#8 – Romain Grosjean – France – 11 Starts, 8 Points, Best Finish: 8th (Spain, Monaco), Championship Position: 14th
#13 – Pastor Maldonado – Venezuela – 10 Starts (1 DNS), 0 Points, Best Finish: 12th (Austria, Germany), Championship Position: 19th
From being the closest challengers to the dominant Red Bull Racing team in 2013, Lotus have seen their pace drop off dramatically this year. Whereas Romain Grosjean was the most improved driver of last year, this year he has only scored two eighth place finishes, and has struggled for single-lap pace also.
No race was as bad for Lotus than the opener in Australia. A distinct lack of testing before the season began saw the team begin firmly on the back foot, so much so that Grosjean and new team-mate Pastor Maldonado locked out the back row of the grid behind both Marussia’s and both Caterham’s. The race was not much better, with both drivers retiring with matching Energy Recover System failures.
Reliability has not been Lotus’ strong point this season, with Maldonado usually taking the worst of the luck. In qualifying the Venezuelan has had hardly any luck, and has only made it out of the first part of qualifying on two occasions from the opening eleven races.
Grosjean has taken the teams only genuinely good results this year, and even made the third part of qualifying against all odds in both China and Spain. The team appeared to have got a handle on their car with fifth place on the grid in Barcelona, which he converted to the teams’ first points of the season with eighth in the race. He would go on to secure the same result around the streets of Monaco two weeks later.
Unfortunately qualifying and results have dropped off enough to see the team struggling towards the back of the midfield battle, on tracks that have showed the aerodynamic and power deficiencies of the car.
You cannot fault the commitment of either driver this year. Grosjean continues to enhance his reputation by putting in impressive and, Hungary aside, reliable performances. At the Hungaroring, he blotted his copybook by spinning while trying to keep warmth in his tyres behind the safety car. Despite all the issues the Frenchman has endured this year, he still remains positive.
Maldonado is still rough around the edges, as proved by his clash with the Sauber of Esteban Gutierrez in Bahrain, but the Venezuelan has already committed himself to the team for the 2015 season. It must be galling for Maldonado that the team he left at the end of last year, Williams, are getting the positive results and podium finishes that were lacking in 2013, especially with the Venezuelan enduring a frustrating season.
This time last year, Lotus, in the hands of Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen, had raked up 183 points, but this year only 8. It is a dramatic drop of form, and with a car that has not looked likely to improve since Spain, the chances of improving on their eighth place looks unlikely at present. With the team apparently changing from Renault power to Mercedes power in 2015, it might be worth the team giving up on this season and concentrating their efforts on next.
It is a shame the team has dropped away from the front like they have this year, but the uncertainly with finances during the off-season, and then the aero-deficient car has made them one of the disappointing stories of the season. It is a shame for the drivers, who have both proved in the past they are able to compete at the front of the field, but that is motor racing. 2015 cannot come soon enough for Lotus.