Last Updated: 25/03/15 2:27pm
Things can only get better for Lotus in 2015 after the Enstone team slumped from race winners to backmarkers during a miserable baptism to F1’s new turbo era.
A series of high-profile personnel departures in the build up to 2014 – namely their team principal, technical director and world champion driver - and persistent reports of financial strife were compounded right from the start of pre-season by a hugely troublesome Renault power unit and an aerodynamically-troubled E22 car.
In total the season yielded a scant 10 points and eighth place in the Constructors’ Championship – or, to put it more bluntly, the worst season for the ‘Enstone team’ in a generation. However, there is immediate hope on the horizon thanks to the switch for the new season to a supply of the class-leading Mercedes engines, a deal which should in itself propel the team right back up the grid.
While talk lingers of financial problems at the Genii Capital-owned outfit, the team’s pedigree is well established having more often than not punched well above their weight over the past 20 years.
While the name above the door may have changed on several occasions, the team’s linage can be traced back all the way to Toleman in 1981 and then forward through the Benetton years, during which time the team became a title-winning force with a young Michael Schumacher in the mid-1990s.
A decade later and another young rising star, Fernando Alonso, became a double world champion himself when the Renault name was above the door. While the highs haven’t been quite so meteoric since Alonso’s second title in 2006, the arrival of Geard Lopez and Genii, first as majority stakeholders in 2010 and then 100 per cent team owners a year later, re-established the team, now known as Lotus, as a competitive force after several years in the midfield.
Pulling off a coup by luring former world champion Kimi Raikkonen back to F1 in 2012, Lotus won their first race for four years at that year's Abu Dhabi GP, a result the Finn repeated at the 2013 season-opener in Melbourne.
An impressive haul of 14 podium finishes in that latter season confirmed fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship for the second successive year. Then came the depressing slide down the grid.
But, after a quietly impressive pre-season with the new Mercedes-powered E23, hopes are high that 2014’s struggles will swiftly be rendered ancient history.