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The Lotus Position

Chris Medland July 31, 2012
Romain Grosjean has proven himself to be just as likely to win as Kimi Raikkonen © Getty Images
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"It's definitely not frustrating, definitely encouraging."

Those were the words of Eric Boullier after seeing his cars finish second and third at the Hungaroring. The team had just brought its tally up to eight podiums from eleven races, of which half are second places. This weekend was Lotus's closest result yet - just one second behind race-winner Lewis Hamilton - while each time it has been the runner-up it has finished within seven seconds of the victor.

On three occasions you'd have to say Lotus had a realistic chance of securing that elusive first win; in Canada the opportunity never really presented itself. So should the team be frustrated that it has yet to convert?

Stefano Domenicali's quotes about the first half of the season would suggest it should: "I think that Lotus did not collect the points that they were able to collect because they always had a very good car since the beginning of the season. So I think they could have scored more points."

That's easy to say when your team probably should have scored fewer points than it has - at the start of the season you'd have got good odds on Fernando Alonso leading the championship by 40 points - but gamesmanship isn't the primary agenda. Domenicali went on to say what a threat Kimi Raikkonen and Lotus are in both championships. And he's right.

While Lotus has often blamed its qualifying performances for its inability to win so far, Grosjean's second place on the grid gave it the chance to prove that theory. Around the time of the first pit stops, Grosjean had closed in on Hamilton but his big chance went with a slow stop that ensured he rejoined behind the McLaren.

On a track where passing was so difficult - the total number of 16 overtakes was distorted by Schumacher and Kobayashi passing the HRTs, Marussias and Caterhams - Raikkonen was never going to pass either once he leapt up to second place.

Despite its pace, Hungary only presented Lotus with a slight chance of victory. As Boullier correctly pointed out: "If the same scenario had happened in Spa or one of the races after then definitely we would win the race."

His argument is that only Monaco has been so difficult to overtake on this season; any other circuit would have allowed both drivers a shot at Hamilton on track, and the McLaren could not have responded without three-stopping in the race.

With qualifying appearing less of a problem, a straight-line speed boost to open up overtaking opportunities could be all Lotus needs to finally take its place on that top step. And in the double-DRS, it has exactly that update in the pipeline.

"We are working on this device to get some gain," Boullier said. "We are still evaluating back at the factory. Definitely if we bring it on the car that should help us in qualifying and we also have quite a few bits to bring over the next three races.

"So I believe in our team and I believe this will be enough to put us to challenge for a win in every race."

You don't put pressure like that on your team unless you're a confident man...