In the seven races of 2012 so far, Lotus have accumulated more points than their total at the end of the 2011 season. The team’s revamped image and new driver line-up certainly seems to be doing the job, with Kimi Räikkönen and Romain Grosjean sixth and seventh respectively. It has been a somewhat mixed season for both drivers with strategies going awry and race ending incidents just a couple of the problems the team have faced, but they have also secured four podiums – more than Ferrari and Red Bull! And Räikkönen and Grosjean both having something in common, as they have both returned to the sport after two seasons away. So, how are the comebacks going so far?
Kimi Räikkönen aka The Iceman
At the end of the 2009 season Kimi Räikkönen was somewhat controversially dropped by Ferrari, despite having a contract with the team for 2010. They signed Fernando Alonso to join the Scuderia and partner well-established Ferrari man Felipe Massa, leaving 2007 world champion Räikkönen out in the cold. Despite talks with McLaren he was left with no drive for 2010, so he turned his hand to rallying as well as taking part in two NASCAR races. It would be fair to say that he did not set either categories alight and towards the end of the 2011 Formula One season, rumours about a possible return started circulating. He was closely linked with Williams but late one night it was finally revealed that he would be returning to the grid in 2012, but with the Lotus team.
There were mixed expectations on The Iceman’s return as some expected him to be fast and right up there from the get-go, while others expected he might struggle due to new regulations and technologies, coupled with two years away. He qualified eighteenth for his first race back but fought through to finish seventh in the race. He backed this up with a fifth place in Malaysia and it was certainly looking positive until China when a strategy choice backfired and he lost a number of places in one lap to drop him outside the points. In Bahrain he finished in second and a third place in Spain meant two consecutive podiums for the returnee. In Monaco he finished in eighth and in Canada ninth meaning that he has only failed to score once so far.
Kimi Season Stats So Far
Highest starting position: 4th
Highest finishing position: 2nd
Average starting position: 9.5
Average finishing position: 6.8
Finishes in points: 6/7
Most gained positions in a race: 10
Average gained positions per race: 5.8
Romain Grosjean – The Smiley Frenchman
Romain Grosjean was drafted into the Renault team in the middle of the 2009 season to replace Nelson Piquet Jr but had a difficult time getting to grips with the car. His highest finishing position was 13th. Renault chose to run Robert Kubica and Vitaly Petrov in 2010 while Fernando Alonso moved to Ferrari. This left Grosjean without a seat in Formula One so he moved to GP2 where he won the championship in 2011 as well as the Asia Series. It was with no great surprise that Grosjean was announced as the second Lotus driver for 2012 as Lotus Team Principal Eric Boullier is also his manager, and so the F1 world watched with interest as the Frenchman embarked on his first full F1 season.
Grosjean certainly made an impact on his return by qualifying in third place for the Australian GP. However, he did not last long in the race after a collision ended his race after only a couple of laps. He qualified once again in the top ten in Malaysia but again retired early on in the race. His finished the Chinese GP in sixth place before progressing to the podium in Bahrain, where Lotus got their first double podium of the season. At the Spanish GP he finished in fourth place before retiring in Monaco, this time after a collision before the first corner. He finished a fine second place in Canada – his best of the season and best ever F1 finish to date. Despite three DNFs he only trails Räikkönen by two points – a strong showing and you could say the Frenchman has the upper-hand over his more experience team-mate, albeit ever so slightly.
Romain Season Stats So Far
Highest starting position: 3rd
Highest finishing position: 2nd
Average starting position: 6.1
Average finishing position: 2.1
Finishes in points: 4/7
Most gained positions in a race: 5
Average gained positions per race: 4.3
Lotus currently lie third in the constructors’ championship with 108 points – 15 behind McLaren and 11 ahead of Ferrari -and are looking strong. During practice sessions they have looked strong in relation to race pace but Eric Boullier has recently admitted that the team struggle on the softer compound tyres and are, like many other teams, particularly sensitive to track temperatures – they seem to prefer higher temperatures. Can they win before the season is over? With 13 races remaining it is certainly not unlikely.