September 23 2014 Latest news:
Michael Bailey, Formula One correspondent
Saturday, March 29, 2014
And so Lotus can begin its season – because that wasn’t really what they managed when the rest of the Formula One grid assembled down under a fortnight ago.
• Pole position – Kevin Magnussen: Having blossomed in Australia, McLaren boss Ron Dennis has now backed the Dane to be a future world champion in Formula One.
• Stalling – Ferrari: It feels like fingers are already being pointed after a relatively slow start at Albert Park. Needless to say, the prancing horse needs a good weekend from Fernando and Kimi in Malaysia to ease the tension.
Enstone has a long and proud tradition of competing at the front of the field – and with a relatively smaller budget.
But the last winter for the Norfolk marque wasn’t pretty and having been the only team to miss the first test in Jerez – a key test at that, given the amount of technical changes from last season – they were obviously still playing catch up on the first GP weekend of 2014.
Australia was expected to be carnage – I was among those to predict more retirements than finishers. But that scenario didn’t play out, which almost puts even more pressure on Lotus.
Because even though this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix represents Lotus’ first crack of the whip, the fact so many of the other teams appear to have hit the ground running will make any issues Lotus endure that much harder to explain – and especially stomach. Sadly, the noises coming from Enstone ahead of a weekend in Sepang don’t sound particularly encouraging.
"I consider it equally absurd we’re going a second slower than last year and GP2 is almost as fast as F1 with a fraction of the budget"
“I’m certainly hoping for an improvement for Malaysia and then some more in Bahrain, although as they are back-to-back it is likely to be small steps,” technical director Nick Chester told Autosport.
“It may well be Barcelona before we are in a more stable position and compete at the level we want.”
That isn’t until May 11, five races – or a quarter of the season – down.
It’s clearly a tough time for the Lotus team but if any outfit can get through it, it’s those at Enstone.
Not that it makes the prospect of the next few weeks in F1 any easier for them to digest.
• And to think it felt OK to be angry at Red Bull last week. Since then, team founder Dietrich Mateschitz has opened his mouth.
“The fact is the federation’s sensor has given inaccurate values since the beginning of the tests,” said Mateschitz. “The question is not so much about whether it makes economic sense, but more to do with the sporting value, political influence and the like.
“We have had it all but on these things from our perspective there is a clear limit to what we can accept.”
That feels pretty close to blackmail, given there is an appeal being heard into Daniel Ricciardo’s Melbourne disqualification on April 14 – between the races in Bahrain and China.
Yes, teams like Ferrari have been here before – but that should never excuse it, and it should not be allowed to affect the eventual judgment we’re all waiting for. The sooner it’s sorted the better.