FORMULA ONE – EUROPEAN GRAND PRIX
Kimi Raikkonen bagged his third podium of the season in Valencia, and his second P2 finish, making the most of his race pace to finish behind 2012’s first double winner, Fernando Alonso.
The Finn was disappointed not to finish on the top step, however, reasserting his Barcelona claim that the Lotus E20 has had the potential to have won nearly every race of the season. Despite this, Kimi sits sixth in the Drivers’ Championship, 38 points behind leader Fernando Alonso.
Starting on the third row behind team-mate Romain Grosjean, Kimi was passed by Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi off the start. For the next 13 laps, the Finn found himself stuck behind first Kobayashi, then Pastor Maldonado, before he was able to pass the Williams driver on lap 13. Kimi then pitted on the next lap, emerging in P9. After losing a place on his outlap, Kimi then spent the next 14 laps on a charge up through the field, climbing to P4 before pitting under the Safety Car on lap 28. By lap 41, the Lotus driver was running in P3 while conserving his rubber. The conservation efforts paid off when Kimi slipped past the struggling Lewis Hamilton on lap 54. At the end of 57 tense laps Kimi crossed the finish line 6.4 seconds behind the Ferrari.
Romain retired from the race on lap 40, parking his E20 on track after alternator failure cut power to the electronics, preventing fuel flow. Before his retirement the Frenchman was the driver most likely to steal the win from Fernando Alonso; had Romain not been held up in the first stint by the slower McLaren of Lewis Hamilton, it is likely the retirement would have happened from the lead.
Lotus have maintained their third place in the team standings; the team now moves within nine points of McLaren and 50 behind leaders Red Bull Racing in the Constructors’ Championship.
Kimi Raikkonen: “Second place is okay but the win is what I really wanted. We didn’t quite have the pace for it today. I got a good start but I was blocked by Pastor [Maldonado] at the first right-hander and lost quite a few places which put me a bit behind. We made a good recovery from that position and had quite a hard fight with a few people – overtaking and being overtaken. I couldn’t get the tyres up to temperature quickly enough after the Safety Car, and I made a small mistake on the restart lap too. I was able to fight back as we had good race pace again. Today was close but the win was just out of reach.”
Romain Grosjean: “Basically the car lost power and switched off. I couldn’t even call my engineer on the radio as even the radio was dead. The race was almost perfect up to that point: we had a good start and a good strategy. I don’t think we were that far from our first win. The positives of this weekend are that we battled right at the front and we showed good pace. Sebastian [Vettel] was very strong and I don’t know if we could have caught him. When he had his issue, I was in second place behind Fernando [Alonso] and it was then that I thought we could challenge for the lead because we knew that our tyre degradation was going to be less than his. Unfortunately fate decided otherwise…”
Lotus GP’s James Calado took a storming pole position in Valencia’s Saturday round, but his push to the win was ruined by a series of Safety Cars that enabled his team-mate to claim the victor’s trophy.
Esteban Gutierrez started the race in P5, following a two-place grid penalty, but made a good start and had reclaimed the P3 he earned in qualifying during the first lap. The first phase of the race saw the Lotus driver sitting on the rear wing of Giedo van der Garde in P2, as Calado pulled out an increasing lead.
But Calado’s lead came to nothing when he was the only front-runner not to have pitted when the first of three Safety Cars was deployed. Esteban had pitted, and was able to strengthen his claim on the win over the course of the next two deployments, pushing P2 Fabio Leimer wide on the final restart.
Race 2 saw Gutierrez out at the second corner and Calado on course for a lights-to-flag win until the mid-point, when Rio Haryanto overtook the Lotus driver for a single corner. On lap 20, Haryanto attempted another pass down the inside, made contact with Calado, and took himself out of the race in the process.
There was more drama on the last lap when Luis Razia took advantage of his healthier rubber to slip past the race leader with only seven corners to go. Calado had spent the closing laps of the race duelling with an advancing Fabio Leimer, and the battle enabled Razia to catch and then pass the pair.
Lotus GP now leads the team standings on 182 points, 13 points ahead of DAMS on 169.
James Calado: “The race was exciting and horrible at the same time, because I knew it was going to be a struggle to keep the position because I had no tyres left. I started on my Race 2 tyres yesterday, so they’d already done five or six laps when I went out. So even though I was looking after them, I physically didn’t have any rubber left and there were just too many laps for the tyres to last for that long. It was a struggle, and there was an incident between me and Haryanto. I think, looking at the footage, that I left him enough room. He locked his rear brakes and just lost control and crashed into me, and I didn’t turn into the corner. It’s under investigation at the moment, but hopefully it’ll be okay. From then onwards it was just a scrap between me and Fabio [Leimer] and the scrap allowed Luis [Razia] to catch me up. He had more traction, and when he came out of the last corner he got it. Even so, we scored some good points. Shame about yesterday – I’m still gutted about that. But we’re in a good place in the championship. Silverstone’s a good one for me, as I’ve done thousands and thousands of laps there, so we’ll see.”
Esteban Gutierrez: “In Race 1 it was important to have a strategy where we could gain some positions. In the end, especially with the Safety Cars, we were in a very good position with the tyres and I could use the extra grip to push and overtake the guys in front. I am very grateful to the team, because of all the support they have given me. I have been doing my best, but the first few races were not very easy for us. No worries about Race 2. It’s part of racing, it’s what happens sometimes at the start. We made a good start and we were already in a decent position. Then at the second corner one of the guys in front touched the wall and crashed into it and I had not much of an option – it was really difficult to avoid. In the end we’ll move forward. We’ve had a good weekend as a team, and we need to use this energy to continue fighting at the next race.”
It was a challenging weekend for Lotus at the Valencia Street Circuit, but the team picked up second-place finishes in both the sprint and feature races in the third round of the 2012 GP3 Series.
On Saturday, Aaro Vainio took second place in the GP3 feature race which saw MW Arden’s Mitch Evans deliver a lights-to-flag victory. Vainio qualified in third, with Conor Daly in P7 and Daniel Abt in P10. A great start allowed Vanio to stick within half a second of Evans for the bulk of the race, but as tyres started to degrade in the closing stages the MW Arden driver was able to extend his lead while claiming additional points for setting the fastest lap.
In Race 2, Abt got a stunning start from third on the grid, bypassing the men ahead to claim the lead at Turn 1, but Patric Neiderhauser had reclaimed the lead by Turn 2 and set about extending his lead with every passing lap. Vainio, meanwhile, finished seventh, and Daly retired on lap 8 as the result of a lap 1 crash with John Wartique. Daly was given a 10-place grid penalty for the British Grand Prix for his part in the collision.
After three races, Vainio sits second in the drivers’ championship behind Race 1 winner Mitch Evans, while Abt is third. Lotus GP is second in the teams’ championship with a deficit of 12 points.
Daniel Abt: “I think today was definitely a good race. The start of the weekend was really bad for me, I struggled for speed, I am not sure why. We tried various different set-ups and we got it fixed for today. My start was good like always and I was quite close to getting P1 at the beginning but it’s still good to score points like this. I am now third in the championship which is better than I would expect from looking at my earlier results. So yes, I am happy.”
IndyCar and rain don’t mix, and after a long delay the Iowa Corn 500 got going at 9:45pm under yellows. In a race filled with crashes, spins, and caution flags, Lotus driver Simona de Silvestro recorded her second best result of the season with a 14th place finish. The Lotus HVM Racing Team has struggled on ovals this season and was excited to get their first oval finish of the season.
Many cars had issues throughout the evening, but Simona pushed hard and managed to stay out of the debris during all 250 laps. Even though she was down on power, and that’s crucial on an oval, she was still able to keep up with the pace.
Simona de Silvestro: “I’m pretty happy with 14th, that’s our second best finish this year, and it was on an oval. I think there was a lot of survival going on out there, but I think we had a really strong race car. It was really comfortable out there so I could stay in the tow of other people. A big thanks to the team. Even when we know it’s going to be a tough weekend we always hope for the best. I think today we had a pretty good result at the end. Hopefully we’ll get some improvements for the road courses and start sneaking into the top-ten.”
Keith Wiggins, team owner: “I think we should be quite happy. Bottom line is Simona did a great race. She got some more confidence and practice on the oval. Obviously we were down on power so she suffered a bit in traffic, but with the momentum when she was up to speed and we were doing the same lap times as most of the field, which is really good.”
Lotus Giudici Racing finished eighth and sixth respectively in the weekend’s two Super GT races at Belgium’s legendary Spa circuit. The Evora GTE’s talents in the wet were put on display on Sunday, outpacing Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini, McLaren and Corvette. With team owner Gianni Giudici sidelined due to a neck problem sustained during qualifying, it fell to Lotus works racer Johnny Mowlem to do all the driving work.
Johnny Mowlem: “A very good weekend, we ran two seconds a lap quicker than last year at Spa. Sunday’s race was very treacherous but the Evora did well, coming in 6th in Super GT and 11th overall. Brand Hatch will be our next International GT race, on the 14th and 15th July, so hopefully we’ll have a lot of support for Lotus’s home race.”
BRITISH GT CHAMPIONSHIP – BRANDS HATCH
Lotus Sport UK qualified second in the GT4 class in Kent, but failed to make the finish, Sailesh Bolisetti retiring with damaged front suspension. The Evora was 3/10ths off the lead Ginetta in qualifying, with Phil Glew setting the lap for Lotus, but with better long range pace the team was confident it could dominate the race. However, starting driver Bolisetti struggled to match the pace of his rivals and slipped back. An off-track excursion led to the front wishbones being snapped and, after nine laps, it was game over for the Indian.
Gary Ayles, team principal: “A disappointing day because we could have won that race by a country mile. The car is great, we’re right on top of it, it’s a proper bit of kit. So we need to look into why Sailesh wasn’t able to extract the maximum on race day. Now we have a long break, as our next race at Snetterton – Lotus’s home track – isn’t until the first weekend of August. It can’t come soon enough.”
BRITCAR MSA BRITISH ENDURANCE CHAMPIONSHIP – OULTON PARK
Team Bullrun qualified best in class and fifth overall for Round 5 of the Britcar championship. Having highlighted its wet weather skills in the practice session by beating the field across all classes, the team was a little miffed that race day turned out dry. Nevertheless, the Lotus’s superior fuel consumption came to the fore and Bullrun’s strategy fell perfectly into safety car windows. Despite a rear end shunt from a TVR 45 minutes in, the car held strong and constantly ran in the top four. With 40 minutes to go the Evora slipped through into the overall lead and stayed there to take the chequered flag.
The team dominated their class, set the fastest lap and took the overall win by a clear lap. Team Bullrun now leads the Class 3 championship by 21 points and the overall British Endurance Championship by five points.
Richard Adams: “What a brilliant weekend. We are just starting to get the best out of the car and the team, and the Lotus package we have put together is starting to show it’s perhaps the strongest in the championship. Bring on Brands Hatch in three weeks.”
Claudio Berro, director of Lotus Racing: “A strong weekend for Lotus in motorsport. We can be very happy with Kimi Raikkonen’s podium. Commiserations to Romain Grosjean, who was again scintillatingly fast and was denied a great result by the same alternator problem with struck Sebastian Vettel and took him out of the lead. Renault will get to the bottom of it, I’m sure. There were a brace of second places in GP3 too, and then there were winners. Congratulations to Esteban Gutierrez on his first GP2 feature race win, and what a performance from Team Bullrun in the British Endurance Championship. Great stuff.”
The Lotus Exige R-GT made its debut as a course car at the weekend’s Geko Ypres rally in West Flanders. Portuguese driver Bernado Sousa, who is set to race the Lotus Exige R-GT in anger later this year, drove the official car ahead of its entry in the FIA European Rally Championship and the Intercontinental Rally Challenge.
As part of the continuous development programme of the Exige R-GT, Ypres offered the Lotus International Team the opportunity of track time and also gave the rally world a chance to have a close look at Lotus’s exciting GT class challenger with the team of Sousa and Corrado Mancini on board.
The team took advantage of the 18 special stages of the rally to test different set-ups, engine modes and electronics solutions. There were no major technical problems, only some small teething issues regarded as normal in the development of the car that has covered only 1,000 km of testing to date. The only issues were an alternator failure and a faulty brake connection.
Bernardo Sousa: “The car continues its phase of growth and evolution. Here in Ypres progress has been steady and significant. The great potential of the Exige R-GT is emerging day after day. In this phase the team and I are trying to achieve the highest reliability and are only relatively interested in the stage times, even if I must say that the car is proving to be faster every day. I am very satisfied with both the car and the level of professionalism that Lotus International team is showing every day.”
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