For 2012, Lotus signed two drivers who had last driven in Formula One in 2009. Kimi Raikkonen was already a World Champion, in 2007, and had a wealth of previous Formula One experience. Romain Grosjean had driven in only seven Grands Prix, finishing five times and scoring no points.
It was obvious at the start of the season that Raikkonen was expected to lead the team. Grosjean was meant to be the rookie, there to learn and develop with the guidance of his more successful team-mate. The season has not quite worked out like that.
After seven races, Raikkonen is two points ahead of Grosjean in the Drivers’ Championship. But consider that Raikkonen has finished every race, where Grosjean has crashed out three times. Grosjean is averaging 13.25 points per finish, compared to a fairly lowly figure of 7.86 for Raikkonen. In fact, Grosjean’s performance when he crosses the finish line surpasses that of championship leader Lewis Hamilton, who averages 12.57 points per finish.
Raikkonen has struggled to get comfortable in the car, having issues in particular with the steering wheel. Grosjean has been quick from the outset, and looks more at ease with every passing race. Neither Lotus driver has stood on the top step of the podium in 2012, but with a car as quick as the E20, the first win cannot be far away. The question is: who will be the winning driver? At the moment, Grosjean may be a better bet.
Lotus have a quick car. That much is obvious. In the hands of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean, the Lotus E20 occupied the lower two-thirds of the podium at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Grosjean qualified third in Australia. Both drivers have looked fast all season. But it bears considering that neither Raikkonen nor Grosjean was on on the grid last year. They’re both taking some time to get acclimatized to Formula One in 2012.
Lotus are competing with McLaren, Red Bull and Mercedes. Each of those teams has had a stable driver line-up for at least two seasons, but Lotus has an all-new driver pairing for this 2012. Raikkonen and Grosjean have only worked with the team and each other for a few months. By contrast, Vettel and Webber have been team-mates in a largely unchanged Red Bull team since 2009.
Team principal Eric Boullier is impressed with his young French driver, saying of Grosjean, ”He has the speed and the talent to be world champion one day.” Raikkonen, champion in 2007, has already proven his winning ability. The technical team produced a solid car in 2010, and an ambitious but ultimately unsuccesfful challenger in 2011. The 2012 car seems so far to be fast and reliable in all conditions.
So it seems logical that there is more to come from Lotus. A fast car, a previous champion and a quick young driver makes for a competitive package. We can expect to see a black and gold car win a race this season.
Lotus is the latest team to launch their new car online. Watch the YouTube video here:
Lotus F1 launches their new car, called the E20, at 17:00 CET today. They have released this teaser video in anticipation of the launch: