bigger than the big fat zero they rolled up in Melbourne with Bottas’ car.

        • Thanks for clarifying on the super licence regs.

          As for Wolff’s lack of speed being irrelevant, I disagree. If you want to show that women can compete in F1 alongside the men, you don’t put a woman who simply isn’t competitive into a race seat. She hasn’t even raced since 2012, and even when she was racing she wasn’t competitive. Again, 7 years of DTM and never really achieved anything. Sure there’d be some positive interest, but it’s also leaving the door open to anyone who wants to say, “See? Absolutely destroyed. Women don’t belong in F1.”

          Everyone whinges about undeserving drivers paying their way into F1 seats, but this wouldn’t really be any different. Just that instead of money, Susie’s currency would be the fact that she’s female. On actual racing credentials, she has no place racing in F1. And to put someone entirely undeserving in a car, simply because she’s a woman, makes a mockery of the whole thing. The underlying issue is equality… and putting Susie Wolff in a race seat does nothing for that cause.

          • Actually, I would happily take the other side of that bet. Plenty of men who were not in the least competitive have been stuffed into cockpits, why should Ms. Wolff alone be held to a higher standard. There is no way she could surpass Taki or other inveterate F1 clownsters in the fail market. However, the mere act of qualifying and starting the race would make her only the 3rd woman in history and the 1st since 1976 to do so. Even if she finished somewhere between 5th and 10th it would be more than worth it for Williams, especially as it’s likely a one off experience.

            Or, to take a more recent example, fan favorite Kobayashi was stuffed into a Toyota with little reason other than he was Japanese. He had hardly set the world on fire in the GP2 Asia series, but Toyota were SOL for the race weekend so in he went and voila, instant sensation as he refused to just get out of the way for the “people of importance” during the race.

            Or possibly you’re worried that Vettel will call her a cucumber, ala Karthikayan, should they have a set to. Well, given the fact that she’s Scottish, I would suggest he’s liable to come out on the losing end of an insult contest, Rosberg’s recent experience notwithstanding.

            But I digress from my main point which is that by holding women to a higher standard, one merely makes it less likely that they will ever gain access.

            As far as your assertion, I categorically disagree regarding her CV. Given the machinery she had, she did fine. A better argument might be her (apparent) lack of actual wheel to wheel racing, though she did take part in the recent ROC.

            Still, were I in charge that would be the no brainer of the century,as long as she felt ready. With a car like the Williams, it would be hard for her not to score points even if she is thoroughly mediocre. And given the modern points structure, were she to score at all, it would immediately make her the woman who scored the most ever championship points, and the only to do so in the modern era. For Williams, who would once again find themselves ensconced in the record books, how would that be a bad thing.

  3. What I recall hearing on TV was that because Valtteri was pulled after qualy, that he couldn’t be replaced by anyone who hadn’t already driven the car. I took that to mean that IF she’d driven in FP1, she could have replaced him. I may be mistaken.

  4. @Sam That is correct, after qually it is too late to substitute. Also, it is really incredible that Suzie would not be allowed to drive in the next race if Bottas was not healthy.

    • It was rumoured that Pascal Wehrlein would’ve been the replacement driver if Bottas was unable to race.

    • As far as racing for Williams, I had the impression that Ms. Wolff lacked some speed.

      Williams have a very impressive young talent in Alex Lynn, whose title is Development Driver.

      But Mr. Lynn may lack a Super License. If true, then Pascal Weirlein would be an excellent choice, if required.

      The roles and functions of the F1 Testing / Development / Reserve driver are nebulous and confusing. I wish it were not so.

      Good luck to Mr. Fong! 🙂

  5. Why don’t they just come out and say, “they’re paying us to drive the simulator and turn up on race weekend wearing the team kit with the hope someone spots them and offer them a drive in another category”….. That’s what I would’ve done.

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