Lotus team owner Gérard Lopez has finally confirmed what everyone else knew: its E22 design is a bit of a pig.
The team principal made the frank admission in a recently published interview on Formula 1’s official website, and conceded that the remainder of the of the 2014 season will be a hard slog.
The team has struggled all year with its radical twin-tusk E22 chassis, which was late arriving to pre-season testing. Its poor early-season performance was initially blamed on well-documented troubles with Renault’s V6 hybrid engine, but with the French engine builder having dramatically improved its reliability, it hasn’t translated into improved form for the Enstone outfit.
Last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix marked one of the team’s worst showings of the season. Both Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado were knocked out in the first phase of qualifying – only just managing to outpace Kamui Kobayashi in the Caterham – but they did manage to see the chequered flag, albeit it well outside the points.
The team has just two points’ finishes to its credit, with back-to-back eighth-placed finishes for Grosjean at Barcelona and Monaco.
“We had a lot of issues at the beginning of the season with the drivetrain and then somehow midway through the season we have found out that we have some issues with the chassis, which are quite difficult to solve for this year,” Lopez conceded.
“But it is good that we found out before we started to develop the next car, so for the rest of the season we try to save whatever can be saved – but yes, it will be a difficult season all the way to the end.
“We’ve made one design mistake that we actually had hoped would help us,” he added. “We are in the same situation as three years ago when we did the ‘forward exhaust’ and had a terrible season. It’s about the same situation again: we’ve made a choice and it is not paying off – actually it’s the complete contrary.
“That was a bad choice that translates into a bad season – regardless of the engine.”
The team admitted during the Italian Grand Prix weekend that it had abandoned further development of the E22 to concentrate its efforts on getting next year’s chassis design perfected.
Lopez refused to comment on widely publicised speculation that his team will switch to Mercedes power for the 2015 season. An announcement was expected in recent weeks, with the latest round of silence giving rise to rumours that the team’s finances are still not in the best shape.
“We are actually publishing the annual accounts [soon] and this year we are pretty much breakeven – we eventually could make a profit,” he retorted.
“So I would say that we are one of the best teams financially speaking… Just wait till we publish our numbers in one or two weeks.”