The illustrious Hethel team had had a dreadful season in 1981 and had over the winter finally given up on the twin-chassis Lotus 88 and upgraded the mediocre 87 for the start of the season while the Lotus 91 was prepared in time for the European races. Despite rumours to the contrary, Colin Chapman retained both drivers for 1982; Elio de Angelis had scored regularly but also had a couple of tantrums when things weren’t going his way, while Mansell had proved tenacious but lacking in natural speed. Elio was rumoured to be on his way to Alfa Romeo to replace the retiring Andretti, but in the end he patched things up with Chapman and stayed on in the hope of better equipment to come. Essex fuels, having lost their title sponsorship to longtime Lotus partners JPS in the second half of 1981, departed entirely, leaving the Lotuses looking good but with less money to spend.
De Angelis had done his best with the machinery available in 1981, often scoring in the lower points but unable to step onto the podium as his team-mate Mansell had. However, he had also shown a tendency to fade away or have a strop if outside factors such as mechanical difficulties or car legality made his life difficult. If he could curb that petulant streak, de Angelis had the opportunity in the right equipment to be a true star.
Nigel Mansell’s first full season of F1 had been a mixed bag – generally outclassed by de Angelis, he had nonetheless put in some great drives, in Zolder and at Caesar’s Palace, and showed himself to be a gritty, tenacious driver. Although not highly rated by some at the team, Mansell became a protege of Colin Chapman himself and was given time to learn from Elio and see what he could do in a better car.