Formula 1 analysts, both professional and otherwise, have been saying it for weeks, but finally somebody who matters has spoken the words: Kimi Raikkonen says that Lotus F1 Team needs to qualify better.
Raikkonen has qualified seventh or lower in three of the four Grands Prix thus far in the 2013 season, but has still managed one win and two P2 finishes despite the shabby starting positions. It goes to reason that if Lotus can get Kimi and his team mate Romain Grosjean closer to the front of the pack on the starting grid then they could be racking up wins instead of podiums.
The Iceman’s best starting position so far came in China when he grabbed P2, which is the same position he finished that race in. Grosjean has qualified no better than 6th and has one podium finish which was a P3 in Bahrain. The Frenchman finished P10, P6, and P9 in Australia, Malaysia, and China respectively.
It is becoming obvious that Lotus has a chance at being a serious contender in 2013. Raikkonen is looking more comfortable in his second year back in an F1 cockpit and has the race pace to battle for the driver’s championship. Grosjean has been hit and miss but the general consensus around the Lotus camp is that his season started with that Bahrain Podium and he will continue to improve and finish strong. You can give the Enstone, UK based team a check in the box for race pace.
The two-stop strategy that helped carry Raikkonen to a dominant victory in Melbourne would suggest that Lotus also has a better understanding of the new Pirelli tire compounds than most other teams. Since the opening of preseason testing it has been said that figuring out the tires would go a long way towards a championship in 2013, and if Lotus is figuring things out like it seems they are then that is a second check in the box towards a solid season.
Both drivers have yet to account for a DNF, which means that Grosjean is apparently over his habit of crashing as often as possible and that reliability will not be a concern for Lotus. Check number three.
Fast, consistent qualifying pace is all that Lotus seems to be lacking to complete the puzzle. If they can manage to get their wheel men close to the front of the starting grid then they have the inside track to both championships this season.
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