Gray Matter: Teamwork key for Lotus

Lotus' double podium finish at the last race in Bahrain demonstrated the team's potential — so with Barcelona claimed to be their 'perfect track' can the team go one better and win?

It's looking good for Lotus right now. Victory was in their sights at Bahrain, where they scored their first double podium since 2006; in last week's Mugello test, they topped the times on days two and three; and, according to the team, the next circuit on the calendar, Barcelona, is what their car was made for.

In the first four races, the E20 machine has proven to be strong on all types of circuit, stable and predictable to drive and consistent in terms of set-up direction. Its only slight deficiency is in low-speed traction and, at times, cooler temperatures.

That does indeed suggest Barcelona should be favourable for them, as long as the weather plays ball.

The team made further progress in Mugello, working on suspension development, but perhaps most importantly they were able to establish a clear baseline set-up - something they had previously been struggling to do — and that will give a valuable time saving on race weekends given the limited running available.

The next new parts will come in Friday practice, including some new delicate aerodynamic parts and changes to the front wing and the floor.

But alongside this constant development, it is the early formation of a strong team bond that has given the team the biggest potential to shine.

The driver line-up this year was a bit of a gamble. Kimi Raikkonen had been out of F1 for two years and his commitment and the reasons for his comeback went under intense scrutiny. Romain Grosjean, meanwhile, had a brief stint racing in 2009 but is effectively still a rookie.

In his first F1 term, Raikkonen never really showed true leadership qualities, but in the short time since his return it appears that his rejection from Ferrari and subsequent time in the wilderness trying to work out what he really wanted to do has matured him well.

The team is clearly benefitting from his experience and his new positive motivation but, more than that, the driver known as 'the Ice Man' appears to have bonded with his team-mate and the two sides of the garage, according to the team, have an excellent working relationship, with Raikkonen valued for his championship-winning experience and Grosjean playing the role of the master's apprentice but feeding in his own views having quickly developed a good understanding for the car.

In Barcelona, that team play will be extra important.

The Spanish circuit is a fickle place, extremely sensitive to wind and temperature — and in this season's extremely tight lead group, being able to learn and predict how the car will respond to wind changes over the course of a session is more critical than ever.

Although Sebastian Vettel managed to win in Barcelona from second on the grid last year, that was the only time the race has not been won from pole position in the last decade. The arrival of DRS changed things a little, making overtaking easier - but the top grid spot is still more valuable here than at other tracks.

And this is where Lotus need to do some work.

So far their best grid position has been third for Grosjean in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, followed by a fourth and two sixths. On average, they have been around 0.54s off the pace.

This weekend, then, on a track that should suit them and with a strong baseline to build from, the importance of getting qualifying right could not be clearer.

And if they can finally get on the front row, then a black and gold winner could be a realistic possibility.

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