After a disastrous winter testing period and a tough start to the season, Lotus technical director Nick Chester is confident that the team is on the verge of scoring its first points of the 2014 Formula 1 season.
Having finished fourth in last year’s constructors’ championship, the team has suffered a downturn in fortunes that have largely been caused by financial problems. The Enstone operation has been downsized by 20% and star driver Kimi Raikkonen left the team, but the arrival of Pastor Maldonado’s sizeable financial backing eased many of the problems. Now, Chester is confident that both Maldonado and teammate Romain Grosjean can break the team’s duck in the coming races.
“The E22 has tremendous potential even if we are only gradually unlocking it,” he explained. “In the Bahrain grand Prix we were closer to Mercedes, Williams and McLaren than we have been previously. Our race-pace gap to the Williams and McLaren is now half a second and it was over a second in Sepang, so we’ve made a decent incremental improvement.
“Although we were still not quick enough in Bahrain, we actually don’t need to find much more performance before we can be regularly in the points, which when you consider where we started from, is encouraging. We are about level with Toro Rosso for pace at the moment.”
In China, Chester is anticipating further improvement due to the nature of the Shanghai International Circuit.
“It should be better than Bahrain,” he said. “Bahrain was an obvious power circuit, as you could see from the way the cars lined up on the grid. China’s got a long back straight, however there are more slow and medium speed corners than Bahrain, so that gives us the chance to try and get closer to the front.”
Lotus is also set to bring an updated nose to the race, which will be a refined design of the twin tusk model.
Chester’s optimism might have been heard before, but the team is certainly making some good progress and could be poised to pick up some points in the next few races.