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Dhananjay Khadilkar
Tuesday , April 24, 2012 at 14 : 22

Lotus starts smelling success again


The 2012 Formula One season is turning out to be a statistician's dream. History was created at the Chinese GP after Nico Rosberg's first career win. Similarly, it was the first for Mercedes Benz as a works team since 1955. Sebastian Vettel notched up his 22nd win, thereby equalling former world champion Damon Hill's record.

Vettel's win meant that in the four races so far, there have been four different winners, the first time since 2003. It was the first time since 1998 that a French driver had occupied a podium finish when Romain Grosjean finished third in a Lotus car. And Lotus itself occupied a podium place for the first time since 1988.

Prior to the race, the talk was only about politics and protests that had picked up momentum in the build-up to the race. However, on Sunday, the race did the talking as Vettel won ahead of the impressive Lotus duo of Kimi Raikkonen and Grosjean.

Though Vettel won the race, Raikkonen and Grosjean were the stars of the show. The defending world champion had a strong outing on Saturday when he qualified on pole. His win, therefore, wasn't a big surprise, notwithstanding Red Bull's trouble in the season so far. However, to start 11th on the grid and finish in a strong second place was an outstanding achievement. Saturday's qualifying performance didn't provide much hope to Raikkonen as he missed out on Q3.

However, the combination of a perfect car, a great start and perfect strategy meant that Raikkonen and Grosjean overcame all the disadvantages of a poor qualifying performances.

Raikkonen even had a chance of challenging for the lead when he was within striking distance of Vettel. A few races earlier, he could have taken risks. However, seeing how his tyres went over the cliff in China at the end of the race, which resulted in him being dropped from second to 14th in a matter of a couple of laps, Raikonnen must have thought it prudent to not take the risk. The last time Raikkonen was on a podium was in 2009. It has been an impressive comeback for the 2007 champion.

Grosjean, though, was even more impressive. Though he made his Formula One debut in mid 2009, it was made in extremely difficult conditions in a struggling team. He was out of Formula One in 2010 and 2011. This season, therefore, was his real debut; and in only his fourth race, he has managed to clinch the third place. Grosjean had been unlucky in Australia and Malaysia to have been involved in racing incidents during the tricky first lap. In both the races, having qualified third and seventh and having made great starts, he was due for good finishes. In China, he finished an impressive sixth.

The hard work seems to be finally paying off for the team that showed initial promise in the last two seasons only to fade away. Hopefully, from now on, Lotus will keep blooming. The addition of yet another team to the top flight is great news for the fans too as the races would be more open.

Coming back to records, the 2012 Bahrain GP was the first time that Renault engines powered the top four finishers in 15 years. The last time it happened was at the 1997 Luxembourg Grand Prix. And last, but not the least, Mark Webber has earned the unique distinction of finishing all the four races in the fourth place. He may not have had a chance to spray the champagne from the podium yet, but he won't be complaining. He is now sitting pretty in third place, just a point behind Hamilton and five points behind the championship leader Vettel.

Considering the fluctuating performance of the 2012 race winners so far, maybe consistency - even if it means not winning races - could be the key for winning the title. And yes, it has been done earlier.


More about Dhananjay Khadilkar

Formula 1 writer