Lotus owner reassures Grosjean over long-term seat
27 February 2013
Lotus team owner Gerard Lopez has spoken out in support of the team's driver Romain Grosjean and said that the squad has committed to the Frenchman being a long-term part of their F1 plans.
That's despite a somewhat chequered first full season for Grosjean in F1, which saw him criticised for a series of race day mistakes culminating in a one-race ban following his part in sparking a turn one accident at Spa.
Even as Grosjean employed the services of a top sports psychologist to help him rebalance his mindset for the latter races of the season, the team seemed on the verge of dropping him and were slow to confirm that the 26-year-old would be returning to the line-up for a second campaign in 2013.
But Lopez, speaking to Press Association Sport, made it clear that Grosjean now enjoyed his full confidence heading into the new season and that the Frenchman need have no anxieties over the future anymore.
"We have essentially told him he's a long-term future with us, so now he can literally take it race by race, practice by practice - because he's got the speed to win races," said Lopez.
"Romain's a different guy," he continued. "He knows what he has to do. He doesn't have that pressure and stress," he added, referring to Grosjean seemingly pushing too hard, too soon in races during 2012 in an effort to secure his place within the team.
While Grosjean was still finding his feet last season, his more experienced team mate Kimi Raikkonen - a former world champion - threatened on many occasions to win races, but ultimately only succeeded once when he finally managed to hold off Fernando Alonso for victory in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November.
"Looking back, I think Kimi would have won more races last year," Lopez admitted. "So this season, winning more than one race is certainly an objective we should have."
And Lopez reckons that they have the drivers and resources to do just that.
"Overall, we think we've a very good pair of drivers and a good car, so we're quite positive," he said. "We've two drivers who are now really into it, who know the team, the car, the tracks."
Lopez believes that 2013 is going to see a particular tight right for race victories as well as for the overall driver and constructor titles, but is confident that Lotus will be right in the mix.
"It's going to be a pretty bunched-up group, and I would be surprised if we were outside of that group. The question is, with it being so tight, where do you end up within that group?" he said.
"Right now, I believe we've a car that is at least as good, and probably a little bit better, than the car we had last year," he added. "Although we feel pretty good about the car, [the question is] how much has everybody else improved?"
Like everyone else, Lopez will only know for certain when Raikkonen and Grosjean line-up for the first time in the new E21 on the grid in Albert Park for the Australian Grand Prix on March 17.