The Lotus team has played down Romain Grosjean's disappointing tenth place in last weekend's Australian Grand Prix after admitting that the Frenchman has not had access to the same development parts as racewinner Kimi Raikkonen.
While the Finn claimed an unexpected win on the back of a better tyre strategy in Melbourne, Grosjean was left to pick up the final point after making three stops to Raikkonen's two. The Frenchman's best lap was a second off his team-mate's, prompting sceptics to claim that he was still operating in 'safe' mode after his problems in 2012. However, Lotus technical director James Allison was quick to defend Grosjean, pointing out that Raikkonen has had the pick of the upgrades introduced to the E21 so far this season.
“Romain showed us over and over again last year that he is a driver with a lot of pace,” Allison insisted, “That's the one really valuable commodity that a race driver has and he's got that. He's not had an easy weekend either here [in Sepang] or [in Melbourne], because we haven't been able to provide two cars in exactly the same configuration on either occasion.
“In Melbourne on Friday, he was running a step behind Kimi in terms of his aero package. He had the upgrade for Saturday morning, but then Saturday was disturbed by the weather as we all know. Here, once again, we only have one set of kit and we've chosen to run that with Kimi, and Romain is disadvantaged for that. It's a feature of not having in-season testing that you try to upgrade the cars as fast as you can and, generally speaking, that means that you're always going to have one set of kit ahead of the second set, and that almost inevitably means that one driver gets to try it before there is a second one available.
“We will always try to get two sets available, but it's not always possible, so [Grosjean]'s had a difficult set of circumstances - and he's also up against a team-mate who is really firing on all cylinders.”
According to Allison, Raikkonen's performance in Melbourne was typical of an F1 veteran.
“He's certainly very, very relaxed and confident this year,” the engineer noted, “He drove the race incredibly patiently. I think he knew he had a good car under him. He knew he didn't have to scamper up behind the group in front and he looked after the tyres, only going quickly when he needed to. It was just a very mature and smooth, fast race.”
Raikkonen also topped the times on day one in Malaysia, but Allison stopped short of predicting another successful weekend, with Red Bull and Ferrari nipping at the Finn's heels throughout free practice.
“The weekend will tell, but it's been a good day so far and the car seems quite happy here,” he reported, “It would be good to come away from here, if we can, competitive. I think doing well in cold [conditions] and doing well in hot [conditions] would be good.”