Faster pit stops a priority for Lotus

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Lotus have admitted they need to sharpen up their game in the pits having been over a second off the best last weekend.

Race team manager Paul Seaby admitted the crew “lost our mojo a little over the Malaysia weekend”.

“On Friday our practice stops were as good as they ever have been, but from Saturday onwards we were struggling to string good stops together,” he explained.

“The switch from wet to dry conditions and subsequent front wing flap adjustments didn’t help, but even taking that into consideration it still wasn’t our best weekend.

“We have to take that on the chin, put everyone through their paces with some more practice at Enstone, and work hard to get back to where we should be and deserve to be. Similar to a football team; when we are good praise is due, and when we aren’t we need to face up to that as a unit, work hard together and get ourselves back on song.”

Lotus’s best complete pit stop during the Malaysian Grand Prix was Romain Grosjean’s on lap 25 of the race. He was in and out in 21.8 seconds – over a second slower than the quickest stop of the race, performed by Red Bull.

Kimi Raikkonen’s first visit to the pits on lap six was particularly slow, almost six seconds off the benchmark time.

However the race also demonstrated the dangers in trying to push for that last second in the pits. Force India introduced a new ‘captive wheel nut’ system designed to shave vital tenths off their stops, but a problem with securing the wheel meant they had to retire both cars.

F1 2017 driver review: Max Verstappen

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Max Verstappen

Team: Red Bull Racing
Car No.: 33
Races: 20
Wins: 2
Podiums (excluding wins): 2
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 168
Laps Led: 133
Championship Position: 6th

Max Verstappen rise as a once-in-a-generation talent continued through the 2017 Formula 1 season, even if reliability issues meant we were made to wait for his best form to arrive.

Verstappen stole the show in a wet-dry Chinese Grand Prix by charging from 16th to seventh in the opening lap before ultimately finishing third for Red Bull, yet he would not grace the podium again until the Malaysian Grand Prix at the start of October.

A combination of power unit problems and on-track clashes saw Verstappen retire from seven of the 12 races in the intermittent period, with incidents in Spain and Austria being avoidable.

Perhaps most embarrassing of all was his stoppage due to a power unit failure in front of a grandstand swathed in orange at the Belgian Grand Prix, a race tens of thousands of Dutch fans had attended to cheer Verstappen on.

But when Verstappen got things right, it was – as he frequently quoted – simply, simply lovely. There was plenty left in the tank, as proven by his sheer domination of the races in Malaysia and Mexico as he took the second and third wins of his career.

Perhaps even more impressive was Verstappen’s victory over Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo in the qualifying head-to-head battle this year, an area the Australian has traditionally been strong in. Verstappen outqualifed his teammate 13-7 – it wasn’t even close…

All in all, Verstappen once again proved that on his day, he is one of the finest talents to grace F1 in recent years. With the right car underneath him next year, a title fight is certainly possible and will be the target – but there is always room for improvement.

And that is the scary part: Verstappen is only going to get better and better.

Season High: Dominating in Malaysia after an early pass on Lewis Hamilton.

Season Low: Crashing out on Lap 1 in Austria.