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29 March 2012
A Week in Motorsport with Lotus
FORMULA ONE – LOTUS F1 TEAM AT MALAYSIAN
Lotus F1 Team’s Kimi Raikkonen drove a strong race at Sepang to convert his tenth-place start into fifth place and ten points. It was a tough race with mixed weather conditions, made tougher by a gearbox change penalty that put the Finn five slots back on the grid from his impressive qualifying time.
On Saturday, Kimi set the fastest time in Q2 and the joint fourth fastest time in Q3, a 1:36.461 shared with Mark Webber. It highlighted the raw pace of the Lotus E20. Team-mate Romain Grosjean, meanwhile, delivered the seventh fastest time and was promoted to P6 on the grid due to Kimi’s penalty.
Romain had a very strong start, bursting through the field and taking third at Turn 1. However, as rain fell and visibility was compromised, he had contact with Michael Schumacher and the two were sent spinning out. A few laps later, stuck out on intermediate tyres as the rain lashed down, Romain aquaplaned off into the gravel. His race was over.
Kimi fell to 13th after switching to extreme wets on Lap 5, just before the Safety Car came out and, finally, the race was red flagged. After nearly an hour sheltering under gazebos on the grid, the race was restarted.
On Lap 13, Kimi was back in for intermediates. With the track drying he made his third and final stop on Lap 40 having scythed his way back up the field to P6. On dry tarmac, Kimi set the fastest lap of the race and when Sebastian Vettel lost a rear tyre he was promoted to fifth place behind Mark Webber.
Kimi Raikkonen: “It was my first time on wet weather Pirellis - I didn’t know how they would react. I just tried to stay on the road and pushed as hard as I felt comfortable. When I changed to dry I could push much harder. The conditions changed a lot today so it was always a case of adapting and looking for grip. A fifth today is okay but we’re always looking for better results.”
Romain Grosjean: “It felt like the perfect start off the line. With KERS I managed to weave through the cars in front without touching anybody. Coming out of the first two corners I was up to third, which was an amazing feeling. In Turn 4 Mark Webber edged in front. Michael Schumacher tried to follow him through but there was not enough space and we touched, and both spun. From there things were really tough. The visibility was so poor. There was far too much water. I had a massive aquaplaning into Turn 5 and went backwards into the gravel.”
GP2 – SEPANG, MALAYSIA
Lotus GP scored a lights-to-flag one-two on Sunday, in the sprint race that rounded-off the 2012 GP2 Series’ first race weekend.
British rookie James Calado lined up sixth on the grid for Race 1, with Mexican team-mate Esteban Gutierrez back in 15th, recovering from a practice crash with Barwa Addax’s Johnny Cecotto. Esteban made a lightening start, carving through to 10th by the third corner. Calado maintained his position, pitting on lap 12, while Gutierrez led the race before pitting three laps later. He stormed into the pit entry road a bit too hot, got on the grass and just saved it, losing 2.5 seconds. It put him back behind Calado, who was now running ninth, and the pair started to drill into the field again. On lap 25 of the 30 lap feature, Esteban passed James at the hairpin to snatch seventh. Calado resisted pressure from Giedo Van der Garde until the finish. It had been a particularly tough race for the rookie. His water bottle broke, as did his radio. It was most fortunate his crew was there when he came in to pit.
By finishing eighth, James was on pole position for the second race. Esteban was right behind on the front row. Down to Turn 1 the Mexican challenged, but James had the inside line and the pair maintained their positions at the front all the way to the flag. Calado leaves Malaysia third in the championship, with Gutierrez just one point behind. Lotus GP is second in the title chase, five points adrift of DAMS.
James Calado: “In Race 2 Esteban’s start was better, but I kept to the inside for the first corner. From there I drove like a slug, so slow, just trying to conserve the tyres. I couldn’t believe the degredation, but it’s the same for everyone. It’s nice to get a win under my belt. My objective this weekend was just to score points, and that’s what I’ve done without taking any silly risks. That’s the way I’m approaching every round this season.”
Esteban Gutierrez: “I played it safe in Race 2 because it’s essential to get the points. My one chance was the start, I didn’t manage to take the lead from James, but from there we had a very strong race and it’s the perfect result for the team. Yesterday’s start was really good, I found a lot of grip and had I not been blocked I think I could have been P5 from P15! It was still good enough to get in the top ten. When I went into the pits I was a bit optimistic. I need to minimize these kinds of mistakes. Today, there were no errors from either James or I and we got this great one-two, so we’re very happy.”
INDYCAR – ST PETERSBURG, FL
Lotus’ IndyCar engine debut showed a lot of promise, but with minimal testing reliability was a victim. Three of the five Lotus-engined cars failed to finish, but Sebastian Bourdais’ Lotus Dragon Racing car was in play for a top five finale and a lot of vital data was gained throughout the weekend. The potential is there, they just need to iron out the creases.
Bourdais, #7, started 26th and last but fought his way up to the sharp end. “I was able to match some of the top running drivers, at certain times, during the race. I was running in the top 10, then in top five. I was P1 from sectors 4 to 8. But then, all of a sudden, it was like the ignition went off. The car just stopped, with so few laps left in the race”. The issue was traced to an electrical problem.
Just a few laps into the race, Katherine Legge’s #6 Lotus Dragon Racing stalled on the front straight bringing out the first caution flag. The car was towed back to pitlane, where the team re-started it and Legge re-joined the field. Throughout the race, Legge experienced shifting and throttle problems, causing the car to lose power. After two thirds of the race, the #6 car stopped at the end of the front straight leaking fluids.
Lotus HVM Racing’s Simona De Silvestro had high hopes going into today’s race. Unfortunately, the team suffered a setback when the car stalled on track on lap 23. Unable to restart the car in pit lane, the team pushed the car to the garage, working frantically to fix the issue and get Simona back into the race. Unfortunately, they missed the cut off of 15 laps to go.
Alex Tagliani and his Lotus-BHA crew earned a fifteenth place finish, the highest of the Lotus-powered cars in the competition. The team made consistent improvements throughout the race weekend, leading up to Saturday's qualifying effort, where Tagliani earned P17 on the starting grid. On Sunday, the Canadian driver completed 100 incident-free laps.
Lotus-DRR’s Oriol Servia finished 16th. On Lap 12, Oriol pitted on the same lap before the yellow came out, making his a three-stop strategy. Servia pitted again on Lap 43, receiving a full fill of fuel and switched from the alternate tyres to primaries. As he was leaving pit lane, the #2 machine stalled several times due to the clutch not being able to engage. Oriol was unable to put the car into first gear as result and he lost a lap. Oriol came in for the final time on Lap 72 to fill full with fuel. He was excited to finish the race.
Oriol Servia, Lotus Dreyer & Reinbold Racing: "I'm the happiest I've been all weekend. I was pulling away in the corners. We're lacking top speed, there's no doubt, but I'm super encouraged at the improvement that we made with the car. We had a little hiccup with the clutch. Those are mechanical things that in racing you cannot avoid, especially with a new car. We kept our heads down after a tough qualifying and we came up with a good racecar, which gives me confidence for the next 15 races."
Claudio Berro, Director of Lotus Racing: “The performance of the Lotus cars during the race was good, but we still need to work on the car to improve it. We got going six months later than the other two big manufacturers. It was not easy to arrive this weekend on top. We improved the engineering in some areas. We were confident that the teams would give us good support, and they did. In order to speed things up, all the Lotus teams decided to share the data right from the beginning. We need to work on the mapping, the throttle. Three out of five cars didn’t finish, for different reasons. We need to go back and analyze these engines. We have a lot of information to compute, if we are going to go forward. But, we feel good about everything we have learned this weekend, and we will improve week by week.”
RALLYING - ST REMO TEST
Lotus made significant progress this week in
developing the new Exige R-GT rally car. The
Lotus International Rally team headed to the
legendary rally Tarmac of St Remo, Italy, with
works drivers Bernardo Sousa and Luca Rossetti.
The Exige ran for 85km on Tuesday and 75km on
Wednesday this week, and the testing was largely
trouble free except for a small supercharger
problem, which was remedied by changing the
compressor belt. The team will carry out another
two-day test ahead of the R-GT's race debut in
FIA European Rally Championship on 19-21 April
in Italy's Rally 1000 Miglia.