MELBOURNE, March 14 - Lotus braced for a tough start to the Formula 1 season after troubled winter testing but were left mortified during practice ahead of the Australian GP.Neither Romain Grosjean nor team mate Pastor Maldonado troubled the time sheets in the first practice session due to reliability problems at Albert Park.Grosjean finally posted a time after emerging deep into the second session but his best from just 12 laps of the street circuit was more than four seconds adrift of Mercedes pace-setter Lewis Hamilton.LOTUS CAR WOESIt was also 18th out of the 19 cars that posted lap times, with only Max Chilton coming in lower for struggling Marussia.Lotus technical director Nick Chester said: "We experienced quite a few issues today. We were delayed getting Romain's car out in the first session due to a gearbox fluid leak whilst Pastor had an electrical problem."Only Caterham fared worse than Lotus, with both Marcus Ericsson and team mate Kamui Kobayashi unable to register a lap time in either session.Along with Red Bull and Toro Rosso, Lotus and Caterham are powered by Renault engines which performed abjectly during winter testing.Red Bull breathed a sigh of relief as reigning champion Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo emerged from practice largely unscathed. Lotus' struggles will place further pressure on the automaker.Renault Sport F1's deputy managing director Rob White visibly squirmed in his chair as he tried to grasp for positives.Rob White said: "The first race weekend is always a testing time and of course this year we're feeling particularly anxious because we're not as well prepared as we would have liked to have been."Once again we're behind where we'd like to be and the task now is to try and gain ground. If we take a step back and look at the kind of troubles that have befallen us and our teams, we're behind where we should be in terms of times and in terms of our internal objectives."Independent of one's level of competitiveness, it's completely unacceptable to be coming to the first race as relatively unprepared as we are and without having run through all of the scenarios that we needed to."'NOT THE ONLY ONES TO SUFFER'Lotus finished fourth overall in the 2013 season and won the season-opener in Australia with Kimi Raikkonen, who has since departed for Ferrari.The team struggled financially towards the end of last year and also lost principal Eric Boullier to McLaren, with chairman Gerard Lopez taking over the role.Maldonado stepped in for Raikkonen but was left frustrated in the garage as Raikkonen posted laps for Ferrari.Maldonado said: "I'm feeling really ready for tomorrow." "I spent a lot of today waiting to get in the car as we had some problems, which I think are still normal to have so early in the season with these new cars."It was clear that we're not the only ones to suffer on track and we have to work very hard, and maybe harder than the others, to try to catch up and be ready for tomorrow."Seems Romain Grosjean's temper tantrumon March 07 might have been justified:Stay with Wheels24 for the first race of the 2014 season - the Australian GP.