Lotus have revealed the car they hope can rebound their form in 2015, the E23.
The Enstone-based outfit endured a horrid 2014 scoring just 10 points after coming fourth in the Constructors' standings the year before and having arguably the second best car behind the dominant Red Bull at the end of the season
But the switch to V6 turbo hybrid power units, as well as lingering financial problems, saw a sharp downturn in form with Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado hanging around the bottom of the midfield with the equally lacklustre Sauber team.
A new engine supplier
However, there are several signs last year could be a blip for Gerard Lopez's team, the biggest being a change in engine supplier.
Despite the team being the former Renault works team, all previous association with the French manufacturer has ended with Lotus using the Mercedes power unit from this year.
It is unanimously expected the German carmaker, that took over as the dominant force in F1 last year, will remain as such in 2015 and with that their three customer teams will also be given a major boost against their rivals.
Another positive is a boost in funds as the team collect their prize money from the stellar 2013 season and also face a reduced entry fee given their poor results in 2014.
Despite that, however, Lotus were still reportedly over $100m in debt last year so maintaining a season long presence higher up the grid may depend on engine upgrades from Mercedes rather than aerodynamic advances from the wind tunnel.
The team admitted the cutbacks in staff had been a key part of their problems and such was the squeeze that on the initial 2015 entry list the team was written down as 'subject to confirmation'. It is believed this is because Lotus had waited until the last possible moment to pay the required entry fee for the upcoming season.
In better shape
Speaking to Autosport, however, CEO Matthew Carter claimed the team was in much better shape financially and can concentrate more on improving the new E23.
"Our budget for this year, although reduced compared to 2013, is similar to last season," he said.
"We have a couple of new sponsors that, although not featured on the car today, will be there for the first race.
"A lot of the back office work at the business is producing results, so financially we are looking good.
"And it is important to say that if we do get more money, then that will go straight on to improving car performance.
"In previous years such additions may have gone in to the black hole of debt, but now it can go straight on to the car."
An ambitious target
The team also lost some income as several sponsors defected from Lotus to Williams, a fellow Mercedes-powered team producing good results on a smaller budget, and Carter has revealed the Grove team, who also released renderings on their new car last week, as their main target to beat in 2015.
"I don't want to be too optimistic, because it is important to be realistic, but finishing third or fourth in the constructors' championship is really our target," he added.
"But that is largely dependent on how Red Bull cope with Renault, what Honda do with McLaren and where Ferrari get to."
Initial figures from the windtunnel while developing the new car have reportedly given Lotus a reason to be hopeful and in Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado the team do have a pairing capable of producing the results.
F1's forgotten stars?
Grosjean was seen as one of the next big stars in F1 as he changed people's perceptions from being, as former Red Bull driver Mark Webber described him, 'a first-lap nutcase', to being the only man capable to keeping the two RB9's on their toes in late 2013.
As for Maldonado he very much took the tag as F1's perennial crasher from Grosjean and most tend to forget he is a former Grand Prix winner instead believing his place at motorsport's biggest level is more because of his financial backing than his ability.
Yet, interestingly, under the new super licence rules coming for 2016, Maldonado would have comfortably met the 40-point requirement and I believe if he can be given a car capable of competing in the top 10 regularly, the Venezuelan could certainly turn some heads.
All in all, Lotus are one of my picks for the surprise team of the year and while I doubt they can reach the lofty heights of 2013, they can certainly be in that very competitive battle with Williams, Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren for 'best of the rest' in 2015.
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