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LOTUS - F1 Giantkiller

Why it's the best pound-for-pound team

Pound for pound, Lotus has become regarded as the master of spending its budget in the right places. EDD STRAW visits Enstone to get a taste of an unquenchable underdog team spirit

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The accepted wisdom that those who spend the most win the most hasn’t always held true through grand prix history. OK, those who spend the most have the potential to win the most, but there have been plenty of big-money flops over the decades. And just as vast sums of cash are no guarantee of success, it is possible for those on more-modest budgets to thrive. Lotus, otherwise known as ‘the Enstone team’ thanks to its numerous changes of identity over the years, is doing just that.

Lotus is not exactly a minnow on resources, but what team principal Eric Boullier describes as a ‘medium’ budget has propelled the squad into the remarkable position of being Red Bull’s nearest challenger in the constructors’ championship, with Kimi Raikkonen second in the drivers’ standings. On pounds per point, Lotus is perhaps the best team in Formula 1.

Since starting its F1 life in 1981, the team has generally overachieved.

Then known as Toleman, it went from serial non-qualifier during that first season to podium finisher in ’84, when Ayrton Senna came close to winning the Monaco Grand Prix. It metamorphosed into Benetton in ’86 after being bought by the Italian fashion brand and won races sporadically until Michael Schumacher’s back-to-back titles in 1994-5, with the team also winning the constructors’ crown in the second of those years. After a difficult time, it re-emerged as a championship force with Fernando Alonso in 2005-6. With Raikkonen triumphing twice in the past seven races, the team is riding the crest of a wave, which could conceivably lead to a third period of glory.

Through all the success, the team has never had the biggest budget, suggesting that for all the name changes, there is something special about it.

“Either you deliver an identity because of your name or because of the place,” says Boullier, installed by new owner Genii Capital at the start of 2010. Ever since Genii took over, there have been rumours and counter-rumours about the team’s financial situation, but Boullier has no doubts that Lotus has the cash to keep up the good work. The evidence supporting this is there to see at Enstone, where Genii has recently bankrolled multi-million-pound investments into a new simulator and gearbox dyno.

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