For Kimi Raikkonen and the Lotus team, this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona could offer a golden opportunity. The 16-turn, 4.85km Circuit de Catalunya is universally regarded as one of the most technically demanding tracks on the calendar and the Lotus car is clearly at home.
The two Lotuses of Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean ran Bahrain Grand Prix winner Sebastian Vettel close in the last race and what has been particularly impressive is that the Lotus team has been in contention in every race this season. However, one wonders how long it can last.
There is no doubt that the Lotus team, under technical director James Allison, is one of the great innovators. In 2010 while still called Renault, its use of the exhaust-blown diffuser allowed Robert Kubica to be in contention for podium finishes for the early part of the season before rivals caught up with the technology.
Last year it unveiled the innovative forward-facing exhausts which, by exiting at the front of the side pods, boosted under-car airflow and hence down force. Again it started the season as front-runner, but progressively lost ground as rule changes reducing the amount of off-throttle exhaust effect, negated its advantage.
Once more this year, the Lotus team has started the season with a technological lead. This time it doesn't seem to be one particular innovation, but more a detail appreciation of how the aerodynamics really work. The team which today carries the Lotus name may work from the same premises, but is a very different team to the heavily manufacturer-funded Renault team which used to be run by Flavio Briatore.
So far, only the Formula One effort has borne fruit. In sports car racing the Lotus Le Mans prototypes have proved fragile and unreliable.
Lotus has also found itself in trouble in the American Indy Car series. At the start of the year, Lotus Cars proudly announced that it was providing engines and funding chassis for four teams including one for former Formula One driver Sebastien Bourdais.
Three of those four teams have now pulled out of their relationships, claiming that the engines were slow and unreliable, if they ever received them at all. Bourdais' team, Dragon Racing, claims it didn't even receive its first engine until the night before the first practice for the first race in St. Petersburg in Florida. It is suing Group Lotus for $4.6 million in damages. Worse still, sales of Lotus road-going sports cars haven't gone up as predicted. There is a real risk that the parent company Proton, may close the sports car maker down.
Whatever happens, the Lotus team is determined to race. But the team and Kimi Raikkonen know that they have a slender window of opportunity to score victory.
All the more reason to watch out for fireworks from ‘The Iceman' this weekend.
Steve Slater is an F-1 commentator on STAR Sports
Keywords: Spanish Grand Prix