April 21st, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Lotus have a lot to smile about after four races in the 2013 Formula One season. Kimi Raikkonen won in Australia, finished on the podium in China and Bahrain, and is second in the Drivers' Championship, just 10 points behind leader Sebastian Vettel. Romain Grosjean has had a tougher start to the season, but it all started to come right with a podium finish in Bahrain that showed the Frenchman has plenty of speed and the car is performing well.
The Lotus E21 has been quick from the start of the season, although it has never really looked like the fastest car in the field. The greatest strength of this year's Lotus seems to be in tyre management. Raikkonen's win in Australia was largely the result of the Finn being able to make one pitstop fewer than his competitors. In Bahrain, Lotus exploited the same advantage to make just 2 stops on Raikkonen's car, compared to 3 for most of the other drivers, on the way to second place.
For Grosjean, the strategy was a little different - three stops with the last two stints on medium tyres - and that made all the difference at the end of the race, as Grosjean had the pace on fresh medium tyres to catch and pass Paul Di Resta for third place.
With the first four races of the season now out of the way, Lotus return to their Enstone factory in a very strong position: Raikkonen is just 10 points behind championship leader Vettel, and Lotus are second in the Constructors' Championship, just 16 points behind Red Bull.
This is what the team had to say after the Bahrain Grand Prix:
Kimi Raikkonen: “You’re never really happy if you don’t win, but I suppose second place is as close as you can get. I drove to the maximum and the car had the pace that we missed in qualifying yesterday so it was a pretty good result. We didn’t have the speed to challenge Sebastian [Vettel] today but we did have the pace to get both cars on the podium so I’m happy for the team.”
Romain Grosjean: "“It’s great to be back on the podium and it’s a fantastic result for the team. It hasn’t been an easy start to the season for me, but we made good progress through the weekend and are now back to where we should be. I felt much more comfortable in the car and the result today is a deserved reward for everyone after all our hard work. It was a really enjoyable race with a lot of overtaking and a couple of tense moments along the way, so to come from P11 through to the podium is really satisfying. We’ve had consistency already, finishing every race in the points, but now it’s the big results we’re chasing and this is a very good start to that challenge.”
Eric Boullier, Team Principal: "Here we are again, just like in 2012! This time around though it was much more difficult – especially after a qualifying performance which fell below our expectations – but we’ve shown flashes of pace throughout the weekend and confirmed that speed when it mattered today. The win was not quite within our reach after the start we made, but to come away with a double podium when the top six would maybe have been a more realistic pre-race target was a great performance from everybody involved. I’m delighted for the whole team here in Bahrain and back at Enstone; it’s a well-deserved result.”