With six races of the pulsating F1 2012 season to go, in Japan, Korea, India, Abu Dhabi, USA and Brazil, Lotus only have just over two months to win their first race of the season - and maybe even help Kimi Raikkonen
to win a second world championship.
And with Romain Grosjean
on his best behaviour since a one-race ban in Monza, after a terrifying first lap incident in Spa and after the stewards showed that they were not afraid to hand out a very stern punishment, there is everything to play for or is there?...
The story of the season for the Enstone-based team is that they have seriously underperformed with a car, which should have allowed them to score a lot more championship points.
So what's gone wrong?
The first reason that Lotus has not yet won this season is that the team, mainly from Grosjean's side of the garage, have been involved in too many incidents of their own creation.
Actually, if you think about it, what has Raikkonen been involved in this season? I can't remember anything!
First lap incidents from the Frenchman in Malaysia, Spain, Monaco, Britain, Germany and Belgium, and a second lap crash in the opening race of the season in Australia, have scarred his season and caused him to be banned from the Italian Grand Prix, the first driver to be banned from a race since Renault's Fernando Alonso
after a tyre fell off his car at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix
(although his ban was successfully appealed), and Benetton's Michael Schumacher for ignoring black flags at the 1994 British Grand Prix. It's strange how the two or three bans in F1 that have happened for the teams in recent years have been predecessors of the Lotus team...
Second, reliability has also been a factor in woes for the team with an alternator problem – admittedly a Reanult issue here - costing Grosjean a chance of victory in Valencia, after the same fault sidelined Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel
in the same event. Although it was the only real time that Lotus have had a problem with its cars, the saga with the much-anticipated double-DRS system continues to rumble on and once again the team has opted not to use it this weekend in Japan...
Third, qualifying pace has been another factor stopping the team winning a race because they have rarely been in the correct grid position to challenge. Occasionally they have, of course, but not frequently enough when you think that a Red Bull
and/or a Ferrari
fail to make the pole position shoot-out almost every race, leaving McLaren
as their only rivals, if indeed they are the fourth-best team in F1.
Furthermore like every team, Lotus have made qualifying errors this season, like in Melbourne, when Raikkonen slowed down after making a mistake on his flying lap in Q1 and took the chequered flag accidentally, meaning he was out.
Despite these negatives though, there are a lot of positives for Lotus to take out of the 14 grand's prix to date.
Indeed Raikkonen is the only one of the championship challengers not to have retired from a race this season and he has only been out of the points once. That was in China where he was actually on for a good result until his tyres 'fell off the cliff' and he slipped back to 14th.
So, despite negatives from the season and possible negatives to come, Lotus still have a chance to win, but it looks more likely to come from Raikkonen, who is of course their main driver going into the run-in and who could just win his second championship if he plays his cards right. It's a long shot, but this is the F1 2012 season and it is unlikely we will be able to predict the champion until the last lap of the Brazilian Grand Prix
next month.by Cameron Paterson