Different goals for Lotus a year after double German podium

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A year ago, Lotus bagged a double podium at the German Grand Prix. Kimi Raikkonen was a hard-charging second with teammate Romain Grosjean just behind him at the Nurburgring.

A year later and much is different. Obviously the circuit is (it’s back to the Hockenheimring), one of the drivers is different (Pastor Maldonado in for Raikkonen), and the car has struggled to score points this season.

Grosjean estimated that the low-speed corners at the new Hockenheim will provide a good measure of how far the Lotus E22 Renault has improved.

“We’ve worked hard to improve performance in the low-speed corners, so Hockenheim will be a good test of how much we’ve progressed,” Grosjean said in the team’s pre-race advance. “Apart from the run down to the hairpin there are no real straights to speak about so power unit emphasis will be on acceleration rather than top speed.”

Added Maldonado, “There’s potential for it to be a tough weekend for us. The surface is very smooth, there are some slower corners with strong traction demands out of them as well as several straights where you need as much power as possible.”

Both praised the stadium atmosphere at the track, even though they admitted the newer circuit (came into play in 2002) lacks much of the character of the previous one.

Lotus technical director Nick Chester hopes the team’s new front wing for this race will improve fortunes.

“Our development schedule is continuing at full pace,” he said. “We will have a new front wing, which is a decent improvement, a cooling upgrade and some smaller bodywork updates to increase downforce. Between what we have learnt in the Silverstone test and these upgrades, we hope to make a good step forward.”

With only Grosjean’s eight points on the board this year for the team, a double score would be a welcome surprise and an achievable goal.

Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

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We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.