Can Lotus F1 overcome rules, empty wallets to win in 2014?

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We’ve talked about the 2014 prospects for Lotus F1 on past podcasts and what concerns us most is really two key elements to Lotus F1’s approach to Formula 1.

First, the lack of resources (cash) is a real issue for any team on the grid so we’re not picking on Lotus but losing James Allison and Kimi Raikkonen hurts…a lot. With Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean, they have two drivers who are not new to F1 but are the drivers who can win titles? Raikkonen clearly is but the team didn’t have the car to deliver.

While technical know-how may be spread amongst a team of brains, a key leader in James Allison will sting. Delivering a car that can compete at the front end will be difficult and team boss Eric Boullier told AUTOSPORT:

“Nobody knows where we will be next year but with our resources we are definitely not in a position to be dominating, but things are looking quite good,” he said.

“It’s very realistic for next year that we can be a strong contender for podiums again.”

This is important because the team is now admitting that, before the first shot has been fired, they will not be competing for wins and titles. In the past, they’ve been the underdog and seemingly the cash and investment int he team was continuous. Now it seems they’ve resigned themselves to mid-field mediocrity.

Lotus F1’s appeal, in the Kimi years, has been the underdog that could spoil things and win races. They won the first race of 2013 and were there or thereabouts for most of the year. Perhaps Boullier is suggesting they will be the same in 2014 but some have concerns due to the massive regulation changes.

Secondly, the team seem to have been running on credit. The cash has not been flowing from Gerard Lopez’s Genii Capital and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff even suggested they have been punching above their weight for some time now and the bill has come due.

Can they continue to afford to be in the top 4 teams in F1? If it’s $300m to fight for titles and $225m to be thereabouts, what can Lotus afford? Can they be a mid-field player at $150m per year spent on their team?

Boullier knows that sometimes great ides are worth millions in on-track performance and Brawn GP taught us that. Perhaps Lotus F1 can be the team that out-thinks the competition and gains competitive performance on track. I’ve learned to never count them out as they are a tenacious bunch and a really good team but sans cash, repeating its 2013 performance could be a hill to high to climb.

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