Lotus Launch Targets Top Team Status

Of the six teams to win at least one race last year, Lotus were the one who stood out as taking the chequered flag first later than most had expected. The words from the team at the launch of their 2013 machine on Monday night were those of one which wants more.

Cautious overtaking manoeuvres, a lack of race pace from Romain Grosjean and strategic errors left the Enstone team waiting until the 18th-round the 20-race season before winning a Grand Prix at Abu Dhabi. Team boss Eric Boullier spoke with the air of a man who sees his team on the cusp of regularly challenging the leading teams.

“I think it is fair to say that great things are possible. The leap we made from 2011 to 2012 showed what we are capable of.

“Add to this the continuity and potential of our driver line-up and we have a very powerful cocktail for the season ahead.

“Our ambitious plan to turn ourselves into one of the top teams in Formula 1 is coming to fruition and now we need to harness this with strong and regular podium results.

“We are lean and hungry. Enstone knows how to win championships, but it is a while since we have won so we are very eager to taste glory again.”

The Finn lost none of his speed despite his two year absence from the sport

The Finn lost none of his speed despite his two year absence from the sport

One of the sport’s star drivers was crucial in establishing the team as one to be reckoned with throughout the year. Returning to F1 after spending the majority of two years in rallying, Kimi Raikkonen finished all but one lap in the entire race calender and claimed points in all but one race – the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai being the exception as a late strategy gamble left the Finn tumbling down the order. Raikkonen said at the launch that the Lotus squad had the ability to win the championship and that Lotus have the experience from their title-winning years as Renault in 2005 and 2006 to do it all again.

“It’s clear from working with them that they are racers, and you can see in their history that they’ve won championships,” he said.

“Nothing I saw last year made me think that another championship was impossible in the future.

“Of course, there is some pretty tough competition out there and everyone wants to win.

“The team have beaten everyone before and there’s nothing to say they can’t do it again.”

The alarming shunt at Spa did not curb the Frenchman's wild habit of race-start incidents

The alarming shunt at Spa did not curb the Frenchman’s wild habit of race-start incidents

If Raikkonen was the team’s constant shining light, Romain Grosjean was the team’s qualifying star who failed to shine on race day. Though the Frenchman did show flashes of speed which were clear for all to see, he also had a number of incidents with other driver’s on the first lap of races. These culminated in Grosjean taking Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez out of the Belgian Grand Prix on lap one, while also hindering the afternoon of others. The resulting punishment meant Grosjean sat out the Italian Grand Prix and was the first race ban imposed on a driver since Eddie Irvine was banned for three races in 1994. Grosjean said himself that he wanted to prove to the world that he could be more consistent in his racecraft and race finishes which eluded him in his comeback year.

“I think everyone is waiting to see if I’m able to be consistent, which is where I was lacking a little bit last year,” Grosjean admitted.

“I know it and I’ll do everything I can to prove to people that I’m able to achieve this goal. I really want to jump out of the car as many times as possible thinking that I did a good job,” he explained.

“Knowing that everything I could do, I did, and feeling proud of my race or session. I hope to feel that way as many times as possible this year.”

Lotus have been first to the flag in launching their car, and if their new car, titled the E21, starts the 2013 season at least as quick as it did in 2012, they may well be first to the flag sooner rather than later.

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