independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

F1: Lotus boss hopes Grosjean’s pile-up days are behind him

Lotus driver Romain Grosjean

Lotus owner Gerard Lopez has assured Romain Grosjean of his long-term future with the team as he is convinced the Frenchman has learned the error of his crash-happy ways.

Grosjean was effectively put on probation for the final few races of last year after earning a one-race ban for instigating a first-corner pile-up in the Belgian Grand Prix.

It was the culmination to a string of incidents that forced him to look inward, even employing the services of a sports psychologist to haul him out of his mental slump.

It resulted in a calmer Grosjean once he returned to the cockpit from the race in Singapore onwards, doing enough to regain the trust of the team and a new contract for this year.

Following a pre-season so far in which both Grosjean and the car have looked strong and reliable, Lopez has high hopes.

"Romain's a different guy," said Lopez, speaking to Press Association Sport.

"He knows what he has to do. He doesn't have that pressure, stress as we have essentially told him he's a long-term future with us.

"So now he can literally take it race by race, practice by practice because he's got the speed to win races.

"Overall, we think we've a very good pair of drivers and a good car, so we're quite positive."

On his return to F1 after a two-year sabbatical driving in rallying, Kimi Raikkonen was a revelation, with the Finn finishing third in the drivers' standings behind triple world champion Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso.

The highlight for Raikkonen and the Enstone-based marque was his win in Abu Dhabi, providing a platform for the team to now deliver more victories this year.

"It's going to be a pretty bunched-up group, and I would be surprised if we were outside of that group," added Lopez.

"The question is, with it being so tight, where do you end up within that group?

"Right now, I believe we've a car that is at least as good, and probably a little bit better, than the car we had last year.

"Although we feel pretty good about the car, how much has everybody else improved?

"But then we've two drivers who are now really into it, who know the team, the car, the tracks.

"Looking back, I think Kimi would have won more races last year if it hadn't been for a number of reasons.

"So this season, winning more than one race is certainly an objective we should have."

Lopez, meanwhile, has confirmed his hopes of signing a title sponsor at some stage early this season, although unlikely now before the first race in Australia on March 17.

Lotus are the only major marque without a title sponsor, with rumours recently linking them with computing giant Honeywell.

"We've had discussions, and some of them were quite advanced," said Lopez.

"We are the only top team that can sell a title sponsorship, so it's important to have the right package, and the right package to a large extent is also financial.

"You don't sign something like that for two or three years, so once you commit you have to commit for what seems right to you.

"I guess we could probably have signed a couple of things that leaked out, but we think we are better off making sure we sign what is the right thing for us.

"We could have something this season. The answer is we will probably end up with something during the season."

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