Sport : F1


27th February 2014, 08:39am

Having made a big step forward in 2012, Lotus consolidated their fourth place in the Constructors' Championship last season.

However, that will have been something of a disappointment given that they were leapfrogged by Mercedes as McLaren slipped down the table. They had realistic expectations of taking second spot for much of the year before eventually finishing 45 points behind the Silver Arrows.

Financial struggles continue to plague the team - Kimi Raikkonen wasn't paid until the Abu Dhabi GP - but they will have new investment in 2014 in form of oil sponsorship money new recruit Pastor Maldonado brings. Whether any further money is brought to the team courtesy of the protracted deal with Quantum for a stake in the outfit remains to be seen, but it appears unlikely.

In fact, the consequences of their cashflow crisis are many - and most don't sound particularly promising. Not only will Lotus have to bounce back from losing the only man to win a race for them in their current guise, they have also lost personnel such as Technical Director James Allison, who has moved back to Ferrari with Raikkonen.

The arrival of Lotus's new E22 was also delayed, while January also brought the bombshell that Team Principal Eric Boullier - credited for steering them through choppy financial waters whilst maintaining their competitiveness - was heading to McLaren. It could therefore prove a trying year for Gerard Lopez, whose Genii Capital investment company owns the team and who has stepped up to the pitwall to replace Boullier.

The Luxembourg firm took a majority stake in the once Toleman and Benetton team during the winter of 2009 when then owners Renault, badly damaged by the fall-out from the Singapore GP 'Crashgate' saga, began a phased withdrawal from team ownership which was completed 12 months later when Genii took 100 per cent control and Group Lotus came on board as title sponsor.

While 2010, with Robert Kubica at the wheel, was highly promising, the team's form and development programme - centred on an ear-splitting forward-pointing exhaust - nosedived the following year after a promising start and they ended up only just fending off Force India for fifth in the standings.

A big improvement was therefore required in 2012. Yet few thought that Lotus would still leapfrog Mercedes so comprehensively and take the fight to the established top three teams for much of the season.

The signing of former World Champion Raikkonen, after an indifferent start, ultimately proved the most astute of moves and the Finn started 2013 in style with victory in Melbourne.

However, the real success story of last season was Romain Grosjean, who worked to cut out the silly errors that had hitherto plagued his grand prix career. By the end of the season, he sometimes appeared the only man capable of taking the challenge to the Red Bulls.

How he fairs in his role as team leader in 2014 remains to be seen, however - particularly with Boullier no longer at the helm to oversee Grosjean and the fiery Maldonado.

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