Lotus’s Raikkonen romance turns sour

2013 F1 season review

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Lotus repeated their 2012 result of fourth in the constructors’ championship with a single victory this year.

The team undoubtedly performed above the level its resources should allow it to, finishing far ahead of McLaren. And yet the fact they ended the season within striking distance of Ferrari and almost Mercedes as well gives the impression more was possible.

And that was far from the most disappointing aspect of their campaign. Losing Kimi Raikkonen to Ferrari was bad enough but the circumstances of his departure shed light on the team’s financial difficulties. Ahead of his final appearance for the team in Abu Dhabi, Raikkonen revealed he hadn’t been paid all year.

It was unfortunate for all concerned that it should end this way, not least because the combination of a former world champion and a mid-sized team with giant-killing abilities was such an appealing one.

It ended with the team pursuing a financial solution with investors Quantum which, at the time of writing, still has not materialised. That led the team to pass up the crowd-pleasing choice of Nico Hulkenberg as Raikkonen’s successor (which 65% of F1 Fanatic readers wanted to see) and opt for the well-heeled Pastor Maldonado instead (which only 2% wanted).

Lotus team stats 2013

Best race result (number)1 (1)
Best grid position (number) 2 (1)
Non-finishes (mechanical/other) 6 (4/2)
Laps completed (% of total) 2,017 (88.85%)
Laps led (% of total) 77 (6.78%)
Championship position (2012)4 (4)
Championship points (2012)315 (303)
Pit stop performance ranking5

The season promised much when it began. In Melbourne Raikkonen used the E21 to great effect, coaxing more life out of the delicate early-season tyres to rise from seventh on the grid to win the season-opener.

It was a high the team never replicated, though Raikkonen came close on several occasions. Heading into the summer break he’d finished second five times. But then his fortunes took a turn for the worse.

For obvious reasons, Lotus staunchly opposed any calls for Pirelli to alter their tyres to make then more conservative. When Pirelli proposed to bring a more conservative tyre selection for Hungary, Lotus criticised the decision.

The Silverstone failures forced Pirelli’s hand but as it turned out Lotus actually performed better once the tyres had been changed. In the case of Hungary, Pirelli now felt comfortably to bring a softer selection of compounds and Raikkonen was on the podium once again.

But the changes to the tyres did contribute to a shift in the balance of power between their drivers – as did the switch to a longer wheelbase version of the E21 early in the season. Suddenly Romain Grosjean, who’d had an indifferent start to the season distinguished only by a terrible weekend in Monaco, was putting Raikkonen under serious pressure.

Raikkonen was well ahead in the drivers’ points at times and Lotus had Grosjean give way to his team mate on more than one occasion. Later in the year Raikkonen gave Grosjean a lesson in how little there is to be gained by ‘playing the team game’: when the time came for Raikkonen to repay Grosjean’s favours in India he pushed his team mate off the track, leading to the infamous “get out of the way” radio message.

Not long after that Raikkonen elected not to compete in the final two races, preferring to have surgery on a recurring back problem ahead of his move to Ferrari next year.

The loss of Raikkonen was a blow, although brilliant drives by Grosjean at Suzuka and the Circuit of the Americas showed it was not a disaster. Their attempts to find a suitable stand-in, however, were unsuccessful. Third driver Davide Valsecchi was passed over in favour of Heikki Kovalainen, but he proved unable to add to their points haul.

Raikkonen’s withdrawal ultimately had the effect of blunting Lotus’s attempts to defeat the very team he will be joining next year. But the long-term consequences of losing a driver of his star quality will surely be more serious.

Lotus drivers 2013 race results


Kimi Raikkonen17222109522113257
Romain Grosjean106931319368833342
Heikki Kovalainen1414

Lotus’s 2013 season in pictures

2013 F1 season review

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Images © Lotus/LAT

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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...

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25 comments on “Lotus’s Raikkonen romance turns sour”

  1. In some way, this team has for me been on the cusp of dwindling into the back of the field for 6-4 years now. I guess its a show of how deep the talent ran that even after losing Pat Symonds (because of Singapore 2008), losing Allison, losing Kubica when he was really on top of his game, now losing Kimi, and more people from the team, they still keep on going and manage to beat McLaren, Mercedes and Ferrari for efficient use of funds, and maybe even Red Bull.

    If anyone should be in a group working on a budget cap, it should be the guys from this team, as they have been on a small budget in the last 4 years but still managed to produce a car that could meddle with the big boys for podiums, even wins and given a top driver, could still have an outside chance on the championship.

    I would hate to see that go down the drain, because really it shows how teams spending far more are doing a lousy job for their owners, even if those owners can afford it (for now).

    Lets hope Boullier manages to find a way to get Maldonado to shed his carelessness for others on track and instead bring out the superb driver that is in him to the tracks. They seem to have managed to get Grosjean where he can be already, and they gave Kimi back to fun in driving fast and winning too.

    1. In Romain’s case the problems were immaturity and low self esteem (and I’m not so sure a relapse is out of the question), but I’m not so sure what Pastor’s issues are. Misplaced entitlement? Misdirected aggression? Tha’t’s for Eric and the psychologists to determine. My point is he may be a more difficult case than Romain.

      1. Maldonado always says things like “I wont change the way I drive”. Good luck Eric.

    2. I would say very effective budget management especially if their philosophy was not to pay their bills! Who else didn’t get paid? I’ll bet next month’s lottery win that it’s a long list. It’s always the little guy that suffers the most when dealing with these ‘creatively financed’ companies.

  2. When team told Romain to move out of the way in bahrain 2012, Singapore 2012. Nurburgring 2013 Romain didn’t do it immediately. He dragged until there ‘s little point of doing so.

    He almost took kimi out in Singapore 2012 after the SC restart, at Spa 2013 etc.

    In nurburgring he lied to his team for bad radio and only let kimi overtook him after 5 laps.

    I dont see anything wrong with Kimi unwilling to yield. Especially after how the team treated him with 0 salary, bring in the development parts that didn’t suit him, stupid strategy that often promote romain behind to the front while Kimi losing time for not reacting to undercut. Not to mention kimi’s back injury was caused by team member not blotting the seat properly.

    1. Romain didn’t do it immediately.

      Unless you were listening to the all team radio messages in real time I you’re not in a position to make that judgement. Looking at the data from those races there’s no indication Raikkonen lost any serious amount of time behind Grosjean. Certainly not as much as Grosjean lost behind Raikkonen in India this year.

      The stuff about Grosjean ‘almost taking Raikkonen out’ and ‘lying on his radio’ is sheer exaggeration or overactive imagination.

      1. It was in your Radio Transcript @@

        Esp the Nurburgring one……ROFL

        And everyone saw he nearly took kimi out in Singapore 2012 after SC restart and Spa 2013.

        Korea too were it not Kimi ‘s fast reaction.

        And when Eric was asked about his bahrain 2012 team order decision was implemented too late he said that he didn’t want to hurt Romain’s feeling. He value Romain’s feeling more than winning.

    2. Most ** post in a while. And not surprisingly from a kimi-fan.

      For example nurburgring Kimi had massive radio troubles too. But conviniently you forgot that.

      1. err, im well aware of Kimi’s radio problem. But not romain’s.

      2. He and Candice should get married, I’m sure they can obssess over Raikkonen together in their own delusional fantasy worlds… lmao

  3. Lotus don’t have an engine supplier for 2014, do they?

    1. they are continuing with Renault for at least onother 3 years @f1mre

      1. If they pay for the engine ……

        1. It all depends on what you prioritize. Lopez has money, and I am sure that Renault has their money up front at least in part.

          With Kimi – last year they payed him when Bernies prize money arrives, I guess that was their plan this year again. Kimi wanted to drive, Lotus offered a car that was good enough to get him back into a top team.
          Not saying that I agree with the kind of thinking that leaves most employees being on back pay, but its more about when what cash flows than a lack of money as such.

  4. This picture pretty much sums up Grosjean’s Monaco weekend: completely lost.

    1. @andae23 Ha, very true :P

  5. Raikkonen’s withdrawal ultimately had the effect of blunting Lotus’s attempts to defeat the very team he will be joining next year.

    The cynic in me has to wonder whether this was the point…

    1. I think we all wondered if this was ‘diplomatic’ back pain.
      Can you imagine how loudly Montezemelo would have bellowed if these Lotus upstarts, these ‘garagistas’, had beaten the mighty Ferrari down into fourth place?

      1. …pushed Ferrari down into third. Mind you, as far as di Montezemolo is concerned there is no such thing as Mercedes. or maybe Red Bull Racing, who knows.

        1. . . . Ferrari came third in the Constructors Championship dear, so Lotus could have pushed them down to fourth.
          You make an interesting observation about Luca’s ability to recognise other teams and competitors. Perhaps that just demonstrates Ferrari’s myopia.

          1. I was actually referring to DiMontezemolo saying he was tired of coming second a few days back ;-)

      2. @timothykatz It wouldn’t really be much more than normal

        1. @cjpdk No, it probably wouldn’t, would it?
          I am still deeply suspicious that Luca is planning a move into mainstream Italian politics, now that the lovely Silvio seems to be completely out of it. I feel that, if Ferrari had won either title this year, Luca wuld have used that popular success as his launch pad.
          So I think Montezumma will have to wait until the end of the 2014 season to make the move.
          President Napolitano should watch Luca’s moves carefully. Any comments from the Italian F1 Fanatics?

  6. It’s very sad really. Lotus had perfect marketing pedigree to get all the sponsors they wanted, perfect results, popular driver. More so they had amazing engineering resources back at the factory that was punching above their pay-grade. Yet, for two consecutive years Lotus failed to capitalize of those virtues by consistently making bad management decisions.

    After having such good two years, to end up in a mess they are now, who ever is making executive decisions at Lotus, should be fired a year ago!!!!

  7. Grosjean and Vettel started quite similarly in F1. Promising speed, but also dumb errors. I also believe that their driving style is quite similarly. And they both don’t look like racing drivers!

    Lotus didn’t choose between Hulkenberg and Maldonado, Lotus has chosen Grosjean. With the money of Pastor they can give Grosjean a better car.

    Surely, one would rather have one good driver in a good car, than two good drivers in a mediocre car.

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