With a new name and a new driver line-up, Lotus were reinvigorated last season and enjoyed by far their most fruitful campaign since the Renault championship winning days of the mid-2000s.
Returning to Formula One after a two-year rallying sabbatical, Kimi Raikkonen showed he had lost none of his speed, scoring several podiums and taking his team’s first win in four years in Abu Dhabi. He was ably backed up by Romain Grosjean, who despite drawing plenty of criticism for his part in a series of crashes that led to him being banned for a race, showed great speed and marked himself out as a star of the future.
Hopes are high that the Enstone team can build on their success from 2012 and launch a challenge for the title this year, and with two strong drivers in Raikkonen and Grosjean, if the car is good enough then the team will be good enough to fight for honours.
The team’s new car has been consistently quick in pre-season testing, and despite a few reliability problems, if Lotus can arrive in Melbourne without any issues, the car should be fast enough to challenge for outright victory.
7) Kimi Raikkonen
Kimi Raikkonen reminded fans just what they had been missing out on last year as he enjoyed a highly successful return to Formula One after a two-year absence.
Despite fears that his comeback would not be a success, the Finn was on the pace immediately and was a challenger all season as he scored six podiums and a win en route to an impressive third place in the drivers’ championship.
In addition to his speed, in a relaxed environment such as what Lotus have given him, the Iceman has thrived and the leadership and direction he has given the team has paid huge dividends on the track.
Raikkonen is a man that prefers to do his talking in the car, and if Lotus can give him a machine capable of challenging for the championship this year, you can bet your bottom dollar that he will be right up there in the mix for the title.
8) Romain Grosjean
Having been widely chastised for the amount of first lap incidents he was involved in last year, it’s easy to forget just how well Romain Grosjean drove at times in 2012.
The Frenchman showed blinding speed on the track, outqualifying teammate Raikkonen 10-9 over the course of the season and scoring three podiums in the first part of the finish. It’s also easy to forget that Grosjean was a very real contender for victory in Valencia before an alternator failure ended his afternoon.
Of course, Grosjean’s aptitude for going banger racing on the first laps of races became a severe problem last season, and his ban for causing the startline crash at Spa was well deserved. It is an issue that he must sort out if he is to remain in the sport on a long-term basis, but one that is not insurmountable.
If Grosjean can find that improvement and drive as well as he proved he can at times last year, he will contend for regular wins and podiums and might even give Raikkonen a run for his money.
Hopes for the season
After a positive winter testing programme in which its new car showed good potential, Lotus look set to go to Melbourne with a very good base with which to start the season.
Whether the team will be able to launch a title challenge remains to be seen, especially with Red Bull and Ferrari looking very strong at this point, but Lotus look to have a package capable of fighting at the front on a regular basis and they will be confident of improving on their fourth place finish from last season.
If there’s one area that the team do still need to improve on it’s their performance in colder weather, with most of their standout moments in 2012 coming when the sun was out and the track was hot.
Providing Lotus build on their promise from testing and deliver a car that’s capable of performing in all weathers, then finishing in the top three of the championship is a very realistic ambition.