Lotus technical director James Allison is preparing for an adjustment in the F1 pecking order at this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix, and hoping that his squad will be the ones to take advantage of it.
After four 'flyaway' races to open the year, the annual trip to Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya is expected to see the majority of teams bring their first major upgrade to their cars, and Allison anticipates some shuffling of the pack as a result.
“The start of the so-called European season – where many teams unleash a raft of their latest upgrades – could shake up the order somewhat,” he confirmed, “[Lotus has] nothing revolutionary, but plenty that should help us go faster.
“We have new front wing endplate detailing, new aero around the rear drums, modifications to the diffuser and a different top rear wing so there's plenty to help keep us in the hunt.”
The Circuit de Catalunya has become a staple on the pre-season testing schedule, and provides a benchmark for all the eleven teams as they return from the arduous start to the racing campaign. As a result, Lotus will be able to concentrate on the performance of its upgrade as it seeks to get on terms with Red Bull and Ferrari.
“The familiarity means you're not hunting around for things like ride heights, weight distributions, aero balance or roll stiffness, as you know roughly where you want to be [so] it's a matter of fine tuning rather than finding your feet from scratch,” he acknowledged, “That said, we know all of the circuits pretty well...
“Spain is certain to be cooler than Bahrain, but it's not that dissimilar. It's a circuit where the outcome of the race isn't only determined by whether you're on pole position, but rather by a combination of how far up the grid you are, how good your car is on race pace, how you manage the tyres and your race strategy.”
With Kimi Raikkonen having already taken the Lotus E21 to the top step of the podium in Australia, and having featured in the top three as Pastor Maldonado took a surprise win for Williams in Spain last season, there is reason to believe that the Enstone squad will be in the thick of the fight this weekend.
“In pre-season, we did one of the best race simulation runs at the final Barcelona test, but it's always difficult to tell what everyone's doing in testing, [which] was a good few months ago now,” Allison pointed out, before reasoning that the tyre choice for this weekend could be one that works for his team.