F1 Transfer Review:
Lotus F1 Team Transfer #1
After Petrov's fairly strong 2011 season, where he managed to challenge his more experienced teammate Nick Heidfeld for the better part of the season and score his maiden podium, the decision to replace him with Grosjean was a bit puzzling. While Vitaly's second part of the season was quite lacklustre, that was more due to the steady decline in the competitiveness of the car than anything else, as his other teammate, Bruno Senna, brought on mid-season to replace Nick, also failed to produce any significant results.
On the other hand, there was Romain Grosjean - the guy who has already had his shot at F1 in 2009, where he was absolutely trounced in this very same team by Fernando Alonso. He lost his seat at the end of that year and many were absolutely sure that his time in F1 was up.
However, fairly late in 2011, after it was already known that Kimi Raikkonen would be racing one of the Lotus cars in 2012, Boullier and co. announced that it was Grosjean who would race alongside him. While that was something you could chalk up to Vitaly's sponsorship troubles or the fact Romain is friends with the team manager (or any other of the many events that preceeded this transfer), it is also undeniable that Grosjean earned his second chance. In 2010 he competed in the junior series Auto GP and easily won that, despite having missed the first four races out of twelve. In 2011 he went on to GP2, the very competitive feeder series for F1 that boasted a pretty good lineup for the year - yet he absolutely dominated it, winning with 89 points to his closest rival's 54.
Either way, Romain really needed to perform right away to justify his presence in F1. Thankfully, he did just that - a series of brilliant qualifying runs has made it so that Romain hasn't managed to miss a Q3 session yet, while his teammate has done so on three occasions. Even though he hasn't been the luckiest driver in races, having had race-ending collisions on three separate occasions (only one of those was his fault) and with the alternator failure robbing him of a potential win in Spain, two weeks ago, he still lies 7th in the standings, not that far behind his vastly more experienced teammate. In Bahrain, he scored his first F1 podium, finishing in 3rd, while in Canada, he went one place higher.
Having said that, it is absolutely impossible to see why anybody would not consider this move a massive success.
Other possible signings:
- Jaime Alguersuari - according to the Spanish driver himself, he was approached by Lotus at the end of the year, but refused the offer as he thought his STR seat was secure. Lotus would've probably done well to sign him - however, replacing Kimi with him would've been a bold move, as the team would've been left with two young drivers with no experience in top teams, while there isn't exactly any sense you could see in picking him instead of Romain as of now.
- Rubens Barrichello - at the end of 2011, Rubens himself approached Boullier as he probably knew Williams would not be retaining him. While no team in F1 should scoff at the possibility of signing Barrichello and Lotus have seemingly done just that, as of now they do have a seemingly more capable veteran driver in the team.
- Adrian Sutil - it was fairly obvious at the end of last year, going by the reports of the F1 journos, that Force India were not going to be retaining Adrian in 2012, despite his, quite frankly, top-notch performance at the end of the previous year. The problem was that nobody could be sure that Sutil would still be a free man in 2012 and the problem with Lotus in particular was that the guy he injured was the CEO of Genii Capital, the company that owns the team. Even despite that, though, there were journalists suggesting that Lotus should've looked into signing Sutil. Gonna guess they're pretty glad they didn't go along with that, seeing how well their current lineup has turned out.
Verdict: The F1 team that goes by the name of Lotus hasn't exactly been known for making particularly good decisions as of late, but, man, is this one of them. Replacing Petrov with Grosjean is like dropping a hundred-dollar bill and then stumbling upon a treasure chest as you go to pick it up.
I still really like Vitaly but it's impossible to deny that Romain has been absolutely brilliant.
Photo credit: © Renault, © GP2 Series
Photo credit: © Renault, © GP2 Series