The extent to which the extraordinary talent of Ayrton Senna had been flattering the Lotus cars during his tenure there became obvious in 1988. In a car virtually identical to the 99T in which Senna had come third in 1987, Nelson Piquet faded into obscurity. Such was the difference that it cost Lotus their Honda engine deal and there were rumours that Camel and top personnel would be next out the door. The cars remained yellow, but designer Gerard Ducarouge did jump ship, to be replaced by ex-Williams man Frank Dernie. In fact, most of the all-new 101 was penned – in a bit of a hurry, by all accounts – by Mike Coughlan. One advantage of the change to the small Judd engine was that the chassis could be made much narrower and lighter. There was a certain air of pessimism about the team’s chances, though, as they weren’t even the chief customer for John Judd’s engines – that honour going to March.
11. Nelson Piquet (left)
Three-time champ he may be but Nelson Piquet looked distinctly ordinary in 1988. Coming off a dominant two seasons with Williams, the Brazilian star didn’t do anything to allay his reputation of fading away and not bothering when his car wasn’t exactly right. A little harsh, perhaps – the car was an absolute dog, and he wasn’t shown up by Nakajima. Nonetheless, three third places and for lower-points finishes do not a great title defence make, and he would be under pressure to do better in 1989.
12. Satoru Nakajima (right)
Lotus’ confirmation that Nakajima would continue with the team in 1989 despite Honda’s departure raised a few eyebrows. While everyone wished the likeable driver all the best, it had been widely assumed that he was only there at the behest of Honda and would be out on his ear once they left. This was unfair to Naka, who had done sterling work with two pretty dreadful cars and had made use of his long testing experience to help develop the car.