Oh yes… Lotus!

2012 Chinese Grand Prix - FridaySo who predicted that Lotus would win the first GP of the year? If I take a look back at what I said here a couple of days before the Australian GP, the most glaring issue is the complete lack of mention of Lotus. I referred to Mercedes, McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull as the top teams and didn’t bother talking about Torro Rosso, Force India, Williams etc but to leave out Lotus was, with hindsight, bizarre.
We ran a Facebook competition last week inviting fans to predict the top three drivers. There was the expected proportion of votes for Button and Hamilton, but Red Bull and Ferrari drivers did ok too. Only two people mentioned Raikkonen – and only one of them predicted he would win.
I have been an avid F1 fan since 1990 or so, when we founded Daytona’s first kart circuit and it was pretty essential viewing back then for kart circuit owners. Over the intervening years very few teams have remained constant – or even kept the same name. But one of the most famous names in F1 was taking a sabbatical back in 1990 and maybe that is why I didn’t think about Lotus (who used to be Renault who used to be Benetton etc ) last week. A colleague of mine rates Raikkonen very highly and after Sunday’s win, one cannot really disagree with him.
It is, however, early days. The pace of development in F1 is simply unbelievable for those of us who watch car manufacturers launch new car models every couple of years. F1 Teams make 1000’s of modifications to their cars during one season. Don’t expect huge changes this coming Sunday in Malaysia though. The big development race starts at the Spanish Grand prix usually – i.e. When the teams get back to Europe and race on a circuit they tested on pre-season. That doesn’t mean that we may not see different results for the teams on Sunday. The heat and humidity in Malaysia means completely different conditions for the cars and, in particular, their tyres.
Lotus’ win in Oz was widely attributed to the car and driver’s ability to make the tyres last for a two stop strategy. Hamilton’s first race was looking very promising until his tyre wear prompted an extra stop which dropped him to 5th – but for Mercedes to finish just 45 seconds behind the winner will still be viewed as pretty good.
The really good news for all of us fans was that the top 12 drivers all finished within 90 seconds or so – and thus we have a race on!
Malaysia Qualifying is on at 8am on Saturday (unless rain stops play) and the Race is at 8am on Sunday.
Jim Graham