Another strong result in India, albeit with a little drama along the way, has left Lotus in buoyant mood heading to Abu Dhabi.
The Enstone team overcame a spot of on-track obstinacy from Kimi Raikkonen to put Romain Grosjean back onto the podium – from 17th on the grid – and currently sits 28 points out of second place in the constructors' table. Despite having both Ferrari and Mercedes between itself and confirmed champions Red Bull, team boss Eric Boullier is confident that current form can help carry Lotus to its goal.
“We are pretty well placed to continue fighting for podiums and aiming for that valuable second position in the constructors' championship,” he confirmed as he headed for Abu Dhabi, “Our car, the E21, continues to impress no matter what the circuit, and that we are still able to make improvements to it so late in the season is a real testament to all the great work that goes on at Enstone. We'll keep fighting hard until the end of the season and we'll give the other teams some headaches.
“We head to this year's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with a strong car and we're in a position where both our drivers are performing very well at the moment, so anything could be possible. Another win in Abu Dhabi would be fantastic and, if Kimi could do the same again, it would be a superb result.
“In a year, we've made good progress. Our understanding of this year's car and our design development processes are coming on well. We brought out the long wheelbase version of the E21 to prove a new method of assessing and evaluating our design development path, and this has proved to be a success. This is very good news for the future; especially as we look ahead to such significant changes in 2014.”
Despite scoring with both drivers in India, Boullier admits that the weekend could have been even better had it not been for some niggling issues.
“We scored well, but it wasn't a perfect performance as we messed up Romain's qualifying and Kimi had a brake problem in the race,” he reflected, “These are two areas we need to address but, on race day, everyone performed brilliantly.
“Romain had a very strong drive and managed to conserve his tyre performance right to the end. He was fast despite having to nurse his engine, and being on the podium was a good reward for the whole team. Obviously, it was disappointing that the tyres couldn't last long enough for Kimi, as being third and fourth would have been an amazing result for the team and very useful in the constructors' championship, but he managed his car's brakes well to take a solid points finish.”
Grosjean's performance in overcoming the qualifying mishap that saw him exit in Q1 was particularly notable, and Boullier sees a very different Frenchman to the one who appeared cautious towards the end of a troubled 2012 campaign.
“Romain has moved to another level in many areas since the German Grand Prix,” Boullier said of his countryman, “His confidence is strong and he's not affected by setbacks as much as he may have been previously.
“In India, we - as a team - made the wrong call with his qualifying strategy and he ended up in 17th on the grid. The Romain of old may have let his head drop, but we saw in the race that he drove in a very intelligent and measured manner; even when we started having engine problems, so it was a very impressive performance.”