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Troubled Lotus’ lose more ground in Sepang
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Posted By: Justin Hynes  |  28 Mar 2014   |  1:27 pm GMT  |  47 comments

Lotus’ troubled start to the season continued in Sepang as the team’s drivers set a total of just 14 timed laps across both opening practice sessions, with neither driver record a time in FP1 and Pastor Maldonado failing to set a time all day.

The Venezuelan was restricted to the garage for much of the morning session in Malaysia but he eventually took the track with 20 minutes remaining. His outing didn’t last long however. Midway through his out lap smoke could be seen pouring from the back of his E22 and he was quickly told to “switch off the car” by his team.

Grosjean, meanwhile, had been on track early in the session, but his running was ended just 25 minutes in when he stopped on track. After a lengthy spell in the garage the Frenchman did eventually make it back out, returning to the fray with seven minutes of the session remaining. He completed a single installation lap before heading back to the pit lane.

It was a similar story in the afternoon. Maldonado spent the session garage-bound as the team replaced the Renault power unit in his car following the turbo failure of the morning.

Grosjean made it out, however, taking to the track just after the green light went out at the start of the session. He completed 10 laps before returning to the garage for lengthy spell. He headed back on track with just under half an hour left but after four more laps, he was slowing once again reporting that he had “lost gearbox!” He stopped and again the recovery truck was called for an E22.

Afterwards, Grosjean admitted that the situation has become more than frustrating. “We have to work and try to solve all our issues,” he said. “This morning we couldn’t do any laps, and this afternoon we burnt a cable which stopped the gearbox from working. Of course I don’t get out of the car with a smile when my car is parked out on track and is not working, and you do swear a little bit in your head!”

Maldonado though was similarly unimpressed. “It’s important for the team and it’s important for me to be able to test the car and push a little bit, as it was not the case in the first race,” he said. “It’s tough as each time we’re expecting to be better and better.”

After missing the opening test in Jerez at the start of the year, Lotus logged a total of 238 laps in total across the two Bahrain tests, compared with 761 for Williams across the same two tests.

Compromised by their lack of running in testing, the team decamped to Melbourne where in the opening practice session Maldonado completed just two untimed laps, while Grosjean managed none at all. In the second session the French driver completed 12 laps while this time it was Maldonado who failed to log a time.

Their weekend didn’t get any better the following day. Final practice saw just one car touring again, with Maldonado completing 15 laps. Both were eliminated in Q1, Maldonado without a time Grosjean in 21st place.

The race was similarly deflating, with both drivers exiting the grand prix with ERS problems before 23 laps had elapsed.

The essential issue for Lotus now is that with each passing session and each missed opportunity to assess the E22, their rivals put further distance between themselves and the Enstone team in terms of development.

After another fruitless day Grosjean, at least, attempted to find positives, saying: “I’ve said before, it’s only the second race of the season and we always knew we would be starting on the back foot. We will get to where we want to be.”

The question remains, just how long a process that is likely to be.

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47 Comments
  1. NickH says:

    Dark days, especially with their budget. It’s going to end badly

  2. giorgio says:

    Hi JA,
    Do teams experience with some low fuel quantity at the start? e.g. 95-90 kg, or it’s just disadvantageous and everyone fuel up to the limit?

  3. Gaz Boy says:

    Well as Enstone isn’t far away from Chipping Norton, perhaps they could get Jeremy Clarkson to give him a helping hand – old Jezza would be probably be delighted to help out – he could bring in his mates James and Richard as well.
    Seriously though, mileage is everything in this new F1 formula, and the fact that Lotus haven’t done hardly any to iron out any bugs is really hurting them. I fear they may be playing catch up all year and could have their worst season since 2009 when that years car was also a lemon.
    I just hope I’m wrong, but add on their fiscal problems, and it isn’t looking good for the Enstone lot.

    1. Gaz Boy says:

      Shows how things change in 12 months. This time last year, Lotus came to Malaysia having won in Melbourne………………as I said, how things change in terms of form and results.

  4. Muna says:

    Will Maldonado blame Lotus for sabotaging his car.
    He should have hang in there with Williams.
    Hulkenbergs move to force india seems inspired now

    1. Nick says:

      Still waiting for Hulkenbergs first win, but not holding my breath.

    2. J Hancock says:

      If his behaviour behind the scenes was anything like his behaviour in public, I doubt Williams would have been keeping him this year PDVSA money be damned.
      .
      Even if he brings a lot less sponsorhsip (or is a net cost once pay is factored in) Massa looks like a much better investment for Williams when it comes to general professionalism and harmony within the team, which more important than ever this year.

  5. Dazzler says:

    Maldonado’s move from Williams to Lotus was a very bad call.

    I can’t help but think it’s poetic justice.

    1. Grant H says:

      I think it was a great call…cant stand the guy how he treated williams end last year…deserves what he gets

    2. Gaz Boy says:

      Indeed, what goes around comes around and all that…………

    3. Nick says:

      what drive would you have taken on last years form?

  6. Andy says:

    Missing Jerez was always going to be a big mistake, even so Lotus aren’t making headway like the other teams did. I might have a bit more sympathy for Lotus if they gave the real reasons for missing Jerez.

  7. Bayan says:

    Maldonado must be kicking himself for leaving Williams. I am happy though that Williams have 2 very quick drivers with a lot less baggage compared to Maldonado.

    1. Mike says:

      Kicking himself won’t do him any good. My understanding is that staying at Williams was not an option – they had had enough of him so he was out whether he liked it or not.

  8. John Marshall says:

    Kimi’s decision to leave looks better and better every day. In fact, he’d probably have been better off even if he’d signed to drive for Marussia or Caterham rather than Lotus.

    I feel for Grosjean. With the maturation he showed last year, it’s too bad he’s stuck with such a dog this year. As for Maldonado…well, karma I guess.

    1. Grant H says:

      Agree re grosjean turned such a corner last year

    2. Random 79 says:

      +1

      Grosjean’s made mistakes, but he deserves a lot better than this.

      1. Gaz Boy says:

        Romain is the second most smiling driver, after Daniel.
        I fear unless they have a major upgrade boost (no pun intended!) for the Euro season in Spain – an upgrade that works – Romain will be relegated to the po-faced miserable face section of F1.

    3. RobertS says:

      Yes also for a certain force India driver that didn’t go there

    4. Nick says:

      Yes, sure Kimi is going to love getting beaten every grand prix by his team mate.
      No time for Maldonado to be allowed time for maturation by the fans I see, despite winning a grand prix in some style already.

    5. Kramgp says:

      Lotus punched above their weight last year largely because the “big” three gave up and let red bull walk away with it. If they had been developing their cars with any vigor lotus would have have been left wanting. Not to take anything away from great drives by kimi and inperticular roman who put in some fantastic performances and a good team. But a lack of finances is really going to hurt in such a developmental year. I just hope they have the strength and depth of Williams to be able to come back from a rough start

  9. Torchwood Five says:

    I don’t know what sort of contract clauses go on between sponsors and teams, but if this continues well into the season, is there a possibility of PDVSA pulling out some of their £30mill’ seeing as neither they, their driver, or their country are getting any kind of return for a second year in a row.

  10. Ed H says:

    Lotus are a hardy bunch; it looks bad now but in a few months time they’ll be at least in the mid field and occasionally scoring points I’d imagine. The car doesn’t lack that much pace, it’s just the reliability and lack of mileage means they can’t exploit it. (I.E. Red Bull in testing)

  11. VV says:

    MP 4/18 part 2. But unlike that disaster, Lotus have to race this one.

  12. Craig says:

    This is more proof that this formula has to be scrapped as fast as possible. They’re simply going to lose Lotus, and maybe a couple of others.

    Formula 1 does NOT need to be trying to showcase technology that has already existing in the private automotive business for years already. And they’re doing a horrible job of it. This technology belongs in passenger cars, not race cars.

    For some near-sighted ridiculous reason the FIA seems to think the automotive world revolves around their version of the world. The fan base is eroding, the sponsorships will be eroding, and the venues will be demanding reduced fees to host a broken down smoking overheated gong show of a race series. Time for Todt to give his head a great big shake and snap out of it.

  13. Gary says:

    With great respect for, and out of deference to, Colin Chapman, Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jochen Rindt, Emerson Fittipaldi and Mario Andretti, I would prefer that Enstone F1 was not passing itself off as “Lotus F1″

  14. Gary says:

    I would like to add Ronnie Peterson to that list; thank you.

  15. Jim says:

    Patrick Louis has a lot to answer for

  16. Burt Puttocks says:

    Maldonado has made a terrible decision moving to Lotus, they are broke and I can’t see them doing anything this season.

    Kimi was right to leave the sinking ship, a bit of a shame for RoGro, he needs to get to a decent team as quickly as possible.

    1. Torchwood Five says:

      I’m sure posters here would be more agreeable over wheels falling off their cars on consecutive weekends, at high speed, but taking into account Maldonado’s Latin temperament, I find myself able to empathise with his dissatisfaction with Williams.

      Crash happy as he was prior to 2013, I take into account that he is a race winner, so I don’t think of him with quite the same low opinion as many of you.

  17. Timmay says:

    This is funny, story of the year right here, Maldonado leaving the 2nd best car for the outright worst.

  18. Hamish B says:

    I wonder if Maldonado’s backers get a refund if he doesn’t actually make it out of the garage?!

  19. Francois says:

    It’s still a bit early, but if Grosjean decide to leave I wonder where could he go? Force India or Saube?

    1. Denis 68 says:

      McLaren, as Eric Boullier is his manager and got him into Lotus and F1 in the first place. Only natural for Boullier to try and get him into McLaren now.

  20. Ace says:

    Do Renault’s problems open the door for another iconic partnership in Lotus-Honda? I understand the first year is exclusive to Mclaren, but 2016? Food for thought. Red-Bull may justify their success to the strength of that relationship and it’s continuity, but do Lotus have the same allegiance since the days of Alonso?

  21. chris green says:

    perez fp1 2 laps
    Kobayashi fp1 4 laps fp2 0 laps
    vettel fp1 9 laps

    lotus should be ok by the time the circus gets to europe. the fact that lotus did better in australia suggests temperature related problems, though i admit the problems seem to occur early in the sessions. i think that these new generation cars take too long to repair.

  22. Victor says:

    I wonder if any of the drivers could break the contract due this lack of perfomance showed so far?

  23. George G. says:

    The Maldonado curse. This guy is like King Midas but instead of gold whatever he touches it become sh*t.
    Sorry for Grosjean.

    1. Nick says:

      Sorry for you really.

  24. Grant H says:

    Grosjean team radio p3 “there is no performance from the diffuser, the rear is a disaster”

  25. warley says:

    Lotus will be OK when the Quantum money comes through!

  26. Kevin says:

    Bankruptcy will be the thing Lotus F1 excels in this year. Stick a fork in them, they are done.

    1. James Allen says:

      I think it will be a real struggle, yes

    2. Gaz Boy says:

      That would be incredibly sad for F1.
      This team has its roots in F1 going back to Toleman in 1981. It gave Ayrton Senna his F1 break, set up Gerhard Berger for stardom in 1986 – including victory at the 86 Mexico GP – and then found a young nugget called Michael, and later another young nugget called Fernando.
      Team Enstone has an excellent pedigree, and to potentially loose a team of this statue to “market forces” just shows why the current F1 fiscal distribution system is totally wrong.

  27. gollino says:

    I think is all bad karma for having treated Raikkonen as they did.
    FIA should introduce a rule that will not allow teams who did not pay drivers salaries in the previous season. or at least that did not enter an audited installment plan to make payments.
    It is unacceptable that they owned more than 80% salary to a driver and they show up on the grid the season after.

  28. yellowbelly says:

    It is a shame for Lotus/ Enstone, as they have the best Twitter feed of all the F1 teams, but don’t have anything positive to tweet at the moment.

  29. Peter Wishart says:

    Not many power units left before penalties start

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