Arguably the biggest surprise of 2012, the Enstone based team proved to be the dark horses of the season. They started strongly as the car proved to be easy on its tires and very fast on race days. The only thing that held the team back from wins in Bahrain and Hungary were bad grid positions.
The team was eventually triumphant in Abu Dhabi as Kimi Raikkonen held off Fernando Alonso for the team’s first win since 2008. Apart from this solitary win, the results during the latter half of the season weren’t what the team wanted. A combination of an erratic driver and an inability to match the development pace of the top three teams meant that their championship hopes dwindled fairly early. They did enjoy a good spell during the midseason in second place in the Constructors’ table.
The E21 has proven very fast but very fragile in preseason testing. Romain Grosjean has gotten many problem-free miles in both Jerez and Barcelona, setting eye-catching lap times. For Raikkonen, the going hasn’t been quite as smooth. Data-logging problems in Jerez along with gearbox issues in Barcelona has limited the Finn’s running. This could prove disastrous because reliability may be the determining factor in this year’s championship, as performance advantages appear scarce if non-existent.
This year, the team just needs to build upon the great foundation of the 2012 car. With more money earned for 4th place in the championship last year, the team will be able to develop the car longer. The team is more prepared this year than in any other year and many fully expect the Enstone squad to be in the championship hunt in 2013
Arguably the biggest success of 2012, Kimi Raikkonen proved that not all Formula One comebacks have to be riddled with regret. The Finn’s laid back but determined style perfectly coincided with the attitude of the Lotus team. A lack of politics and reduced PR requirements made the Enstone team the perfect team for a successful return.
Many questioned Kimi’s motivation and how it would hold up throughout the season. His less than spectacular season with Ferrari in 2009 left many wondering whether he really wanted to be an F1 driver. Perhaps his two years testing NASCARS and WRC cars helped him put his life into perspective and realize that F1 was the place to be.
His return guaranteed that a record 6 World Champions would be on the grid at the same time. Kimi proved that the expected rust on his race-craft was never there as he proved one of the hardest but fairest fighters in the field. His legendary pass on Schumacher into Eau Rouge highlighted this.
For 2013, the motivation seems to be just as high for championship glory. No level of hatred for the end of season prize giving ceremony will deter the flying Finn from taking the spoils at the end of the season.
Testing has been a bit of a roller coaster ride for Kimi. He has taken the majority of the reliability issues and thus, his running has been comparatively limited. To make things worse, food poisoning contracted the day before he was set to drive in the final test meant that his running was further curtailed.
This shouldn’t be a huge problem, though. Kimi has proven to be very good at dealing with issues, both on and off the track. 2013 could be the year that Kimi and the Enstone squad become world champions once again.
What to say about him? There isn’t a whole lot to say, to be honest. Romain’s season was fairly straightforward. He was blindingly quick more often than not, but his sometimes, careless approach to racing meant he crashed out of races almost more often than not. His major screw-up in Belgium ensured that he was the first driver in almost twenty years to receive a race ban.
There is absolutely no doubt that Grosjean is world championship material. There is also no doubt that Grosjean is the most under pressure driver this year. Team principal, Eric Boullier went out on a limb to stick with the Frenchman for another season, but this is just a testament to how much faith the team has in his speed.
Often thrashing Kimi Raikkonen in qualifying, Romain proved less adept in the races. The shining light of his season, however, was the Canadian Grand Prix when he managed a one-stop race to come home a brilliant second place. One could argue he should have won the European Grand Prix after Vettel’s retirement. Indeed, once the German was out of the race, he had the fastest car on track. However, the mechanical Gods were against him that day and an alternator failure meant he was left to watch the finish from the sidelines.
With preseason testing over, many have praised the Frenchman’s fantastic race simulation in the first test at Barcelona. In those 66 laps, Romain managed a colossal 20-lap stint on the medium tires while maintaining very competitive pace. No one has managed to impress like than since.
All of this bodes well for the upcoming 19 races. If Romain has really changed his racing approach as he says he has, then he could be a very serious contender in 2013.o