Lotus braced for tough start to F1 season

Tue Mar 11, 2014 2:08pm EDT
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(Reuters) - Last year's race winners Lotus are braced for a tough start to the Formula One season in Australia on Sunday, with their immediate target being just reaching the finish after a difficult time in testing.

French driver Romain Grosjean, who was regularly challenging for podium places last year, accepted the first few races would be hard but was optimistic the team would make up lost ground.

"We're not in a nice situation but it doesn't mean that it's game over," he said in a team preview for the race in Melbourne.

"For us, the weekend will be maximizing the time on track, aiming to finish the race and getting the best result possible," added Grosjean, who has a new team mate in Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado.

Lotus finished fourth overall last season and won in Australia with Kimi Raikkonen, who has since departed for Ferrari.

The British-based team struggled financially towards the end of last year and missed the first test of the season because their car was not ready in time.

When they did turn up for the second and third tests in Bahrain, problems with the new Renault V6 power unit meant they got in far fewer laps than all the other teams in sessions dominated by Mercedes-engined rivals.

Lotus have also lost principal Eric Boullier to McLaren, with chairman Gerard Lopez taking over the role.

"There is a degree of frustration coming away from winter testing," said technical director Nick Chester.   Continued...

Lotus Formula One driver Romain Grosjean of France drives during the third practice session of the Brazilian F1 Grand Prix at the Interlagos circuit in Sao Paulo November 23, 2013. REUTERS/Nacho Doce