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10 October 2011
Lotus Renault GP comments on Japanese Grand Prix 2011
Free Practice 1 and FP2, Friday 7 October
Lotus Renault GP began its preparations for this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix looking far more pacey than in the last outing at Singapore.
Suzuka’s sinuous silhouette served the R31 and drivers Vitaly and Bruno well, with pleasant ambient temperatures and light winds watching over the 10th and 11th fastest times set in the session.
It was a new suit for Bruno’s car with the tighter bodywork package in place, whilst Vitaly’s vehicle lay dormant in the garage for much of the early part of the session as the steering rack was changed after the initial version sprung a leak in excitement from Suzuka’s challenge.
Both cars used Pirelli’s white-marked medium compound and gained good data on track, leading to a host of set-up changes during the session including anti-roll bar variation.
Vitaly ended the session the faster of the duo with his 1min 36.370secs finishing ahead of Bruno by 0.117secs after both completed 18 laps.
Jenson Button, the only driver capable of beating Sebastian Vettel to the 2011 title, ended the session fastest with a 1min 33.634secs with his team-mate Lewis Hamilton second fastest.
Vitaly Petrov wasted no time in setting the marker in FP2 at Suzuka, after he held the fastest time for the first eight minutes of the session with a lap of 1min 35.339secs on the medium tyre.
In warm October conditions and in front of a sizeable Japanese crowd, both drivers embarked on their outings using Pirelli’s medium tyre once again. Resuming action with the tighter bodywork package, Bruno followed his team mate by posting a best time on the mediums of 1min 36.713secs before spinning off the track at turn 1.
After switching onto the yellow-marked soft tyre for the second half of the session, Vitaly and Bruno improved on their earlier times, posting session-best times of 1min 33.446secs and 1min 34.557secs respectively.
Vitaly finished in P9, over eight tenths ahead of his team mate Bruno in P14
Jenson Button once again headed the field with a time of 1min 31.901secs.
FP3 and Qualifying, Saturday 8 October
Lotus Renault GP endured a mixed performance during the final practice session in Suzuka this morning as Vitaly Petrov once again demonstrated impressive top 10 pace, whilst his counterpart Bruno Senna spun off the track 25 minutes into the session.
Vitaly ran on both the Pirelli medium and soft tyre compounds, and posted a best time of 1min 33.058secs on the soft tyres, improving by more than four tenths of a second from his times yesterday. The time left him in P9 at the end of the session. On the medium tyre, Vitaly managed a time of 1min 35.905secs.
Retaining the tighter bodywork package after it ran without fault yesterday, Bruno was 17th fastest with a best time of 1min 35.389secs on the white-marked medium tyres. Just before the halfway mark of the session, however, his track time was abruptly ended when he ran wide on the exit of the spoon curve and spun off the track, which resulted in a red flag whilst the debris was cleared. The incident left the front end of the car damaged, but it is expected to be easily mended in time for qualifying.
Jenson Button once again signalled his intent with a time of 1min 31.255secs, five tenths ahead of his team mate Lewis Hamilton.
Lotus Renault GP bounced back to form at Suzuka with both cars making it to Q3 and into the top ten for tomorrow’s Japanese Grand Prix.
After Bruno’s off in this morning’s FP3 session, the crew worked against the clock to ready his car for the session, with work completed ten minutes into the Q1 session. Bruno duly went out and put his car through to Q2 and from there on to Q3.
Vitaly had no dramas with pace to get through to Q3 either, giving good feedback on the balance of the car after strong performance from the R31 so far this weekend.
Both cars went out in the Q3 session, using the medium compound Pirelli tyres but not setting a timed lap.
Sebastian Vettel set pole with a 1min 30.466secs.
Race, Sunday 9 October
Lotus Renault GP returned to the points today in a safety car-affected Japanese Grand Prix.
Starting on the fifth row of the grid on the medium tyres, Vitaly managed to get the better of team mate Bruno on the first lap as he squeezed past the Brazilian at turn 2 to take ninth position.
On his first pit stop on lap 18, Vitaly changed for another set of the Pirelli medium tyres before the safety car was deployed. He stopped once again 21 laps later, this time moving onto the soft tyres, which crucially allowed him to overtake both Force India cars and cross the finishing line in ninth position.
Bruno meanwhile suffered from a tricky first lap, slipping back four places into 13th. He adopted the same strategy as Vitaly (medium, medium, soft) as he endured a race full of traffic before crossing the line in 16th position.
Jenson Button continued his rich vein of form by winning the race ahead of Fernando Alonso whilst, as expected, Sebastian Vettel secured his second world title after coming home in third position.