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10 October 2011
Team Lotus comments on Japanese Grand Prix 2011
Free Practice 1 and FP2, Friday 7 October
Karun Chandhok, Car 20 - Chassis T128-4: "It was good to get back out on track, particularly here in Suzuka as this is a circuit I haven't driven on before and was looking forward to trying out. It took a while to get the right lines, and as the tyre wear started to kick in I wasn't really able to improve the overall time, although I was getting quicker in certain sectors of the track. I got through a decent number of laps and think I did exactly what was required of me this morning. The car definitely feels quicker than it did when I raced it in Germany - the update we brought to Singapore has definitely taken us a small step forward and we finished pretty close to the Williams, so I think we'll be able to fight in the race and hopefully put in as good a performance as we did here last year."
Heikki Kovalainen, Car 20 - Chassis T128-04: "I'm pretty pleased with how my afternoon went. You're always a little bit on the back foot when you miss the morning session at this kind of high speed circuit as you need a bit of time to get your eye in, but the balance was good almost immediately and we were able to complete the whole plan, so it was a good session. The tyres seem to be behaving well here - on the long run on the softs they held up until about the last lap so I think we've already found a good setup. As the track evolves that will improve even more so I think we could be in a good position in the race, bearing in mind our race pace and how well we can manage the degradation on both compounds. We'll see on Sunday!"
Jarno Trulli, Car 21 - Chassis T128-03: "One of those stop start days for me. This morning I was adapting to the power steering system we've put on here and it felt ok but the runs were cut short with a mechanical issue before I could really start pushing. This afternoon the changes we made definitely felt better but when we had the soft tyres on an electrical problem meant I couldn't get any meaningful times in. Despite that the car felt like it was improving and looking at Heikki's times I think we'll be ok tomorrow."
Thierry Salvi, Renault Sport F1 Support Leader: "This is a pretty tough circuit on engines - up there with Monza and Spa in terms of outright pace and we need to work on driveability, responsiveness and ensuring a smooth power curve to give the drivers the right power delivery here. This morning Karun worked through his program, and even though Jarno's was somewhat disrupted, we have been able to complete most of the program with him and Heikki this afternoon, so I think we look ok for the rest of the weekend."
Mike Gascoyne, Chief Technical Officer: "A reasonable Friday for us here in Suzuka. This morning we had Karun in Heikki's car and he did a very solid job for, focusing on aero programs and engine mapping. Jarno was less happy with his car, struggling a bit with the balance and the brakes, but we made a number of changes for this afternoon and they made an immediate improvement for him in FP2. Unfortunately an electrical problem brought his afternoon to an earlier end than we wanted, preventing him from setting any quick times on the soft tyres, but with Heikki we completed his whole plan and his time on the softs looks pretty good. This weekend will be all about managing tyre degradation and when that is the case it seems to benefit us so we are all looking forward to a strong weekend."
Riad Asmat, Group CEO: "I think we can be pretty pleased with today.
Karun performed very well this morning on a track he had never driven on before, and Heikki put in a series of strong runs this afternoon that is just starting to unlock what we think we can do here. Jarno suffered issues in both the morning and afternoon sessions, but we improved the overall balance for him in FP2 and with more work tonight and some clever use of strategy tomorrow I think we can push the cars ahead, particularly bearing in mind the limited running some of the teams just in front had today."
FP3 and Qualifying, Saturday 8 October
Heikki Kovalainen, Car 20 - Chassis T128-04: "I'm pretty happy with that, particularly as it was one run, one lap to get it right, and I nailed it straight out of the box. We took the riskier strategy with the tyres, went out late in the session and I think I may have even been able to find a bit more in the first sector, but overall I'm pleased. I went through 130R with the rear wing open which was pretty hardcore, but having been bold with the tyres we're in a good position for the race tomorrow. There's been quite a lot of talk about the tyre wear here but I'm not sure the degradation will be as big a problem as people thought. The long run on the soft tyres yesterday was good - I think we can get maybe up to 15 laps out of them, and as we have a few new sets ready to go tomorrow it'll be an interesting afternoon."
Jarno Trulli, Car 21 - Chassis T128-01: "That was a good session. The car felt much better this afternoon as we made the right changes to the setup and even though I made a couple of mistakes on my quickest lap I still don't think I could have got much more out of it. Tomorrow we'll fight as hard as possible in the race and give our Japanese fans something to cheer for. Our pace in the races has been good all season, so I hope I can make as good a start as I have been in a lot of the races this year, play with the tyre strategies and see where we end up."
Thierry Salvi, Renault Sport F1 Support Leader: "We have been working all weekend on giving the drivers the best engine maps for this circuit and I think today's performance in qualifying shows we have done a pretty good job on both cars. We need to make sure the engine has good driveability, particularly through the 'S' curves in the first sector where it is important to have a smooth power delivery that does not upset the balance of the cars, and the feedback we have had from both drivers, especially Jarno, is that we have achieved that, and the times we have seen this afternoon bear that out, so this has been a good weekend for us so far."
Mike Gascoyne, Chief Technical Officer: "A good Saturday for us in both sessions. Jarno and Heikki has issues this morning with understeer but we managed to dial that out for qualifying and their feedback was that they were both happy with their cars this afternoon. Jarno chose to do a run on the medium tyres early in qualifying to see if that could help him get more temperature into the brakes, and then the plan was always to do one run on the softs on both cars. We wanted to make sure we kept well clear of the cars behind and, with tyre degradation likely to play an important role in the race, give ourselves as many sets of tyres as we could for tomorrow, so job done."
Riad Asmat, Group CEO: "We keep edging ever closer to the teams ahead so where we finished up today is very pleasing. We made the right call on the tyre strategy, opting to save sets of the softs, and as we have seen all season we can mix it with some of the cars ahead in the race, so with the excellent way our pitcrew have been performing in the stops I think we are in a good position for the race."
Race, Sunday 9 October
Heikki Kovalainen, Car 20 - Chassis T128-04: "What a great race for the whole team! I made an incredible start, no wheelspin, the perfect clutch slip and was suddenly past a load of cars and up into 14th. It looked like everyone else went into reverse and I even heard one of the engineers laugh and accidentally telling someone else how brilliant the start was, and I thought 'no! Don't mention it now, I need to get on with the rest of the race!' After that the first couple of stints were great. The car was working really well on the soft tyres and the stops were mega, and then the safety car came out and bunched everyone up so from there it was a race to the flag with Jarno and I stayed ahead until the last lap. The car has felt balanced all weekend so on the harder compound I was still able to push all afternoon, and even though I was held up a bit by the Virgins and the HRTs when they were being shown blue flags, I was still able to keep ahead of Jarno and as he's always been quick here that feels pretty good.
"Also - the fact that this is the first time this season we didn't see any blue flags is very satisfying. Every time you have to let someone pass you are artificially slowing up your own race, and it shows our car keeps improving, as does the whole team. Ok, the safety car helped us, but then you have to be in the right place to take advantage of whatever happens on track, and today we did just that. A great day."
Jarno Trulli, Car 21 - Chassis T128-01: "For me that was a good day. It didn't start too well - for once my start wasn't perfect but once we got under way I was able to put in a few good passes and was making up ground. After a few laps it felt like I had a problem with the gearbox that slowed me down, but it came back and almost immediately the safety car came out and I was able to make up the gap to Heikki and we both had a good run to the end. For the whole team this is a pretty significant result. We completed every lap of the race, and while that might not seem all that important when there are guys winning championships up ahead, it still shows we keep on improving, and I'm really pleased for everyone, here at the track and back at the factory, that we can leave Japan on a high again and head to the next race in Korea."
Thierry Salvi, Renault Sport F1 Support Leader: "We are delighted for the whole team today. For Renault Sport F1 this is an historic day - Sebastian's won his second title, so congratulations to him for that, and for Team Lotus we have been in the very happy position, for the first time this year, where we have had to manage the fuel consumption levels right to the flag. We have been working hard all weekend on giving the drivers the best balance we can with the blown floor, and they are both reporting that they have had well balanced cars all afternoon, so we have definitely done our part in helping the team take another step forward today. Congratulations to everyone!"
Mike Gascoyne, Chief Technical Officer: "That was a really pleasing race weekend for the whole team. For the first time both cars finished on the lead lap and even though we were helped by the safety car our level of performance was still the best we have ever seen relative to cars around us. Both drivers pushed throughout the whole race, right up until the last lap and I think we managed to extract every ounce of performance we could from the cars. Heikki made an amazing start, by some way the best of the year and that made a three stop strategy the obvious choice, running the option for the first three stints, and that worked out pretty well. With Jarno we managed an issue he had in the first stint, and to see him pushing Heikki hard at the end of the race was exactly what we wanted from him and his team mate. They were also both helped by some tremendous pitstops from the guys in the garage so all in all this was a very professional job right across the board and I want to thank the whole team for the work they have put in here, and give my congratulations to everyone."
Tony Fernandes, Team Principal: "Firstly I'd like to wish Sebastian and all our friends at Red Bull Racing huge congratulations for an incredible job this season. They still have a job to do, and I know from firsthand experience that they will not let up in their pursuit of the constructors' title this year, and many more titles in the future. They set the standards that we must aspire to and I am very proud that we are part of their extended family and can keep being inspired by them as we grow to, one day, take the fight to them on track.
"For us, I know I keep saying it at every race but this really was the best race we have ever had. As soon as I came in this morning I had a feeling that everything in the team is beginning to come together as we had planned, and to finish on the same lap as the world champion is a huge step forward for us. The drivers both drove their hearts out today and the pitstops were excellent all afternoon. Our race pace was strong and we were bold with the strategies on both cars and that gave us the reward of not seeing a blue flag throughout the whole race. A great team effort.
"I think that this is a turning point for us. Suzuka is a quick circuit, not an easy place to take steps forward, so to have performed as well as we have done all weekend means I leave here absolutely thrilled, knowing our hard work is starting to pay off. The strategy that we have employed, of being patient and not rushing into the wrong decisions is paying dividends, and this is a clear sign that next year, and especially the year after, we are going to see more big steps forwards from our team."