The past two Formula 1 races haven’t been kind to Lotus F1 Team and one has to wonder if these poor showings are the result of bad luck and off weeks, or the beginning of a backwards slide for Lotus.
The team started the season off in all the right ways: they were the first to unveil their 2013 car, the first to figure out how to be fast on the oft-criticized Pirelli tires without making said tires fall apart, and most importantly the first to win a Grand Prix.
Kimi Raikkonen had as dominant a win in Melbourne as we have seen all year except for perhaps the similar clinic that Sebastian Vettel put on in Montreal. Both were the result of managing pit stops to perfection, making the tires last, and being stupid fast which resulted in the drivers winning by huge margins. The problem for Lotus is that Raikkonen has yet to repeat their performance while Vettel is locked into a groove for Red Bull Racing.
Since the victory in Melbourne Kimi has a trio of P2 finishes in addition to a P7, P9, and P10. He has yet to finish out of the points giving him 24 consecutive points finishes which ties the record set by Michael Schumacher, but that silver lining isn’t enough for Raikkonen or Lotus. Though Kimi hasn’t been as good as he wants to be he has still been good and he is still the Iceman so I feel like he will be fine. His team mate is another story.
Romain Grosjean is known around F1 for all the wrong reasons. His occasional brilliance is vastly over shadowed by his streak of crashes that often take out other drivers. Most recently the Frenchman ran into the back of Daniel Ricciardo at the Monaco Grand Prix which cost him a 10-stop grid penalty for the Canadian Grand Prix. That landed him in P22 for the start in Montreal. Grosjean impressively battled up to finish P13 in that GP.
Grosjean has found the podium once in 2013 with a P3 finish in Bahrain, but that is his only top five placing of the season. He has two DNFs already.
If the team wants to keep Kimi in the driver’s championship hunt and themselves within grasp of the constructor’s championship then they need to step up their game and figure out why they looked so bad in the last two GPs instead of merely brushing it off.
Team Principal Eric Boullier seems content with the latter approach, however. Boullier wrote off Canada as a “one-off” for the team and said that it should in no way be considered an indication of how the team will perform for the rest of the season. That also happens to be exactly what he said following the race in Monaco.
I believed him after Monaco since Raikkonen was looking at a top five finish before Sergio Perez made his much publicized ill-conceived pass attempt at the Nouvelle chicane, and because Grosjean has never really figured out how to get around Monte Carlo without eating barrier. Monaco is an anomaly on the F1 schedule too with its narrow track and relatively slow pace.
Canada is also a bit of a wild card since the only strategy involved is the “how fast can I make this thing go” kind. Still the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is closer to being a proper Formula One track than Monaco so Lotus has to be competitive there.
The British Grand Prix is up next and Lotus absolutely has to finish well. They simply cannot afford to give Kimi a car that is only capable of grabbing three points over two races if they want him to compete for a championship. The Lotus engineers introduced a new upgrades package for the race that they hope will be enough to get a solid finish, though the team didn’t really impress during qualifying with Grosjean and Raikkonen earing P8 and P9 starts respectively.
In addition to all of that, Lotus now has to focus on proving to Kimi that they can make improvements and give him a good ride in order to keep him with the team beyond 2013. Red Bull has said that Raikkonen tops their short list of drivers to fill the seat that Mark Webber will vacate at the end of the season. Lotus has to start delivering cars that qualify well and win races if they want to keep the Iceman in black and gold.
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