Posted By: James Allen  |  28 Apr 2014   |  5:58 pm GMT  |  117 comments

We continue our series of insights into the progress of the F1 teams after the first four ‘fly-away’ races of the season with a look at a team that was flying high this time last year and ended 2013 as Red Bull’s closest challenger.

This year they have yet to score a single point in 2014 and are having to climb up from the back of the grid – literally – in the opening race.


Best result: P11 (Grosjean, Malaysia)
Best grid slot: 10th (Grosjean, China)
Average grid slot: 17th.
Retirements: 4
Constructors Championship: 8th, 0 pts
Drivers’ Championship: Grosjean 0 pts; Maldonado 0 pts

Fastest race lap, gap to pace setter
Australia: +2.288s
Malaysia: +3.158s
Bahrain: +2.423s
China: +2.665s

What’s gone right?
Not much. If a Martian were to come to Earth and study the F1 championship tables after the first four races and compare them to last year, the immediate question would be – what happened to Lotus?

Last season at this stage the team from Enstone had 93 points with one driver lying second in the championship and the team itself lying second in the Constructors’ table.

This year they have yet to get off the mark, with a lowly 11th place the best result to date. The reason for the turnaround is complex, like the background story to the team itself. The Renault power unit is clearly part of the story, but Red Bull uses the same engine and has 57 points to date. So the chassis is part of the story, but it’s not just that either. The team missed the first test of the season in Spain amid rumours of financial problems and with 95 people having been laid off over the winter.

An investment in the team by the mysterious Quantum Motorsports group, which was allowed plenty of media airtime at the end of last season, did not come off and new faces appeared in the management structure. This meant that they took Pastor Maldonado and his PDVSA money as a banker move.

Team principal Eric Boullier found an escape tunnel in the form of a senior role at McLaren. Federico Gastaldi found himself at the helm in Australia and Malaysia as deputy team principal.

On track issues are displayed below, but on the positive side the team got the updated Renault power units in China to align it with the two Red Bull backed teams and this gave a significant boost to performance with Grosjean making it into Q3 for the first time this season. There was a new drive in the MGU-K unit of the ERS system, modifications to the turbo and revised exhaust. Further steps are promised.

With these immature hybrid units, the steps are big; increments of 10-15 horsepower at a time are talked about this year, all under the guise of “reliability” fixes as performance developments are banned.

What’s gone wrong?

Enough hard luck stories to last three seasons. Pre-season testing was a nightmare with only 1,288km covered, a quarter of the target mileage, as the team struggled to get the car to run.

Things didn’t improve when the team started racing, with a troubled Melbourne weekend. They had all kinds of problems with the power units; overheating turbos, mapping, hybrid ERS systems among other issues like brake by wire. The cars covered just 31 laps between them before qualifying in Australia.

There was stuttering progress in Malaysia and Bahrain until a decent step in China. Even the Bahrain test after Round 3 was a disaster with two engine failures and just 162 km covered in two days. No wonder team principal Gerard Lopez has said that, “Our season begins in Barcelona.”

A promising weekend for Grosjean in China ended with a gearbox issue when he was 10th and on course for the first point of the season.

Maldonado, who left Williams to be part of Lotus, has further burnished his “Bad Boy of F1” badge with a pointless accident with Gutierrez in Bahrain netting him more penalties and points on the new licence system.

Strong points of the team and car

Despite the redundancies and the resignations, there are still plenty of good people at Lotus across the various departments, with two solid experienced operators running things on the race team; Nick Chester on the technical side and Alan Permane on the operational side.

Lotus has made some lovely cars in the last few years, so they didn’t forget how to make a chassis. This one is perhaps not as elegantly engineered as some of its predecessors and the twin tusk nose has as many critics as admirers, but the car has started to show some promise and there is clearly much untapped potential. How much we will hopefully find out through the summer as things calm down on the Renault front and they are able to push to the maximum.

Grosjean was one of the revelations of 2013 and it was heartbreaking to see him lose all career momentum, but the experience will have taught him to appreciate how far he has come and he will be certain to capitalise once the car and power unit gets sorted.

Weak points of the team and the car
Losing Boullier was a major blow, much like technical director James Allison’s defection last year, as much for what it said about the state of the team and its prospects, as for his leadership. Lopez insists that the 2014 budget is ring fenced and that there is no prospect of the team failing, but there are plenty in the F1 paddock who don’t share his optimism.

Clearly they have had significant problems packaging the Renault hybrid power unit in the chassis and getting the systems to work and the resulting loss of time has meant that they are behind on set up work and optimising the chassis. It looked a handful in Bahrain, but with more track time in China started to come together and it was able to keep a McLaren and Toro Rossos behind it comfortably before the gearbox problem hit.

Maldonado continues to be F1’s enigma and time will tell what he makes of his time at Lotus.

Where do they go from here?
The Barcelona GP weekend and the subsequent test should help move things along. There will be chassis updates and fixes as the team makes up for lost time. By Silverstone we should have a clearer idea of how competitive the Lotus package is.

On the bigger picture stuff, we watch with interest. Lotus has a seat on the F1 Strategy Group, which recently voted against any kind of cost cap. It looks set to be a tough year for the teams who are close to the breadline and all the signs are that the big teams have little concern about the plight of the less well off.

Overall Marks out of 10

Lotus – 3/10

Romain Grosjean – 6/10

Pastor Maldonado – 2/10

How many marks out of ten do you give Lotus so far? Leave us your comments on this post in the comments section below.

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A lot can change in a year as you can see. Last year, it was Grosjaen under pressure, now it’s the complete other way around and he even seems to be lifting the team now.


Formula One in recent times has had its reputation sullied by the likes of Briatore, Bernie E, Adrian Sutil and now Lotus not honouring its payment to Raikonnen, the sooner Lotus are wound up (inevitable) the better, the business of formula one deserves better, as for Pastor he is now in a team that deserves him, but dont forget he did actually win a GP! and easily.


Ok – who even cheers for this team anymore or even cares what place they finish in? Grosjean will be looking for a new team already, the fans should be too


That’s a fair question, but it is a shame to see a team that was doing so well fall so far so fast.


Lotus might rub their hands together when they see the proposals by the top teams for regulations to control costs, but the “fans” might as well switch over to watching GP2.


Lotus is just fine – they’re simply a victim of the FIA like everybody else except Mercedes. If you watched the first IndyCar races of the season, IndyCar clearly is the best racing series as of this year.

It wouldn’t come as any surprise at all to see the often mentioned New Jersey race filled by IndyCar instead of our newly inherited F1 aka Toyota Prius series, all of which brings us back to Lotus.

After being forced to spend a gazillion dollars and sweat equity courtesy of Jean Todt’s grade 9 science project, for absolutely nothing except damage to its brand, Lotus should pull the plug, get out of F1 right now, and put a bid in to field an IndyCar team for 2016, unless 2015 is a possibility.

The FIA needs a wake up call like that before they totally ruin the sport, if they haven’t already. Personally I think it’s too late for F1, they’ve engineered themselves into an inescapable mess with a think tank that has obviously tanked. If Bernie Ecclestone isn’t in a German prison this Autumn, he should be the one to take over Todt’s job and put in 3 good years growing F1 back into its former self.

When you have only 22 cars, 11 of which get lapped, some of them twice, you only have to look up at all the half empty grandstands to see what’s coming next. A pile of junior drivers nobody knows, paying teams to steer a dubious assortment of battery operated heaps around the circuit is NOT going to get customers through the gate any more.

Lotus should bail out for IndyCar right now because their problems are not their fault.


Tru dat


I find myself checking their twitter feed from time to time. Their tweets and pictures are very memorable and recognizable. Very good distinct tone of voice. 8/10

The twin tusk nose is a smart and elegant solution to the 2014 rules. I like it. It is very futuristic looking on the pictures. I hope it gets copied. 8/10

Unfortunately James Allen’s marks are spot one concerning the Team and the Drivers. Nothing to add here. Renault need to up the ante. Hopefully Grosjean can annoy the big boys once again in Europe. It was so nice to see him grow in 2013.


Lotus are living in their worst scenario.

If they have budget challenges at present with much less money due to lower position in constructors championship next year they may not even survive financially next year.

Thanks to Maldanaldo financial backing they are surviving this year financially. On the track however Maldanaldo is doing exact opposite to helping.


“…the twin tusk nose has as many critics as admirers”

LOL, James you are so polite!

I would venture to guess the ratio of critics to admirers is at least 95:5


In one year money will end and there might be end for the revitalized Lotus. bad for sport. Good for other teams – plenty of engineers who built good car in 2012, 2013.


I’d be surprised to see them on the grid next year, hence why I think Bernie has accepted 2-3 new entries for next year as a back-up plan.

If you were an investor would you seriously plough any money into Lotus right now?


It would be much cheaper than starting from zero…


I agree, Bernie is very often one step ahead when it comes to ensuring the number of cars on the grid.

Regarding Lotus, that would depend on the amount of money I have, but yes, I would put my money there.

They have a great structure, plenty of engineers who have built fast and reliable cars with little resources in the last 2 years. They’ve mainly been suffering from poor management. I know it is easier said than done, but put the right people there with a stable source of £££ and they’ll be back to where they were !


apologies for the hijack; any insider information on the EU investigating F1 in wake of the complaint from the 6 non-represented teams?


I just wish they should take the 1g or whatever weight limit hit and fit a vanity cover over that lopsided tusk, my OCD kicks into overdrive whenever I see that car I can’t hack it.

I also find the team to be eminently less likable because Pastor Maldonado is in it and take mild joy in their struggle this year, I was rooting for them through all of 2012-13.


Root for the team, root for Grosjean and enjoy watching Romain do what no-one else has been able to do.

Destroy Maldonado in equal equipment.


Its more than the driver

Its more than the car

for lotus f1 team, the winning edge starts with the cloud…

It’s more than just a cloud, it’s the mother of all thunderstorms…

Hope they have enough decent people and cash left to get out the other side, because whatever you think of Maldo or Lopez, I feel sorry for the hard working staff and hope they can recover the car.


It seems to me they sacrificed this year’s performance in order to keep getting the good results at the end of 2013 and look better to potential sponsors, which ultimately didn’t work of course.

Grosjean in Q3 is real evidence of things picking up. I think Maldanado’s biggest problem is he tries too hard in an underperforming car. The one race where Williams were able to give him a good car, look what happened.


Grosjean deserves more than 6/10. He has driven very, very well this year. He was sublime in China, and he was very close to a point in Malaysia. He’s had the better of Maldonado in pace, consistency, and making the car last. You can’t ask for much more than that from a driver who is in a car that was arguably the worst on the grid to start the year.

Grosjean clearly deserves a much better car. It would be really interesting to see him alongside Hulkenberg at Force India. Maybe he is on McLaren’s radar under Boullier.


Lotus have had a terrible time. Problems away from the racetrack contributing to problems on it. The car does seem to be improving gradually, so there is light at the end of the tunnel, but they need to improve even more to finish Top 6 in the constructors championship.

As for the drivers, Grosjean is driving well at the moment, and appears the fastest driver out of him and Maldonado. Maldonado is really struggling, and he keeps getting into stupid silly incidents. The team must either tame him, or get rid of him.

Overall, Lotus are struggling still, but improving gradually.


Lotus need to beat the highest non-strategy group team (currently Force India), otherwise no more boys club for them.


yes interesting. Maldonado proved his lack of worth in gp2 by winning the title in 2010 lol


10/10 for Maldonado- C’mon folks without his money Lotus are a Zero!

5/10 did well to block Kimi at Bahrain – aside of that, What else?.lets keep plugging this guy because he smiles a lot., but reality is he needs a senior driver to show him what to do and he starts crying the minute they dont.

3/10-Lotus is about right. Seems their forked tongue of 2013 got caught in the nose of their car. They just need money & they will keep progressing as they still have some talent in that team.


grosjean starts crying?


@HP – Dont twist my words around I said

“No he was always sulking that Kimi never talked much & not shared too much information”

“Never once in both years was Grosjean a chance at finishing ahead of Kimi in each instance on merit whereby he was asked to let Kimi past “- on this point Romain passed Kimi ( with/ out instruction) anyway as his tyres were gone- fair enough. They did not have to abuse Kimi it was the first corner that Romain approached – & would have passed on exit had he done so properly anyway ( inside). There was no other time & strategy messed that up anyway!


No he was always sulking that Kimi never talked much & not shared too much information. He might as well be crying. Especially after Korea 2013, when Kimi passed him ( after safety car) and Grosjean asked to be let past him– absolutely ridiculous given Kimi had just passed him and pulled away..i will never forget that it was really dumb!


So your original argument was that Grosjean cries a lot, and thats because he held Kimi up?

u say Grosjean couldnt have finished ahead of Kimi on merit? then why did he have to move over for Kimi in Germany?

so in India, was he not faster than Kimi on merit? and just remind, Kimi didnt move over straight away, he almost infact crashed into Grosjean.

I just dont get what youre trynna say mate.


EliE, what you want to see, free and fair racing or contrived team orders? I’ll go for the free racing anytime.


@HP – The only times Kimi was let by were when Grosjean was holding him up and Kimi was about to pass. The stupidity from Lotus actually cost Kimi a chance at Seb in Germany and Hamilton in Hungary- in each case it was several laps. Never once in both years was Grosjean a chance at finishing ahead of Kimi in each instance on merit whereby he was asked to let Kimi past and I will challenge anyone on that. Thats what made India such a stupid thing for then to do.. But by then they were heart broken he was going to Ferrari!


yes just once, and thats cause he let Kimi through so many times in the first half of the season, but yeah i give u that one.

about Kimi not talking much, every driver has complained about that- Coulthard, Montoya, Massa and i am sure Alonso will too.


sad, but true. Pastor has to get a 10/10 or we would not have seen the twin nose this year! Without his “talents” the team would be much worse off…


“If a Martian were to come to Earth and study the F1 championship tables after the first four races and compare them to last year, the immediate question would be – what happened to Lotus?”

To which I’d reply “Well I’m not sure exactly, but when you leave could you take this guy Pastor with you? Good, but don’t let him drive or you’ll end up in Roswell…”


Could be worse – they could end up in a court in Munich………….


True, but for Bernie’s sake I hope they don’t end up crashing the place on a Tuesday or Wednesday 😉


Bernie had already thought of that but the problem is that after spending all their money tricking out their UFOs with unnecessary flashy LEDs the poor Martians can’t afford to pay his exorbitant circuit fees 🙁


Mind you, do you reckon that would give Mr E the idea of a grand prix on Mars?


Approximately 0.0000000000000000000042% of the universe is matter, the rest is totally empty space.

Still, I’m sure Pastor will find something to crash into.


Bloody brilliant! 😀


Could Grosjean be headed to McLaren next year, afterall Boullier his manager. That is depending on weather Button stays, of course…


I don’t think so. McLaren will probably keep Button and Magnussen. Button looks likely to beat the new boy (at least this year) and so they won’t want to chuck either of them (why fire the higher scoring driver?). And even if they decide Kevin didn’t have what it takes, they’d either make another play for Alonso or promote their other young drivers up to the seat. Sadly I don’t think Grosjean or Hulkenberg will ever get into a (traditional) top team now. They seem to have fallen into this weird (racing) age range where they are too experienced to get in the ground as young driver proteges but too young to have gotten into the Alonso/Button/Webber/Kimi shuffle.

Who knows though maybe Vettel will retire at 28? Although then I guess Kvyat gets the seat!

And didn’t Boullier only manage Grosjean through one of the Lotus sub-companies? I don’t even know if he retained that role when he moved. Anybody clarify that one for me?


It’s up to Button really. McLaren will keep them both if possible but he could decide to call it a day I guess.


Depends on TOTAL who sponsor Lotus and pay Grosjean’s wages.

They could take their money to McLaren, however I don’t think that would fit with Mobile 1, who have been with McLaren for a while


Not really. If McLaren offer him a decent deal he will move with or without Total.

Persnally I think it’s unlikely. If Button does decide to hang up his helmet then Hulkenberg is the obvious next port of call.

Alexander supertramp

I think it’s a possibility.. off course, grosjean would need some good results this year.



The big question is obviously whether the car is fundamentally any good or not. Gary Anderson reckoned after Shanghai that it was only the 8th best chassis, even after excluding the impact of different engines.

Against that, I suspect that the team might argue that a) they’re still suffering from lack of setup time and b) that stability under braking and hence chassis performance are still suffering because they’re not yet on top of (power unit-related) energy harvesting.

But the gap to Red Bull looks awfully big. From the outside, it’s easy to imagine that this might be a car that is unresponsive, hard to set up, or otherwise doesn’t deliver on track the performance that is there on paper. Anderson wrote particularly about using the effect of steering lock on aero behaviour as a tool to help the car stay balanced. It doesn’t seem a massive leap to imagine that that asymmetric nose may not lend itself particularly easily to that kind of subtlety, or behave particularly consistently in yaw, either.

I’m just speculating here, and we’ll know soon enough. But can you add anything about the sense of confidence or otherwise around the team? Nick Chester has been consisently bullish in public. What’s your feel for the private mood of the team behind closed doors?


Lotus we’re punching above their weight last year. They did have a good car but their main competitors gave up the development chase mid season to consentrate on 2014. Kimi saw the writing on the wall and jumped ship along with Allison and Boullier.

I would rank Lotus along with Force India as performing way better than Ferrari and Macca given their huge budgets. RoGro is a good driver and proved his worth in GP2 and I agree with James that it a real shame to see his career stall. Pastor on the other hand proved his lack of worth in GP 2. As far as I can tell he has never really out performed any team mate in any series he has been in.

If fear Lotus will struggle all season due to a lack of depth a lack of money, and RB Ferrari and Macca pushing with developments.


Dear me!

He struggled in GP2 did he when he won 6 consecutive feature races to easily win the championship? That’s feature races, not the sprint races.

Did he not beat his team mate then?

How did his team mate do when Maldonado won the Spanish GP?



After 4 years in GP2 you are right he did win a lot of races on the bounce. I’m not saying the man is useless but he did have Nico as a team mate and I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks nico is the better talent.


Yeah in 2010, his 4th year in the series. Most drivers who have a chance of moving up don’t stay past year 2.

The year prior, his 3rd in GP2, his rookie team mate won the title with 100pts. Pastor finished in 6th, 64 points behind, he had only 2 podiums in 20 races, they were, however, victories.

5 drivers from GP2 moved into F1 after 2009 including such accomplished drivers as: Lucas di Grassi, Karun Chandok, and Vitaly Petrov. All were judged to be more ready for F1 and this was after Pastor’s 3rd year in the series.

Even Grossjean beat him by 9 points in 2009 and he only completed 12 of 20 rounds.


Yes, because he was having accidents and had several retirments.

Those podiums were wins by the way as you know full well. Also , how many goes did Grosjean have before he won the title?

Maybe it will always be all or nothing with him but it’s not his speed that is the problem it’s his temperament.

The point is that the only race where he didn’t have car problems he was ahead of Grosjean in the race. It’s unfair to give him a 2.


Yeah, Pastor’s millions overshadow a lot of the pedigree he showed in the junior formulae, especially winning the GP2 title ahead of Perez and Bianchi. Unfortunately he hasn’t done himself any favours with long periods of mediocrity and several dangerous crashes and driving incidents; his swipe at Hamilton in his debut season was I think the only time I’ve deliberately seen someone try and use their car as a weapon when there was absolutely nothing at stake.


Let’s not even mention the 2005 World series incident.


Totally agree, also remember qualifying Monaco 2012 when also used his car as a battering ram against Sergio.

That should have been 3 races suspended – at the very least.


2/10 for pastor seems a bit generous!


Guess many of us on this forum were wrong – Maldonado and Grosjean have not crashed into each other . . . . . . . yet.

I guess the Lotus is just too slow to get them excited about racing each other. Or Maldonado has been too slow to be anywhere near Grosjean.


It takes 2 to crash.


No it doesn’t. Pastor proved in China that he can do it all on his own, in more than one way.


You’re right – I stand corrected.


Usually Pastor and a Mexican driver?


He does seem to be attracted to them 😉


Totally Agree. That pitwall should have given Maldonado racing room.;)


I’m sure Pastor thinks the same.

In any case I suspect he won’t be living that one down for a good long while 🙂


Wonder how long pastors venezuelan money will continue to back him given whatever team he moves to cant perform (not to mention pastors wrecking ball driving style)…if lotus are relying on this money to stay alive they better hope to have a plan B as I cant see it lasting

Shame for Roman and Lotus what a team they have been last 2 years


Probably as long as Venezuela stays socialist. When your stealing and using other peoples money, you don’t generally care where it goes. Value for money is not a concept socialists care to entertain.


You mean communists, not socialists.


Yes because advanced neo liberalism is a much fairer system isn’t it? Why steal from the rich when you can enable the rush to steal from everybody else.

If you want an echo chamber for your fascist politics I suggest the daily mail or telegraph, keep it out of f1.


Couldn’t have been said better


Hey James,


I was wondering what you might put in the “What’s Gone Right” section. I think you should re-read that and simply put the caption for “What’s gone wrong” right after the “not much”, maybe keep a paragraph of your choosing!



Allow me…

“What’s Gone Right?”

Pastor into the pit wall.


PS Random – and everyone else that is interested, but after watching the BBC Panorama documentary last night, it turns out even if Mr E is – is! – found guilty, he won’t necessarily be eating porridge, because under the German legal system he could instead of doing time by paying a multi-million Euro fine.

There again, if – if – he is found guilty, he will be asked to “close the door” by CVC, so although he may be not imprisoned, he will loose his dictatorship over F1.

I was somewhat surprised that the Germans allow people like Mr E to “buy” their freedom even if found guilty, but of course Germany is a federal republic, not a constitutional parliamentary democracy (like UK, AUS, NZ, HOL, NOR, SWE and DEN) so they don’t have common law like we do.


If only………..


If she’s unhappy can’t she just say off with their head?


PS When I mean “we do” – I mean as in the UK, AUS, NZ and CAN – the dominions of Liz and Phil – I bet the Queen is none too happy that her trusted tax men have done a dodgy deal with Mr E.


PS What does PDVSA actually stand for?

Pastors Driving Very Silly Always?


Nice one TGS 🙂


Pastor Disregards Very Serious Accidents?


No idea.

It would be easy and quick enough to Google it to find out exactly what it does stand for, but I prefer to spend my time thinking up my own ones and I think knowing what it really means would spoil it for me 🙂

Previous Does Vindicate Silly Arguments 😉

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