MADRID – The Formula One season hasn't even started and it's already looking like a long one for Lotus.
This year is unlikely to bear resemblance to last season's impressive campaign when the British team opened with victory at the Australian Grand Prix. Just getting through F1's first race of the season seems to be the goal.
"In terms of preparation, we are not quite ready," French driver Romain Grosjean said at preseason testing. "It's not going to be perfect for Melbourne, or even Malaysia, but we will try our best to improve everything."
Kimi Raikkonen won in Melbourne a year ago to kick-start an impressive campaign alongside Grosjean for Lotus, which finished fifth in the manufacturer's championship ahead of McLaren and within reach of Mercedes and Ferrari.
Raikkonen, who helped the team accumulate 13 podium finishes last season, has returned to Ferrari with former Williams driver Pastor Maldonado of Venezuela taking his seat. Team principal Eric Boullier also bolted, to McLaren.
Renault's inability to get to grips with F1's new power unit has hampered Lotus' efforts. Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Caterham are also struggling with the French engine manufacturer being their supplier. Renault has warned there are still items to review before the March 16 opener.
"Some Melbourne preparations are incomplete," said Rob White, Renault Sport F1's deputy managing director. "We have cured or found workarounds for some of the problems we had previously identified. New problems that revealed (themselves) as we ran more have added to the unsolved items, and have disrupted running, which is disappointing for our teams."
Lotus did not even attend the first of three preseason test sessions.
"I think we're going to need a bit of luck and all the bits to line up right for us," Lotus technical director Nick Chester said of the team's chances of actually finishing in Australia.
Lotus added more than 120 new parts at the final testing session in Bahrain last week.
"It will be nice if we can get a few points, but if we don't, then we understand that it's a chance to move forward," said Grosjean, who is going into his fourth F1 season. "But honestly, it's not going be a straightforward season for anyone."
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