All change at Lotus – out went Renault engines and the iconic black-and-gold John Player Special branding, and in come Honda engines and bright yellow Camel colours. The Hethel team had scored something of a coup in securing the Honda deal, as part of which they also employed F1’s first full-time Japanese driver in the shape of Satoru Nakajima, displacing the unfortunate Johnny Dumfries. The Lotus 99T chassis in which the Honda powerplant would sit saw another attempt to make Active Suspension work – the team had experimented with this in 1983 with disappointing results, but the rewards in a consistent ride height and smoother ride would be worth the extra weight and power drain if they could make it work. Last year’s car had been good enough to win races – the addition of Honda power could transform it into a title challenger if the suspension worked.
11. Satoru Nakajima
Nakajima arrived at Lotus as a package with the Honda engines, and cynics were quick to deride him but the Japanese driver was not without pedigree. He knew the engine well, having been Honda’s in-house test driver as they developed it with Williams, while he had won the Japanese F2 title in 1981, 82, 84, 85 and 86 as well as racing with Ralt-Honda in the European F2 series. At 34 he was old for an F1 debut, but was nonetheless proud to blaze the trail for his country.
12. Ayrton Senna
Senna entered his third season at Lotus having won races and proved both his speed and his maturity in a series of stunning drives. He was rapidly becoming known as a qualifying specialist in particular, sitting on the top spot for 8 of the 16 races in 1986. With no disrespect meant to Nakajima, his new team-mate was unlikely to give him much more competition than Dumfries had – this suited Senna, and the new colour scheme even matched his helmet! Could the new-look Lotus take him to even greater heights?