Romain Grosjean, Lotus, Bahrain, 2014

Tough year ahead for Lotus after losing top names

2014 F1 season previewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

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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