Tough year ahead for Lotus after losing top names

2014 F1 season preview

Romain Grosjean, Lotus, Bahrain, 2014

Lotus have lost their star driver, their team principal and their top designer.

Thankfully they haven’t lost their sense of humour. Lotus would be uncontested champions if awards were given for provocative and amusing tweets, but it’s probably best not to give Bernie Ecclestone any more ideas about the points system.

The team’s financial difficulties were well-publicised last year after Kimi Raikkonen announced he was moving to Ferrari partly because his current team had failed to pay him all year long.

The issue of money hung over the team at the end of 2013 as they unsuccessfully pursued an investment deal from Quantum Motorsport. The finance issue also became a focus of its decision on who to hire as Raikkonen’s replacement.

Eventually Pastor Maldonado and his PDVSA millions got the nod over the far less well-financed but arguably more promising Nico Hulkenberg.

“It’s no secret to say that last year, while very positive on the track, was challenging off the track,” the team’s CEO Matthew Carter admitted. “This year we’re looking to be as successful away from the track as we are on it.”

However they believe they are now on a sound footing. “We have a new financial stability which will allow us to go forwards, develop the car and hopefully enable us to be challenging right at the front of the grid.”

Pastor Maldonado, Lotus, Bahrain, 2014Unfortunately 2014 began with further setbacks. Team principal Eric Boullier jumped ship to McLaren, and before doing so admitted the team’s new car wouldn’t be ready for the first test of the year in Jerez.

Boullier reckoned Lotus wouldn’t be the only team in that situation, but it proved not to be the case. The E22 was the only 2014 not to appear at the Spanish test.

That was not the setback it might have been given the extent of the difficulties Renault were having, but it has left the team playing catch-up at a time when there is precious little pre-season mileage available for F1’s radically new cars.

Lotus has a deserved reputation for punching above its weight. They won races in the last two seasons on a budget substantially smaller than that of other race-winners. It’s been a lean, efficient team since it started life as Toleman, but there’s no doubting it’s up against it this year.

Although designer James Allison has moved on, the car plans he left behind were for a particularly aggressive interpretation of the 2014 rules, particularly as concerns noses. So far Lotus are the only team to adopt the twin tusks of unequal lengths, though at least one of their rivals are rumoured to be considering the same.

The asymmetry extends to the rear of the car as well where Lotus have offset the exhaust outlet from the centre and used a single pillar, curved around it, to mount the wing – an ingenious and potentially more efficient solution than that of their rivals.

Their new driver line-up is as eye-catching as the car. Two years ago, when Romain Grosjean picked up a one-race ban for causing a pile-up at Spa and Maldonado seemed incapable of going wheel-to-wheel with a rival without causing contact, the idea of pairing them up at the same team would have been comical.

But since then Grosjean has seriously upped his game. He was the only driver to consistently get on terms with Red Bull in the latter part of 2013 with top-drawer drives in Japan, India and America.

Maldonado endured a miserable 2013 in a car which wasn’t going anywhere quickly, but for the most part he managed to stay out of trouble. He has a blazing turn of speed, particularly at tracks he likes, and should be a good match on performance for Grosjean.

But the early signs the chances to score big points will not present themselves as readily this year for Lotus as they did in the last two seasons. That will ask questions of both their drivers’ ability to bring the car home without getting caught up in the kind of needless accidents they have in the past.

Lotus’s F1 record

http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/charts/stats.csv

1958 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Championship position 6 4 2 2 2 1 3 1 5 2 1 3 1 5 1 1 4 7 4 2 1 4 5 7 5 8 3 4 3 3 4 6 8 9 5 6 10 10 4 4
Points 3 5 34 32 37 58 40 56 21 50 62 47 59 21 61 92 42 9 29 62 86 39 14 22 30 12 47 71 58 64 23 15 3 3 13 12 0 0 0 303 315
Wins 0 0 2 3 3 7 3 6 1 4 5 2 6 0 5 7 3 0 1 5 8 0 0 0 1 0 0 3 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1
Pole positions 0 0 4 1 6 7 5 6 2 9 0 5 5 3 0 3 10 1 0 1 7 12 0 0 0 0 1 2 8 8 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

NB. 1958-1994 original Lotus team; 2010-11 second Lotus team (now Caterham); 2012-present current Lotus team (previously Renault).

Over to you

How do you expect Lotus to fare having lost so many of their top names? Have your say in the comments.

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20 comments on Tough year ahead for Lotus after losing top names

  1. Dr. Jekyll (@dr-jekyll) said on 6th March 2014, 10:37

    pretty much sums it up (as was intended)
    but god, that graph is confusing hah!

  2. davros said on 6th March 2014, 10:43

    I noticed that the pole positions are off by a year, at least in the 80’s.

  3. Klon (@klon) said on 6th March 2014, 10:44

    Thankfully they haven’t lost their sense of humour.

    I really wish they had lost that instead of staff. Their PR department are (rounded up) as funny a skin cancer.

  4. Shreyas Mohanty (@) said on 6th March 2014, 10:49

    Thankfully they haven’t lost their sense of humour. Lotus would be uncontested champions if awards were given for provocative and amusing tweets, but it’s probably best not to give Bernie Ecclestone any more ideas about the points system.

    Everybody loves a journalist with a sense of humour! :D

  5. Sam (@) said on 6th March 2014, 11:00

    Even with Kimi there I’ve never been a fan of them. A team that does not interest me in the slightest. I’m also no big fan of Grosjean.

  6. Boomerang said on 6th March 2014, 11:13

    With powertrain as problematic as it is, it’s too early to make any conclusions about their prospects in 2014. If I can recollect exactly: Pastor Maldonado didn’t smash the car during the first test in Bahrain, Kimi did – although being much more mature ;-) …according to some.

    • D (@f190) said on 6th March 2014, 11:26

      To be fair Maldonado only likes to crash into other drivers. I don’t think he had a clear target in testing.

      Lotus is a team I should like… but I just don’t. Last year with Kimi and Grosjean they had a strong lineup. I know Grosjean was the crash kid of 2012, however last year he put in some really solid performances. I Understand they are/were in financial difficulties, but taking on Maldonado was a big mistake for me. He’s shown more glimpses of being a menace/ downright dangerous than he has of solid talent.

      • Keith Campbell (@keithedin) said on 6th March 2014, 11:47

        “I don’t think he had a clear target in testing”

        Not having anything to race for didn’t stop him side-swiping Hamilton or Perez between flying laps. Still don’t understand why he got away with things like that but Grosjean got banned for a race. Intentional contact is worse than accidents imo.

        If someone could convince him that most of his crashes are his fault, maybe he would actually improve, but he seems incapable of that when left to his own devices.

  7. Rigi (@rigi) said on 6th March 2014, 11:28

    i stopped supporting them after they signed maldonado. now i only support their driver. it’s a shame grosjean will be stuck with lotus for a while.

  8. Magnificent Geoffrey (@magnificent-geoffrey) said on 6th March 2014, 11:44

    How ironic would it be if Maldonado, who just abandoned Williams after accusing the team of sabotaging his car in Texas, has taken his money to Lotus and ended up with one of the slowest cars on the grid, while Williams turn up to Melbourne with the best car they’ve had for a decade.

  9. matt90 (@matt90) said on 6th March 2014, 12:09

    I know they’ve all been called Lotus, but the connection between the 3 is so much more tenuous than other teams which have come, gone, then come back again (Mercedes and Renault). It feels weird having them on the same graph, particularly now-Caterham with current Enstone (“Lotus”).

  10. matt said on 6th March 2014, 12:39

    er…. maybe the graph should have the benetton results? colin chapmans team has nothing to do with enstone.

  11. Tango (@tango) said on 6th March 2014, 13:24

    I feel really bad for Grosjean. I have been a big fan of his since I first saw a GP2 Asia race from his first outings in the series. I felt bad for him in 2009 and was quite sorry for his year or so of subpar performances (funny when you think he has scored multiple podiums in every full F1 seasons he has entered). A bad car would be the worst timing-wise for him. I believe he reached a tremendous level at the end of last year and seeing him languishing at the back would be terrible. He is one of those drivers (with Hulkenberg and Bottas) I really hope to see survive in F1 long enough to land a top seat.

    • Morty Vicar (@mortyvicar) said on 6th March 2014, 18:50

      @tango I agree. I really rate Grosjean on his ability, based on his time in the lower series. We saw his true abilities start to come to the fore last season, particularly at the end when he put in some stunning performances that almost caught up with Vettel. Sadly Lotus’ woes are now going to relegate Grosjean’s chances of scoring wins and hopefully a WDC. It’s probably no wonder that he came over all Gallic and slapped a tool chest in Sakhir. Being once so close and now so far away would make me lose my cool too. I actually see it as a good thing because it means he’s an impassioned fighter. I hope Lotus can come good for him, or a better team appreciates his abilities (and there’s a place available (looking at you McLaren. And oh, who’s that? Why, Bonjour M. Eric Bouiller, manager of M. Romain Grosjean…))

  12. BJ (@beejis60) said on 6th March 2014, 15:51

    Pastor Maldonado and his PDVSA millions

    Someone mentioned it awhile ago and I’ll mention it again; MAL is always mentioned like this, word for word.

  13. Everyone knew that Lotus was going to implode after key people went way that said their leaders prefer to ignore reality and turn to tatters.

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