Pastor Maldonado, Lotus, Silverstone, 2014

Lotus split from Renault after dire season

2014 F1 season review

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[interactivecharts]Pastor Maldonado, Lotus, Silverstone, 2014

Lotus team stats 2014

Best race result (number)8 (2)
Best grid position (number) 5 (1)
Non-classifications (mechanical/other) 12 (11/1)
Laps completed (% of total) 1,800 (77.32%)
Laps led (% of total) 0 (0%)
Championship position (2013)8 (4)
Championship points (2013)10 (315)
Pit stop performance ranking4

When the reality of F1’s financial crisis hit hard at the end of the season and two teams filed for administration, Lotus team chairman Gerard Lopez won many admirers for his clear-headed explanation of the threat faced by his team and others.

With that in mind, his pre-season warning about the difficulties Lotus faced in the year ahead makes interesting reading with the benefit of hindsight.

“We face an extremely well-resourced rival in Mercedes who have dedicated considerable efforts to their power units for the 2014 season,” said Lopez in March.

“We are doing everything we can to enable Renault Sport F1 to respond to this strong rival and our resources are at their disposal,” he added. “The bar has been raised and we all need to react.”

The good news for Lopez was an avenue existed for Lotus which wasn’t open to the likes of Ferrari and – according to Christian Horner – Red Bull. This was to obtain Mercedes engines of their own. With McLaren switching to Honda power units for 2015 an opportunity presented itself, and Lopez ensured his team was at the front of the queue.

Lotus therefore enjoyed their greatest success in a season of otherwise unrelenting disappointment on October 9th, when they announced they will use Mercedes power next year.

The importance of this can hardly be understated given the scale of Lotus’s decline this year. Race winners in the two previous seasons, they made just three appearances in the points this year. Having spent 81.5% of all their laps in top ten positions last year, that figure fell to 12.5% in 2014.

This was partly to be expected given the team’s turbulent end to the previous year. Lotus began 2014 having lost star driver Kimi Raikkonen plus designers James Allison and Dirk de Beer to Ferrari, endured the public embarrassment of a failed potential deal with Quantum, and shortly after the new year saw team principal Eric Boullier defect to McLaren.

Although losing Raikkonen was always going to be a setback, it would be unfair the level much of the blame for their problems at the feet of their drivers – even Raikkonen’s incident-prone replacement Pastor Maldonado. The car wasn’t ready for the first test of the year and even after the chequered flag fell on round one the team were still yet to complete race distance.

Romain Grosjean, Lotus, Circuit de Catalunya, 2014From this low point the team made rapid progress: as early as round four Romain Grosjean got the car into Q3. At the next round in Spain a major upgrade helped Grosjean take fifth in front of the Ferraris. This was a further sign the car’s principal weakness was its engine and not its aerodynamics, despite its asymmetrical twin-pronged nose making it by far the ugliest creation in a year of unsightly racers.

But just when things were looking up for Lotus the ban on front-rear inter-connected suspension set them back again. This served only to make the E22 even more difficult to drive, and at low-downforce venues it looked downright evil.

And while Renault ironed out some of their reliability problems during the season, their engine remained a source of intense frustration for their drivers, especially Grosjean, who vented his anger on the radio after qualifying in Singapore.

Maldonado proved able to match Grosjean on pace at times and his petro-bolivars no doubt eased the way to a contract extension. Grosjean waited until the new engine deal was set in stone before committing again. He and the team will expect much better things next year with Mercedes power.

2014 Lotus race results

http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/charts/2014drivercolours.csv

AustraliaMalaysiaBahrainChinaSpainMonacoCanadaAustriaBritainGermanyHungaryBelgiumItalySingaporeJapanRussiaUSABrazilAbu Dhabi
Romain Grosjean111288141216131517111713
Pastor Maldonado1414151217121314121618912

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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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36 comments on “Lotus split from Renault after dire season”

  1. I looked back a few weeks ago into articles from the pre-season and realised that Lotus signed a contract with Renault until 2018 in January or February, and they split after less than a year which I found interesting.

    1. Hmm, there might have been some sort of clause that allowed them to get out of it.

      1. @stigsemperfi Yes there’s definitely a performance clause in there somewhere. You don’t tie yourself to multi-year multi million pound contracts without a get out of jail free card. Same goes for sponsorhips, driver contracts, circuit contracts etc.

    2. Well, yeah. The reason it took them that long was because the team felt they should get a lower price because of having helped develop the (K)ERS technology. @hunocsi, @stigsemperfi

      And the split was made possible because Lotus wanted out (better engines AND a better price from Mercedes) and Renault (or rather RBR) was glad to streamline processes – it seems several solutions of cooling and packaging were different on the Lotus, meaning Renault had to spend resources for both solutions. Now it can focus on just the one for RBR as STR (and Caterham) use the same setup.

      When both sides are glad to end a deal, it shouldn’t be too big of an issue to end it.

  2. Geez not very nice on Maldonado. Seriously a lack of respect there. He did well in the latter stages of the season and seemed a lot more consistent and quicker than Grosjean. I mean yeah he isn’t the best driver out there but when the car is Solis, he can drive a great race.

    1. I do agree. I cannot think of a moment where Maldonado actually had an accident from Italy onwards…

      1. He had an ”accident” in Singapore.

      2. Great resource for when you can’t remember:

        http://hasmaldonadocrashedtoday.com/

        1. +1 Hilarious!

        2. Very good hahaha!

        3. @repete86 just bookmarked it thanks for posting!

        4. Wow 76 days, that must be a record. I can’t get why this statistic is not included in every stats and facts post-race post from Keith ;)

          1. Ok guys!
            The subject should be Enstone splitting from Renault after almost 20 years of working together. However, the interest of the majority is driving us elsewhere. Obviously. I’ll point out few things we have to bear in mind.

            1) Pastor is a crash prone driver indeed but in my opinion his approach was more mature then Romain’s. No outbursts of anger when he was really involved in a disappointing situation. His pace in Canada was remarkable. He made up so many places on the first set of tyres. If he didn’t have PU misfire I believe it would be Lotus’ best result of the season. Podium? Maybe.

            2) E22 was a very difficult car to drive. Gerard Lopez said in an interview that the car had a design flaw they discovered in may. It is a huge flaw they will never repeat, hopefully. Besides, I cannot fathom the idea of preparing a car 2.5 years and ending up with so much handling and traction issues. Not to mention loss of downforce when the car becomes lighter and to much drag as a toping on the cake. Mechanically and aerodynamically E22 was a problematic child. No wonder when so many ‘parents’ divorced last year. Renault wasn’t the only one to blame. Those were some of the circumstances Pastor had to deal with and every comment he made was positive one.

            3) He has won a gp, something Romain is still dreaming about and something most of us will never achieve.

    2. i agree, he had a good end to the season. but he threw away potentially superb results in both spain and monaco which seriously dented the teams meagre points haul. he has potential (we have all seen what he can do) but without his backing he wouldn’t be on the grid any more.

    3. Sigh… I’d have said the same 2 seasons ago… but after 4 seasons of F1 experience, that’s a thought I’m happy to avoid.

      Maldonado crashes, solid car or not. He’s incredibly fast and talented, but just a handful of incident free races (some of which had less cars -or objectives for him- than usual with the loss of Marussia and Caterham) won’t cut it for me. He’s incident with Gutierrez in Bahrain remains the single most ridiculous move in the last 10 years…

      It’s hard to balance that out. Specially when he never admits he’s at fault…

    4. Sorry, not a disrespect at all. Maldonado is super fast but not an intelligent race driver. He crashed so many time in practice, quali and race that makes you think he cannot control himself. You put any GP2, F. Renault 3.5 driver in a F1 car and all of them are super fast but who gonna be fast for 60 laps in traffic? Not many and Maldo is one of them…

    5. The article wasn’t disrespectful: we can all agree he’s ‘incident-prone’ and that ‘his petro-bolivars no doubt eased the way to a contract extension’ is also true, his sponsorship from Petronas has been well documented.

      PS: I kinda like Maldonado, he’s unique in his own way.

      1. Petronas? You mean PDVSA @paeschli? ;)

        1. Yup, I knew it was something with a ‘P’ …

  3. I’d forgotten about the FRICS ban. I’ll be so glad when Charlie goes.

  4. I really rather liked the nose on the Lotus. In any case, it was a more elegant solutions than that tacked-on nose that the Caterham had.

    1. I loved the revision of Caterham’s nose that showed up in the last few races. Thought once they ironed out the idiotic wedge shape that it became the prettiest car on the grid.

  5. Just personal opinion, but I didn’t find the Lotus nose that bad. The only problem I had was one tusk being longer than the other because of the regulations.

    I found Ferrari’s nose to be the worst-looking. Toro Rosso and Caterham’s old noses were also pretty horrid.

    1. +1!
      I think the double tusk was a brilliant design solution!

  6. Maldonado pains, Williams gains

  7. despite its asymmetrical twin-pronged nose making it by far the ugliest creation in a year of unsightly racers.
    It was always going to be subjective, but seriously I think it was a more elegant and surprising design than flaccid ones.

    1. I liked it as well

  8. to be honest, with the midfield being so close last season, this season the midfield teams have either gained by having the merc powerplant (ie Williams), or lost by having the Renault powerplant (ie Renault). I hate the commentators on some f1 sites all blaiming Maldonado, his driving was the same in the past 2 years. renault is the kind of team that requires a “great” driver to keep it moving forwards, like Alonso did, then Kubica did, then Raikonnen kind of did. when they have midfield drivers like they did this year, they cannot move forward. I think if Renault have an Alonso like driver this year, they would have been fighting for the last points in every race, even with the dreadfully underpowered Renault.

  9. “This was a further sign the car’s principal weakness was its engine and not its aerodynamics (…)”

    “And while Renault ironed out some of their reliability problems during the season, their engine remained a source of intense frustration for their drivers (…)”

    Could someone explain to me, how the same Renault engine that caused so many problems for Lotus, enabled Red Bull Racing to get 2nd in constructors’ standings?

    1. It didn’t. The Red Bull car was on par with the Mercedes for aerodynamics, maybe even better, and lets not forget that Ricciardo came off head and shoulders above any other driver with a Renault engine for lack of technical issues, probably more by chance/luck than anything else @pafciu

      Another issue might be, that Lotus had a slightly different solution to cooling and placement of the whole ERS unit than RBR (and STR and Caterham), so its quite possible that Renault focussed more on solving the issues with RBR but not spending as much time / ressources to help Lotus fix everything.

      1. @pafciu @bascb Average number of technical problems per car in races against number of races started:

        Mercedes: 8/143=5.6% failure rate
        Renault: 36/141=25.5% failure rate
        Ferrari: 10/105=9.5% failure rate

        That’s pretty remarkable…

      2. Apparently after it became apparent to the Renault Sport guys that Enstone were jumping ship to Merc engines, any software/engine mapping updates were not given to them.

    2. It doesn’t the engine was the same as Red bull but their Aero were much beter. So Lotus did a bad job on the Aero but they blame the engine? So Torro Rosso and Red Bull were on the back of the pack? No they weren’t so Lotus did a bad job, i can give their one advise fire the Aero developer team and get a new one.

  10. I hope Lotus is competitive again next year, I will be rooting for them!

  11. Lotus should have developed a new front wing and not stick to that double tusk front wing.. that is their biggest mistake this season

  12. With the price of oil as low as it is right…reckon PDVSA might cut back on the Crash-tor fund? Venezeula’s economy is highly dependent, if not entirely, on oil exports…they must be feeling the crunch!

    I like Lotus, always been a supported of the team since the Benetton days…lets hope they do better next year..Romain deserves a much better car and I hope he can win his first race next year!

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