The season opened strongly in Australia with Romain Grosjean qualifying on the second row of the grid and eight podiums in the first half of the year has shown that Lotus are a very competitive proposition at present.
Kimi Raikkonen’s return to the grid has been little short of stunning with the former champion having stood on the podium five times and lying fourth in the Drivers’ Championship. The Iceman has not yet shown the blistering speed that made him a superstar ten years ago but he has shown impressive consistency and a smart, tactical approach to racing that has seen him make few mistakes and generally get as much out of the car as possible.
In Monaco it seemed that Kimi was lapsing back to the lazy driver that characterised his rallying career, where he refused to spend the required time developing pace notes. In the principality Raikkonen was unwilling to practice in the rain because he felt that there was little point given that his steering rack would be changed before the dry running the following day.
He has bounced back since then however to produce a string of solid results and seems ready to be a title contender once again. Winning the championship this year is probably a bridge too far but with Spa-Francorchamps next on the calendar, a circuit that Kimi has dominated at in the past, and Monza likely to be a strong race for Lotus Raikkonen could build some crucial momentum in the next two races.
Grosjean has generally been the faster Lotus driver over a single lap in qualifying and the Frenchman has rebuilt his reputation superbly this year. Following his poor performances in 2009 it seemed that the paddock would be impatient with Grosjean this year but he has consistently impressed so far in 2012 and shown genuine potential as a future race winner.
Having ironed out his early race mistakes that were a hallmark of his career up to this point, the reigning GP2 champion has solidified his place on the grid and a hat-trick of podium finishes has shown his genuine speed.
Lotus opened the season with a fast car over a single lap but through the course of their development they have arguably lost some of their single lap pace to find a better race car. Over the course of the last three or four races Lotus have consistently been able to move through the field and get to the forefront of races.
Their car in race-trim is a match for anyone but it is crucial that in the next couple of races that Lotus can find more speed in qualifying and give them a better chance of winning a race. With Raikkonen showing superb tactical awareness this season, as shown by beating Grosjean in a wheel to wheel battle coming out of the pits in Hungary, it is clear that if the Lotus can qualify faster they will be able to fulfill their potential.