Since the first race of the season in Australia, Lotus have looked like challenging for victory. The car is quick in all conditions, and drivers Raikkonen and Grosjean have shown their skill by delivering 8 podiums between them. But victory has eluded the team from Enstone.
Qualifying has been holding the Lotus team back. The car has typically been very quick in the races, but the drivers have often had to fight through the top end of the field. It seems clear that the secret to winning for Raikkonen and Grosjean is to put the car on pole, something they have not yet achieved this season. But they may now have the answer to that problem – in the form of a more efficient DRS system.
Lotus have been trialling their upgraded DRS during practice at the previous few races, and technical director James Allison has been quoted as saying that the team is aiming to run the device at the next race in Belgium. The device will no doubt be tested further during Friday practice at Spa, and if the team is satisfied that it is working as desired, it should feature in qualifying and the race.
Spa is a power and top-speed track. In particular, the first and last sectors are very quick. The middle sector, however, requires a reasonable amount of downforce to deal with a long series of medium- and high-speed corners. A more efficient DRS system will allow the team to run slightly more downforce to assist with the middle sector, but still be quick in the first and last sectors during qualifying. A Lotus pole at Spa is now reasonably likely.
The race presents a different challenge, as DRS may only be used in the demarcated DRS zone on the Kemmel straight for overtaking, provided the chasing car is within a second of the car in front at the detection point, which is just before Eau Rouge. There will therefore be a compromise between qualifying pace and race pace, as the top-speed of the car in race trim will necessarily be lower when not using DRS.
If Lotus can get their DRS working well, and set the cars up to be quick in both qualifying and the race, there is a real possibility of a Lotus victory this weekend.