Lotus hasn’t won a race since the 2013 Australian Grand Prix, but it basically won the Internet during today’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
It was the team’s uproarious Twitter account – one that often is self-deprecating, full of snark and sass yet still full of engaging, important insights – that may have been the fuel that kept it going in the wake of a challenging season finale, and one that served as the Enstone-based team’s final race with Renault power units after a 20-year partnership.
The problems started for Lotus before the race even got going, because Romain Grosjean was slapped with a 20-spot grid penalty for exceeding the maximum power units.
Grosjean couldn’t even take all those positions off, so he had to serve a drive-through penalty within the first three laps to make up the difference.
That resigned Grosjean to 20th and last with Pastor Maldonado not much better in 17th.
Then Lap 27 happened, when Maldonado had a massive engine failure. There were flames. Maldonado’s race and season were toast.
And that’s when Lotus invoked one of its commercial partners – Burn Energy Drink – in a Twitter stroke of genius.
Burn was impressed, even after being beat to the punch at its own joke.
Shortly thereafter, Lotus reached out to @Charlie_Whiting – the fake race director and version of the real one on Twitter, as expertly played by Canadian Mark McArdle – asking if further penalties were coming to Grosjean. Here was that exchange:
Lotus paid tribute to Grosjean’s penalty in a series of tweets that, in true Lotus fashion, mentioned goats and yet made it not seem completely random.
The hilarity wasn’t done yet. Earlier this weekend Lotus revealed a video whereby one of its team transporters launched over one of its F1 cars. So Lotus had an opportunity to poke fun at that next.
Grosjean made it home to the flag in perhaps the most fitting position of all – unlucky 13th, and outside the points. The team’s post-race release had the headline of “Disco Inferno.”
“We did the best we could today,” said a diplomatic Grosjean. “My race wasn’t that eventful and unfortunately it came to an early end for Pastor, so I think that we are all glad that the season is now over.”
Added Maldonado, who was OK after his own fireball, “That was a surprising race for me. Our race pace was actually pretty good and I was able to fight with the Ferraris as well as enjoy the feel from the car. I was able to push and the car worked well on both tyre compounds. Unfortunately, my race had to end early. The flames showed the engine wasn’t working too well which also mean it was getting quite hot in the car!”
So Lotus ends its character-building season eighth in the Constructor’s Championship with just 10 points – two eighth-place finishes for Grosjean and a single ninth for Maldonado. A year ago, the team ended fourth with 315 points.
What a difference a year makes.
Hopefully, as has been the case for Williams this year, Lotus will be able to turn it around with a new chassis and a new engine, a Mercedes, in 2015.
In any event, we continue to thank Lotus for their continued brilliance on social media. If you can’t laugh at a day like today Lotus had, you’ll cry. And it’s good to see Lotus choose the former.