Formula 1 News

Lotus Window of Opportunity Closed?

The usual suspects are now coming to the fore in the 2012 season, so is there reason to believe that Lotus have missed their opportunity to cash-in on race victory?
Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Born in Adelaide during its 11 year long era of hosting Formula One, Jacob Polychronis has admired the sport his whole life. Along with his brother Gabriel, they share their educated opinion via articles and their podcast, F1 News & Views Podcast.

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July 18h, 2012 (F1plus / Jacob Polychronis).- After the Canadian Grand Prix, we found ourselves in a unique situation in which we had seven separate winners from seven races. All of the usual suspects such as Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso acquired a race victory. What helped create such a romantic situation for the sport though was the fact that unlikely heroes also emerged victorious. This was courtesy of Nico Rosberg in China and Pastor Maldonado in Catalunya.

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While many spectators found the situation of the 2012 season captivating, many purists and former world champions found it detrimental to the sport. Some of these former world champions to speak out against the trend of numerous race winners included Alonso, Jenson Button and Jaques Villeneuve. All of these drivers suggested that numerous winners belittled the achievement of winning a Grand Prix as it made it look too easy. Nonetheless, it was intriguing to see many teams with a race victory. McLaren, Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes and Williams have all achieved wins in 2012, however, one main contender is absent from the list. That team is of course Lotus F1.

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After the Canadian GP where we still had not had one multiple race winner, it was easy to believe that a race victory was imminent for the Enstone based outfit. Kimi Raikkonen looked to have the fastest car in Bahrain, however, it simply came together too late in the race and he did not catch the 1st placed Vettel. He then backed up his podium finish in Bahrain with another in Catalunya, finishing in 3rd. Romain Grosjean also had a decent run of races up until Valencia, finishing 3rd in Bahrain and 2nd in Montreal. Based on these results and the unpredictability of race winners, short-odds were on either Grosjean or Raikkonen claiming a win in 2012. Again Raikkonen found the podium in Valencia, however, both drivers languished outside of the podium in an average Silvertone weekend. Some are starting to suggest that their window of opportunity is now closed.

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Kimi Raikkonen is still looking for that elusive victory.

The potential closure of Lotus' window for a Grand Prix victory in 2012 has not necessarily been brought on through a downturn in pace. In fact, Lotus could still consider themselves to be a relatively strong outfit, perhaps currently the third fastest team. It is more the gulf which teams Red Bull and Ferrari are creating which places doubt over a Lotus win.

Courtesy of a massive upgrade after the Mugello testing period, the Ferrari F2012 is a strong package when at the hands of Alonso. As a result, Alonso won the European GP and then narrowly missed out on winning the British GP. Nonetheless, he is one of only two drivers to win multiple races this season and leads the drivers' standings by 13 points.

Mark Webber is looking equally as strong in his RB8 after becoming the 2nd driver to win multiple races in 2012, placing himself in second for the championship ahead of his dual world champion team mate, Vettel. Vettel sits third in the standings and together, the Red Bull drivers have placed the team a whopping 64 points clear in the constructors' championship. 3 of the last 4 races have been won by either Ferrari or Red Bull, while all 4 races have been won by usual suspects. In terms of race winners, order seems to be becoming restored and therefore, race victory is more distant for Lotus.

Despite this philosophy, both Lotus drivers are upbeat ahead of the German Grand Prix in Hockenheim. Raikkonen mentions that "the car can make all the difference at Hockenheim, and luckily we've got a good one." Something which Raikkonen considers to be beneficial for the team is the weather conditions, stating that:

"Usually in Hockenheim it has been very hot and everybody has had problems with the tyres going off. Obviously, for us, the hot weather suits the car fine. Our car prefers the hot temperatures and in the long runs it’s not that hard on tyres." Grosjean also seems to believe that Hockenheim conditions will be far more tailored to their can than Silverstone, saying:

"I’m sure we can have a good race and deliver a strong result. The team have been working hard and finding solutions to improve our qualifying performances. In Silverstone it was cold and wet which made for a difficult session but we still made it through to Q3 quite strongly, even if we weren’t able to go out. I’m sure Hockenheim will suit us well.”

Despite the fact that Red Bull and Ferrari are emerging as the class acts of the field and most likely to claim the German Grand Prix, there is still a small chance for Lotus to taste victory in 2012. This small hope can be attributed to the flimsy nature of Pirelli tyres and the fact that a whole race can be ruined by simply pitting one lap too late.

This is a result of Pirelli's notorious "cliff" effect. Pirelli tyres simply do not progressively degrade, instead, drivers tend to report immediate loss of grip. With this in mind, Lotus still have a chance to win a race even if results are becoming less erratic. They simply have to find themselves at the right place at the right time, it will unlikely be won through sheer pace.

Romain Grosjean has shown great speed in the season, but luck has not been very often in his side (LAT Photo)

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