1987 had been a year of promise unfulfilled for Lotus, with their advanced Active Suspension system proving a mixed blessing. It was really useful on bumpy circuits but was heavy, drained engine power and used up fuel. With the turbo restrictions even more marginal in 1988, it was decided to drop the system for the year and revert to a “passive” car. The Lotus 100T was one of only two cars built specifically for the 1988 regulations (the other being McLaren’s MP4/4), and both mounted the specially-designed 1988 version of Honda’s turbo engine.
Ayrton Senna would be missed, but replacement Nelson Piquet had three world titles under his belt and was clearly no slouch either. Honda man Satoru Nakajima retained the second seat.
1. Nelson Piquet
Putting the coveted number 1 on the front of a Lotus car for the first time since 1979, Nelson Piquet’s move from a Williams team where he had felt undervalued despite winning the title was something of a coup. There was no doubt that the team would revolve around him, but critics pointed out that defending champion had a tendency to fade into obscurity without a dominant car, which the Lotus wasn’t yet.
2. Satoru Nakajima
Nakajima owed his F1 seat to his Honda connections rather than pure talent, but he hadn’t embarrassed himself in 1987 and with a year’s experience under his belt he would be in a position to do better in 1988. He would once again struggle to make his presence felt in a team revolving around a star Brazilian team-mate, but he had already made a name for himself as one of the nicest, most genuine drivers in the paddock and seemed happy just to be around.