Lotus believes that Romain Grosjean's Hungarian Grand Prix victory hopes were wrecked by Sebastian Vettel, rather than the drive-through penalty he received in the middle of the race.
Grosjean had been one of the pre-race favorites for victory at the Hungaroring, but he had a frustrating afternoon where his strategy was compromised by him being forced to run at Vettel's pace early on.
In the end, the team gambled on a tweaked strategy to try to leapfrog Vettel, but it went wrong when he lost more time behind Jenson Button and then earned a penalty for running off the track after overtaking Felipe Massa.
Lotus team principal Eric Boullier thinks that the end result would have been different if Grosjean had been able to get in clear air early in the race.
"It could have been better, yes, but we were not expecting to get stuck behind Vettel at the beginning of the race, to be honest," Boullier said. "After that, the chance for Romain to win was off."
Boullier said the short second stint for Grosjean was aimed at trying to do something different to overtake Vettel, but it did not work because Button delayed him afterward.
"With the tires, we knew we had flexibility to change the stint length," he said. "But unfortunately the pit stop was longer than expected and we got stuck behind Button."
Grosjean's chances were then effectively killed off when he was given a drive-through penalty for running off the track at Turn 4 after completing a spectacular overtaking move around the outside of Massa. Boullier backed the suggestion from Massa that the drive-through was too harsh a penalty for what he had done.
"I think so," said Boullier. "But obviously we have to respect the rule and the decision of the stewards.
"It was a nice maneuver, and even Massa agreed it was a bit harsh. But you have fixed rules, and the rule is the rule."