There are few constructors in motorsport's hallowed history that embody Formula 1's pioneering spirit better than Lotus. Enzo Ferrari mocked the garagistes for being somehow lesser entities than his own, but the Old Man had to respect their ingenuity - and their success, because ultimately that's what F1 is all about: innovating and winning.
And Lotus definitely knew how to win: 71 times, between a Stirling Moss Lotus 18 special at the Monaco Grand Prix of 1960 and Mario Andretti's final victory of 1978 at the Dutch GP in the gorgeous Lotus 79, Colin Chapman's cars beat all the rest. That meant Lotus, in its 1960s and 1970s pomp, exceeded Ferrari's hit rate. Lotus was the best team in F1.
To rival F1's grandest and most successful outfit, it remains the case that you need to produce cars that are something a bit special. This was as true in Chapman's time as it is now for Mercedes in the V6 hybrid era, or Red Bull in the V8 era, or McLaren and Williams before that. Ferrari sets the standard by which all others must be judged, and Lotus exceeded that standard.