Kimi Raikkonen’s win in Australia was a terrific way to start the season for Lotus F1. His tire management and pace were untouchable and it has many Formula One fans wondering if Lotus F1 can actually challenge Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren for the title in 2013.
On the surface, this Enstone-based team has won titles before when they were Renault F1 and they know what they’re doing and how to build a car. The nagging concern is that when they were Renault, they had considerably more resources than they currently do as a team owned by a venture capital firm called Genii Capital.
Team boss Eric Boullier was adamant, just prior to the start of the season, that the team has the funds to be competitive and long-term. World champion driver Kimi Raikkonen is perhaps a little more circumspect but optimistic nonetheless:
“There was a big question mark last year over whether our team could keep up with the development of the bigger teams and I don’t think we did a bad job. Of course it’s not going to be easy for us. I’m sure we have the people and all the tools to make it happen”.
Regardless of tools and talent, it ultimately comes down to budget and that'[s where things get a little challenging:
“Budget is always a factor and it’s no secret that we don’t have the same money as Ferrari, Red Bull or Mercedes. If we did have more sponsors I’m sure we’d have a better chance in the battle against those teams. It’s a long season. If you do things right it will go nicely but one thing can change the whole year. You do a few things a little bit wrong it can turn around and go downhill after that. So we just have to do our normal things, like we did last year and put the good effort into new parts and if we’re happy we keep them and if not we have to look more closely. But like I said, so far it has been good, so there is no reason why we can’t keep it up”.
What do you think? Can Lotus F1 keep on pace with Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren? Given McLaren’s out-of-the-box performance in Australia, that may be the easiest team to stay on par with but Ferrari and Red Bull are well-known for their ability to develop a car throughout the season.
Sometimes a big budget isn’t a guarantee for success and smaller teams have beat larger budgets through innovation. A perfect storm of Pirelli’s aggressive degradation model for 2013 and Lotus F1’s light tire usage could keep the team out front but in time, the top teams will adapt to the tire issue.