Pat Symonds, a former long-time personality at the Enstone team, says he has "sympathy" for struggling Lotus.
The Briton, now in charge of technical matters at Williams after serving his 'crash-gate' ban, dismissed suggestions Lotus might have made a wise move in sitting out the Jerez test and learning from their rivals' tribulations.
"I don't think Lotus have done it out of choice," he told Sky Sports HD at Jerez.
"I think the whole pitlane has some sympathy for their situation," said Symonds, undoubtedly referring to speculation Lotus' financial troubles of 2013 are now affecting preparations for the new season.
Symonds also said he thinks Lotus' new novel 'twin-pronged' nose solution for its unlaunched E22 is legal.
"Lotus have been haemorrhaging employees from all departments over the last few months, so I think all of the teams had an idea of where they were going," he added.
Also speaking at Jerez, Ferrari refugee Felipe Massa hinted he opted to go to Williams for 2014 because his other main option, Lotus, was "losing people".
"Lotus ... are losing many engineers, and that shows that the situation is not so easy," the Brazilian, who made his debut in the Mercedes-powered FW36 on Thursday, told F1's official website.
"Williams is investing -- the other team is not investing."