The midfield battle between Lotus, Force India and Toro Rosso will be well and truly on for the fifth place in the constructors’ standings when F1 circus resumes for second half of the season at the evocative Spa-Francorchamps with only eight points separating the three teams.
With Lotus in the middle of this group in sixth with 35 points, the team have so far undergone a turbulent campaign despite switching to Mercedes power and parting ways with Renault after two decades of association citing the underachieved 2014 season.
The retained driver pair of Grosjean and Maldonado has combined to retire nine times in ten races representing the need to improve reliability should they stand a chance of catching up with the resurgent Force India, who have scored 28 points since Monaco in May.
At the season-opening Melbourne race, both drivers took early showers as Maldonado crashed out at Turn 2 rubbing wheel-to-wheel at the start while team-mate Grosjean lost power in the next lap and retired. However, the Frenchman made it to the finish line in Malaysia outside points scoring position amidst Maldonado being the victim of brake failure.
The team’s best result since Abu Dhabi 2013 came courtesy of Grosjean finishing a well-deserved seventh. On the other side of the garage, the crash-prone Maldonado collided with Jenson Button’s McLaren attempting to make up for the lost ground after embarrassingly missing the pit entry in Shanghai.
In Bahrain, Grosjean went on to repeat the same performance in contrast to his Venezuelan team-mate who earned time penalty for misjudging the grid position at the start and later suffered an engine issue that forced him to stop outside his garage whilst the team tried to cool the car down and restart thus losing crucial time in the final pitstop to end up 15th and was blamed by Massa for halting his charge.
After another two retirements, Maldonado got off the mark in Canada where the Mercedes-powered cars were clearly the class of the field. Taking advantage of the superior engines, Grosjean and Maldonado qualified their season’s best fifth and sixth respectively and ultimately drove to the first double-points finish for Lotus in almost two years.
Unlike Maldonado, Grosjean bounced back with consecutive results in points before plagued by reliability issues and driver error, most notably causing a strange collision running across Will Stevens’ Manor in Canada and an overoptimistic Verstappen crashed on to his back in Monaco.
The black and gold liveried team’s home race at Silverstone wouldn’t do much in helping their points aspiration either after both drivers crashing out in the opening lap, their second double retirement of the season.
Nevertheless, Grosjean and his teammate arrived in Budapest knowing that they could enter at least one of the E23s into the final part of qualifying on a track where there has historically been little in the way of overtaking because they often demonstrated to have the pace to be inside top ten.
Grosjean managed to sneak through into Q3 and lined up tenth for the topsy-turvy race in Hungaroring where he fended off Mercedes’ Rosberg by less than two tenths to finish seventh while Maldonado bettered only the Manors.
The radical overhaul of technical regulations has not been kind to the Genii capital-owned team so far with a shocking twenty retirements since 2014. With the talks of them returning to their former Renault guise increasing, the inconsistent Maldonado will be under tremendous pressure to prove his bosses that he is worth of a race seat next year. (Suren M)