Raikkonen helps Lotus to fourth with comeback win

2012 F1 season review

Posted on

| Written by

It was all change for this team over the winter with new drivers and a new name. After months of wrangling, the former Renault outfit finally acquired the name Lotus from Tony Fernandes’s outfit, which became Caterham.

There was one twist left in this preposterous saga, as Lotus Cars relinquished their title sponsorship of the team. They retained the Lotus name yet confusingly chose to align their identity with that of their factory predecessors, namely Toleman, Benetton, and 2002-2011 era Renault.

Fortunately those tasked with conceiving a coherent and logical identity for the team are not those whose job it is to make the car go fast. Lotus enjoyed a vastly more successful season in 2012 than they had in 2011 as Renault, more than quadrupling their points haul and moving up a place in the championship.

It wasn’t just the name that changed over the winter – two new drivers arrived as well.

Lotus team stats 2012

Best race result (number) 1 (1)
Best grid position (number) 2 (1)
Non-finishes (mechanical/other) 7 (1/6)
Laps completed (% of total) 2,047 (85.86%)
Laps led (% of total) 48 (4.03%)
Championship position (2011*) 4 (5)
Championship points (2011*) 303 (73)
Pit stop performance ranking 5

It was all change in the driver line-up too. Having suffered the pre-2011 shock of losing Robert Kubica to a rallying accident, a top-class driver needed to be found the lead their charge.

Nick Heidfeld had been discarded the previous season, and having used Bruno Senna as a stopgap a more promising solution was found in the shape of Kimi Raikkonen.

Vitaly Petrov departed too, and in his place came a driver who had already appeared for the team in its previous incarnation, Renault, three years earlier: Romain Grosjean.

After a difficult 2011 in which the (Renault) R31, with its novel forward-exit exhausts, fell off the pace, much better was needed from the (Lotus) E20. It got off to a promising start as it was the quickest new car at the first test of the year in Grosjean’s hands.

But when the teams arrived at the Circuit de Catalunya their progress was halted by a major failure on their chassis. After missing the entire four-day test and working frantically to produce a solution, they were back on track a little over a week later.

The new car remained quick after the fix. In the first qualifying session of the year they were the second-fastest team, Grosjean lining up third on the grid behind the two McLarens. But Raikkonen was down in 17th after an error in qualifying.

In the race Grosjean retired early following a collision while Raikkonen made up for lost time. It was the shape of things to come – Raikkonen’s qualifying performances were invariably better than that, though by no means always as good as they should have been.

Bahrain proved a breakthrough race as Grosjean passed Lewis Hamilton early on to run second. He soon had to make way for Raikkonen who had qualified outside the top ten but, aided by the extra sets of fresh tyres that permitted him, made rapid progress through the field to challenge Sebastian Vettel for the lead.

Both drivers finished on the podium and at the next race in Spain they also gained ground quickly in the closing stages, finishing third and fourth. In Canada Grosjean produced his best performance of the year for second and it seemed the team’s return to winning ways could not be far away.

Raikkonen’s post-race elevation to third in Germany began a sequence of three consecutive podium scores. He led another Lotus two-three in Hungary, bottled up behind Hamilton.

It was a sign of how much the team had progressed since last year that satisfaction at finishing a race on the podium increasingly gave way to concerns over why they hadn’t won one yet.

In the final third of the season it began to look as though Lotus had missed their best chance. The team spent several races trying to incorporate an enhanced version of DRS on their car, without success.

“That really is tricky,” said technical director James Allison after the team halted efforts to get the system on the car during the season. It switched focus to developing a ‘Coanda effect’ exhaust, exploited to useful effect by several teams already, and soon made gains with it.

But the loss of straight-line speed caused by the system was brutally exposed when Raikkonen spent the entire Indian Grand Prix stuck behind Felipe Massa.

This was remedied for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and after a superb start Raikkonen was perfectly placed to take advantage of Hamilton’s mid-race retirement. He took the lead, weathered increasing pressure from Alonso in the closing laps, and claimed the first victory for a Lotus in 25 years.

Despite his victory, Raikkonen’s chances of winning the drivers’ championship ended with that race. His points-scoring rate dropped off while Lotus failed to get anywhere with their DRS upgrade. But he continued to score points until the final race.

In the meantime Grosjean’s season went off the rails badly. He should have followed Canada with a second consecutive second place but his alternator let him down in Valencia.

Without question the nadir of his season was Spa, when he trigged a multi-car crashed which removed several other drivers from the race and earned a one-race ban.

Grosjean had been involved in several incidents prior to the Spa crash though he was not the persistent troublemaker some painted him as. He did, however, have all the hallmarks of a driver who left too little margin for error, as was clear when he needlessly tangled with Pedro de la Rosa during qualifying in the final race in Brazil.

In his absence, Jerome D’Ambrosio made a single start in Italy, but with minimal running and a KERS problem was never going to make an impression.

The first question facing the team heading into the off-season is what they will do about Grosjean. His scoring rate dropped off alarmingly in the second half of the season as he was dogged by trouble. Having amassed 76 points in the first 11 races he added just 20 more in the remaining nine.

It remains to be seen whether the team is genuinely considering replacing him for next year, or just holding off confirming his seat in the hope it will instil a little restraint in their rapid-but-reckless driver.

Grosjean believes he is well equipped to perform better next year if he is given the chance: “I’ve learned a lot over this season – probably more than I would have expected – and I’ve definitely come back as a stronger driver because of that.”

Update: Shortly after this article was published Lotus confirmed Romain Grosjean will remain with them in 2013.

*As Renault.

Lotus drivers’ 2012 race results


Kimi Raikkonen 7 5 14 2 3 9 8 2 5 3 2 3 5 6 6 5 7 1 6 10
Romain Grosjean 6 3 4 2 6 18 3 7 19 7 9 7

Lotus drivers’ 2012 laps per position


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24
Kimi Raikkonen 44 115 110 108 177 162 140 63 52 72 69 23 24 17 3 3 2 4 3 0 0 0 0 0
Romain Grosjean 4 90 82 75 41 51 79 81 57 26 16 20 9 16 20 11 7 22 20 32 7 18 18 1

Over to you

What did you think of Lotus’s 2012 season? Should they retain Grosjean for 2013? Have your say in the comments.

2012 F1 season review

Browse all 2012 F1 season review articles

Images © Lotus F1 Team/LAT, Ferrari/Ercole Colombo

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

20 comments on “Raikkonen helps Lotus to fourth with comeback win”

  1. Raikonnen showed us this year how “Top Drivers” should perform, when the car was there he delivered and scored valuable points that lead his team to 4th in the constructors, i think that the top teams will be seriously looking for him in 2014
    Red Bull , Mercedes (if they will able to produce a decent car just like Lotus this year) or Mclaren

    1. well, he should switch team in 2014……..team like Lotus will limited budget will ended up badly with the new regs.

  2. Wow, I haven’t noticed before that the loss of pace in the second half of the season was this severe at Lotus. That Abu Dhabi victory managed to conceal it a bit for me.

    1. I think it has more to do with the ‘top teams’ McLaren, Red Bull and Ferrari understanding the tyres and thus bringing in the points more consistently. As a result, the ‘sub-top’ Lotus and Sauber stopped getting podiums in the final races of the season, which explains the apparent drop-off in performance.

      1. Yes, that is very likely. As we can see on the finishes graph, they swapped 2nd-3rd places to 5th-6th on average concerning the best finishes (barring, of course, Abu Dhabi). And apart from Suzuka, it was usually the top 3 teams’ drivers in the top 4-top 5.

        It is all relative otherwise – in fact, the Coanda exhaust visibly gained Lotus .2-.3 secs in the high speed corners from Korea or India on. Of course, initially they had issues with top speed, but as far as I know they resolved them more or less by Abu Dhabi. This further underlines your point as well – even though they improved in terms of outright performance, they still finished lower than before, which must be down to either significant developments and/or more consistency from the top 3 teams.

        I wonder what 2013 has in hand…

      2. First part of the season Lotus was one of the fastest cars in speed traps, second part of the season stuck behind mid table teams.

    2. they dont even had enough resources to spare and sort out kimi ‘s power steering setup than he wants.

      They wont win anything unless they sort their rate of development.

  3. I think Lotus had pretty good season. Kimi didn’t really surprise me, as I always felt he’s the real deal. Romain on the other hand ,had too many incidents for everybody’s liking. But not many were of his own making. Sometimes it’s better to give up a position an gain it back a few laps later. If Romain can keep his nose clean – he’s a keeper.
    And that souldn’t be too hard, since his team mate is ‘cleanest’ driver there is.
    I do not judge him, because I still remember what Hamilton and Massa did throughout the 2011 season.
    Go Kimi!

  4. Team ‘s racing operation side still need improvement in terms of strategy calls, pit stop times, weekend planning etc.

    Most importantly, CAR DEVELOPMENT RATE througout the season.

    Traction, acceleration and straightline speed need serious improvement, or else the car will only be competitive on clean air, and get stuck behind slower car all the time.

  5. @keithcollantine I’m fairly sure Grosjean didn’t get a one-year ban :)

    1. @enigma Haha – changed it, thanks.

  6. Sometimes that’s just the way it goes – within an hour of this going up Lotus announced Grosjean will stay with them next year:

    Grosjean to remain at Lotus in 2013

  7. it strike me how the team handed the only new updates to Romain in valencia while kimi had to wait until hungary for his turn.

    The car is too selective on track characteristic. When its cool, the car is hopeless………something the team had to improved.

    Also, the rate of development really fare badly compared to the top 3 teams

    The team need hire a better strategist too, and make their kers more reliable. Kimi could have won hungary without kers issues. Surprised me how he qualified 6th without kers in silverstone, clinch 3rd and 2nd in spa and hungary with kers issues.

    asked kimi to sit out of Q3 in bahrain. Pit kimi on the same lap as vet instead of performing undercut strategy.

    make kimi run long stint on soft compound when the favored tyre was hard. Pitted kimi for hard in the end with 10x laps remaining, kimi running out of lap in the end.

    Silverstone, make kimi run longer first stint again, vet whom going for undercut jump to 3rd immediately.

    Learned how to perform undercut finally in Hockenheim, but pitted kimi for soft tyre again and run longer middle stint when the fastest tyre was medium.

    Suzuka, slow pit stop failed the attempt on undercut, lewis ended up p5

    Indian Gp, slow pit stop again, couldnt jump massa.

    Austin, 6 sec pit stop…..podium chances faded

    Brazil, pitted kimi earlier for wet compound…falling off pace and ended up behind.

    1. You can’t simply just keep pace in the development game – you need sponsorship. Granted, Lotus definety wasted valuable resources (and perhaps more importantly time) with the failed DRD – it was simply too difficult to calibrated and likely would’ve served less beneficial than pursuing the Coanda exhausts even if it had worked as intended.

      Simply though Lotus need money if they are going to be able to compete in ten development race with the big spenders; Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari. I don’t agree with this, as I alluded to in the COTD but that’s how it is now, as sad as it may be.

    2. +1
      Pit wall was consistently disappointing through out 20 races, made me feel like not watching the race for most of the parts.

  8. @keithcollantine, now that the season has been reviewed and all the statistics compiled I believe it would be interesting to compare the cars raw performance to get an idea of how the season may have played out had the tyres been more conventional and less decisive in the many races that they had a major affect on the results.

    1. @hohum

      it would be interesting to compare the cars raw performance

      That’s been done here:

      Who had the fastest car? Performance data analysed

      get an idea of how the season may have played out had the tyres been more conventional and less decisive

      I’m not interested in that kind of conjecture because I don’t believe you could come up with any worthwhile information from it and I don’t agree with the implicit assumption that there was something ‘wrong’ with the tyres at some point during the season.

      1. @keithcollantine, as long as the challenge is the same for everybody then there is nothing wrong with any rule change, I just happen to believe that the tyre wear was an unnecessary wild card for what would have been a very close championship without it.

  9. Chris (@tophercheese21)
    18th December 2012, 10:36

    I often thought that Romain got a bit of a bad wrap with all this collision stuff. I’m not going to defend his collisions in Spa or Suzuka, because they were unquestionably his fault.

    But for the most part Romain has been a really talented and REALLY fast driver. I’ve really enjoyed watching him this season, and I’m glad he’s back for next year.

    But yeah, I think that the crash in Spa really gave him a bad reputation, and IMO if I were a team boss, I would much rather take him over Maldonado, because Romain can contain his anger. Maldonado seems to have some anger issues which results in him using his car as a weapon (I.e. Monaco FP3 on Perez was just disgusting). But they’re both exciting young prospects.

  10. Lotus wouldnt have kept Grosjean for next season, they only did because he won the race of champions. in my opinion grosjean wasted 3rd for Lotus in the WCC. Kovalainen was a much better option

Comments are closed.