Do the colours black and gold symbolise bravery? Continuity perhaps? You’d be forgiven for thinking so, with Lotus F1 heading into the 2013 season with the retained driver partnership of Kimi Raikkonen and possibly more surprisingly, Romain Grosjean.
Lining up alongside Kimi Raikkonen could cripple even the most god like of drivers, so when Grosjean began redesigning front wings, deflating tyres and, well, the look of most other cars on the grid, many believed the Frenchman simply couldn’t hack it. Such cynics included the FIA, who let’s not forget banned Grosjean from the 2012 Italian Grand Prix after causing too much havoc in previous races. Naughty Grosjean.
However, with the new season looming large, Romain remains at Lotus, and once again alongside Raikkonen. So why has Team Principal Eric Boullier decided to stand by his under-fire driver? Well, he’s quick. In the midst of his turbulent 2012 season, Grosjean clocked up three podium finishes on his way to eighth in the championship; albeit, five places behind Kimi. If Romain can consolidate and justify the glimmers of pace that he sprinkled over his Lotus in the previous campaign, it goes without saying that he may just be the man to get Kimi up and on his toes. Let’s face it, someone has to!
As for the Finn himself, 2013 should all be about building. Not with bricks and mortar perhaps, but building on what was a fantastic 2012 campaign yielding a single race victory and third in the standings when the chequered flag dropped in Brazil. The key to last season’s success for Raikkonen was absolute consistency; seven podium finishes in a season like 2012 was an impressive feat, one that Kimi delivered with typical calm, and phenomenal on track ability. In fact the only time such calmness did deprive him, it gave way to the seasons comical highlights of Raikkonen telling the team to “leave me alone” during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (which he won) or when he went for an extended off track excursion in Brazil… as if I need remind you.
Pre-season testing for Grosjean and Raikkonen certainly hasn’t been confidence-boosting, with unreliability and bouts of food poisoning (hangover?) plaguing the Enstone team’s testing programme. Should the car indeed prove to be under the weather come Melbourne, it may well be panic stations for the team.
Raikkonen for instance is incredibly fussy when it comes to the cars steering attributes; should the new Lotus E21 not deliver the precise, ‘fingertip’ light handling Kimi requires, we may see lacklustre performances draped over his 2013 season? The last time the Finn was in the sport and lacking momentum and feel for the car, was 2009 for Ferrari, and to put it bluntly, he got sacked. As for Grosjean it would be unfair for one to write-off his development-credentials, but with limited experience and lack of previous evidence, it’s a worry.
So, it goes without saying that Lotus F1 really will be hoping that black-and-gold truly does represent ‘continuity’ and ‘bravery’, as 2013 may well be a make-or-break season. Grosjean needs to keep it clean, Raikkonen needs a car to do him justice, and they both need to justify Boullier’s faith in the pairing. Momentum is key, and success is paramount for Lotus in 2013.