Formula 1 mid-season review: Lotus
11 August 2014 – As the Formula 1 fraternity enjoys the summer break, GPUpdate.net takes the opportunity to analyse team and driver performances over the first 11 rounds of the 2014 season. In the latest instalment, we look at Lotus' so far challenging term plus the contrasting performances of Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado.
Lotus' campaign took a turn for the worse before the pre-season had even started, with the team opting to skip the opening test at Jerez for alleged further car development. Under normal circumstances, this would not have been viewed as a disaster, but 2014's regulation overhaul meant that track time was absolutely vital. Whilst the other 10 teams, albeit some better than others, had shaken down their machines at the first four-day gathering, Lotus arrived in Bahrain having to cram all of its preparation into eight days. And once it left the pits, it soon became clear that the E22 was going to struggle, with Renault's troubled power unit a sizeable factor. It is hard not to think that the delay in hitting the circuit was brought on by a taxing 2013, which saw talented staff depart – including James Allison and Dirk de Beer to Ferrari – amid financial problems and on-off talks with mysterious investors. There were also key management changes, with team boss Eric Boullier – now of McLaren – getting replaced by Lotus co-Chairman Gerard López, who subsequently installed Federico Gastaldi as his deputy. It was somewhat of a relief for the team when it arrived at Melbourne in one piece, but its cars didn't leave that way. And since then it has been a brutal journey with little reward. Eight points, courtesy of Romain Grosjean in Spain and Monaco, is all Lotus has to show for its efforts, while Pastor Maldonado has sparked further criticism for the team and its partners.
Romain Grosjean: 7/10
Romain Grosjean has been the shining light at a flickering Enstone this season. Although highly critical of the team's car, which most talents attempting to prove their worth would be itching to do, he has taken 100 per cent of the points and on most occasions extracted the maximum available to him. The Frenchman's once erratic driving style, which was close to costing him his seat at the end of the 2012 season, has almost been honed, with his only self-inflicted retirement of 2014 coming in Hungary, when he spun off on cold tyres amid challenging conditions. Grosjean simply needs to keep doing what he has been doing; reaching his potential, outpacing his team-mate and collecting the odd point. A big team might come calling. Some say McLaren, given the arrival of Boullier – in charge of the management company looking after Grosjean. But with Mercedes power seemingly en route to the back of next year's Lotus machine, would he be wiser to stick around and potentially reap the rewards of a recovery?
Pastor Maldonado: 3/10
Maldonado has amassed a sizeable list of critics since joining Formula 1. Seen as a hot-headed, sometimes dangerous member of the grid, the Venezuelan has done himself no favours so far this year. He sent Esteban Gutiérrez's Sauber into a barrel roll at the Bahrain Grand Prix, before leaving mechanics with their heads in their hands after hitting the pit entry wall during practice at the following Chinese round. In Spain, he crashed out of qualifying and on race day was deemed to have caused a collision with Caterham's Marcus Ericsson. And most recently, he ploughed into Jules Bianchi's Marussia at the Hungaroring. When you add this to the fact that he is one of only six drivers, along with the Sauber duo, Caterham pair and Marussia's Max Chilton yet to score a point, it begs the question, is he talented enough to remain on the 2015 grid? But that he will. Lotus recently announced that both parties would be sticking together for at least another year. For Maldonado and the rest of the field's sake, let's hope his previous flashes of pace come to the fore and that he takes a leaf out of team-mate Grosjean's book.
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