Constructors’ Championship: 4th
Best qualifying: 3rd
Best race result: 1st
Best qualifying: 2nd
Best race result: 2nd
Jérôme d’Ambrosio (for one race only)
Best qualifying: 15th
Best race result: 13th
- Kimi Räikkönen’s win in Abu Dhabi.
- Various great qualifying performances by Grosjean, most notably at the Australian, Spanish and Hungarian Grands Prix
- The fact that Kimi Räikkönen is back in Formula 1.
One driver finished every single race bar one in the points while the other had seven retirements. One driver finished with 207 points, finishing third in the Drivers’ Championship, while the other scored 96 points and finished eighth, behind Massa. One grabbed the headlines with his ‘Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing’ comment mid-race while the other was in the news for causing first lap pile-ups. It’s safe to say that Räikkönen and Grosjean had two very different seasons.
Let’s not forget, though, that early in the season it looked like Grosjean was the more likely Lotus driver to win a race thanks to his superior speed. A missed opportunity for Räikkönen in Bahrain – when he didn’t quite make a pass on Vettel for the lead stick, and then another in Spain – when he couldn’t quite catch the leaders at the end, meant that people started to question whether or not he had lost some of his ability with two years in the forests. This was made even worse when it became clear that the Lotus had the pace to win races, if only all the cards would fall into place.
Before Räikkönen’s missed opportunities in Bahrain and Spain Grosjean wasn’t so much as waiting for his cards to fall into place, but shredding them. The speed was there – there was no doubting that, but contact in the first race broke his suspension, contact and a spin in the second race was a precursor to aquaplaning off a few laps later, and then in China he threw positions away when he slid off the track while trying to pass Webber. For a man who had said that he was much more mature now than he was in his first F1 career, it wasn’t looking great.
However, then came Bahrain where the Frenchman drove like he had been racing in Formula 1 for 10 years. A great race lifted him from seventh on the grid to third. It didn’t last, though, because while Räikkönen continued to put in strong race performances and went about silencing critics with a heart-in-the-mouth pass on Schumacher through Eau Rouge, Grosjean was continuing to be too hit and miss (quite literally).
The biggest ‘hit’ came in Spa where he pulled clean across the track after the start and left Hamilton no room. The ensuing accident (read: train wreck) was one of the scariest for a long time with Alonso narrowly missing being decapitated by an airborne Lotus. The one-race ban was a fitting punishment and it gave third driver d’Ambrosio his first F1 race since the 2011 Brazilian Grand Prix. He equipped himself well and if it weren’t for a KERS failure in the race he may well have scored a point for the team.
In Singapore Grosjean was back and scored a strong sixth position – perhaps he had taken on board the need to finish the first lap? He no doubt thought about it, but come the Japanese Grand Prix it was clear that he still lacked the ability to implement the plan. While looking at Pérez’s Sauber mid-first corner he took Webber out. Not a man who was ever going to dismiss the move as a racing incident.
The flashes of speed and flashes of a Lotus crossing the race track at the wrong angle continued to the end of the season and the final race looked, to some, like the final nail in the coffin. A strange decision to pass de la Rosa’s HRT on the inside of the final turn in Brazil meant another damaged car and then in the race he spun out on the sixth lap. Thankfully, though, Lotus has decided to sign him for another year. I say thankfully because despite a year that resembled a season of Demolition Derbys he is a seriously quick racing driver. As Nigel Roebuck brought up in our season review ‘you can tidy up speed, but you can’t speed up tidiness’. Also you had to feel sorry for the Frenchman – the mounting pressure would no doubt have made him drive scared. You get the feeling that in Japan he only hit Webber because he was so determined not to hit Pérez. Time in the seat will sort that.
As for Raikkonen, and indeed Lotus in general, it’s been a great season. It’s widely accepted that the team is far from being on terms with the ‘Big Three’ on budget and not only did it managed to provide an environment for the Finn which he seems to be able to work in, it also designed an extremely competent race car. What’s more it was fast all season, which is a lot more than can be said for many teams on the grid, if any this year. It’s no surprise that Lotus was the team that impressed you all the most in a recent poll of ours.