Lotus Cars – Something from the weekend – 31/07/12

Lotus Cars have sent out their latest motor-sport round-up, looking back at this weekends outings in F1, GP2, GP3 and rallying.

Formula One – Hungarian Grand Prix Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean both reach the podium at the Hungarian Grand Prix and challenged Lewis Hamilton for victory throughout. It was Lotus’ second double-podium of the year, the drivers having finished the same way round in Bahrain. Kimi started fifth and lost a place to championship leader Fernando Alonso, forcing him to lap behind the Ferrari for his first stint and conserve his tyres. He had a problem with his KERS, which failed at the start of the race and only later returned at 50 percent power. Team-mate Romain, who started P2, was the one putting the initial pressure on Hamilton before pitting on Lap 19 and losing a second during his stop due to a slow rear tyre fit. Raikkonen profited as the pitstops shook out and rose to P4 on a long 26-lap stint on soft tyres before re-pitting for mediums on Lap 46, six laps after Grosjean and five after Hamilton, and preparing for a final hard charge. 

The Finn exited the pits just as Romain, who had been held up by a backmarker, came screaming down the main straight, causing their engineers to sweat as they went through Turn 1 side-by-side and Raikkonen forced Grosjean wide in order to steal the racing line and hunt Hamilton. He was soon within a second of the Englishman, but the McLaren driver was able to eek out faster third sectors, protecting himself down the main straight. There were no other opportunities for the Lotus to pass. Grosjean held on to third ahead of Vettel, who made a third pitstop without losing a place and charged back to attack the Lotus on fresh softs, to no avail. Kimi Raikkonen: “We came second and it’s not enough, but McLaren had very good speed. It’s very difficult to overtake here, and Lewis was pulling away on the straight. My only chance was if he ran out of tyres.

We had a lot of speed but we just couldn’t use it. Nevertheless, a double podium is good for the championship and I’ll take second place. We keep making it very hard for ourselves in qualifying. But it’s a long season and they’ll probably be another time. I’ve been long enough in the business that I don’t worry about it too much.” Romain Grosjean: We were fighting for the win throughout the race, and it’s a fantastic result after such a difficult race in Germany. It didn’t go all my way though. Our first pitstop was a disaster, and then I got stuck behind another car and lost 1.5 seconds, which meant Kimi was able to get ahead. He did what he had to do and pushed me to the outside. It’s a good result for the team but to be honest I’m a bit disappointed. I think we were really close to winning here.”

GP2 – Hungary Esteban Gutierrez won the second GP2 race of the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend from pole position. Having finished Race 1 in eighth place, the Mexican was awarded the reverse grid pole ahead of Nathanael Berthon. He made a good start, maintaining his lead through Turn 1 and then maintaining a comfortable gap to the Frenchman. When Berthon posted a fast lap and cut the gap to under a second, Esteban responded by setting the fastest lap of the race, a 1:32.348 on Lap 15, which was a full 1.5 seconds faster than the Racing Engineering driver on that lap. It was the Lotus driver’s first sprint race victory of the year, having already scored feature wins in Valencia and Silverstone. He maintains third place in the championship.

Team-mate James Calado had mixed fortunes. He was given a two-place grid penalty for impeding another driver during practice, which moved him from P2 to P4 for Race 1, and remained in that position when he crossed the line. That put him fifth on the grid for Sunday’s sprint race, but the Englishman had a clutch problem which saw him fall down through the field at the start. Fighting to get past Max Chilton for much of the race, he eventually salvaged sixth. Lotus leads the championship with 282 points, 24 ahead of DAMS. Esteban Gutierrez: “I made a great start in Race 1. We started on the clean line and shot from seventh to fourth. The strategy we used was very different to the others and was working well until we lost three seconds keeping the position to Marcus Ericsson. We had been in a good position to exit the pits ahead of the pack, but it was not to be. After that I tried to fight back, but also preserve the tyres for a final push, which worked well and I was able to pass Fabio Leimer for eighth place and the pole for Race 2.

Starting in front makes a big difference, and I just had to hold onto my tyres and manage the gap to the guy behind. The car was really nice to drive on the limit. When the team asked me to do the quickest lap it was pretty easy. In the end I saved some fuel, but was in control all the time and never felt threatened. It was good!” James Calado: “A pretty average weekend, but we scored some points and its put me fourth in the championship. Things got off to a bad start with the penalty in free practice, which I think was very undeserved. I put that behind me and qualified second. Race 1 was pretty good and I finished fourth, and in Race 2 I had an issue with the clutch which I had to recover from. I still scored more points than Giedo van der Garde (who is fourth in the championship), we’re leading the teams’ championship, Esteban drove a great race and next we go to Spa, which I love.”

GP3 – Hungary Lotus GP posted pole position and a podium finish at the Hungaroring, maintaining their lead in the teams’ championship. Aaro Vainio secured pole position for Race 1 but made a terrible start, while championship rival Mitch Evans pulled off a blinder and left the Finn weaving on the grass in an attempt to defend. Then Evans went wide at Turn 1, allowing Vainio back through along with team-mate Daniel Abt and they set off to chase leader Antonio Felix Da Costa.

Evans recovered to re-pass both Lotus’ at Turn 3, but then Abt lunged down the inside to retake second place a few corners later and maintained that position till the end. Vainio dropped a position to Kevin Ceccon on Lap 2. The third Lotus driver, Conor Daly, finished behind Vainio in sixth. Sunday morning saw a damp and drying track for Race 2’s start. Most of the cars started on wets, but nine of those towards the rear of the field took a slick-tyre gamble right from the off. Abt clipped Evans at the start, spinning the MW Arden driver. With three laps to go, Vainio passed Daly for second around the outside of Turn 1.

As the race entered its closing laps, the slick-shod cars were lapping over 10 seconds per lap faster than those on wets, and Da Costa was the first of the slick runners on track. He carved his way past Abt, Daly and Vainio as the Lotus’ fell back. A post race penalty for Tamas Pal Kiss means Vainio clawed back seventh place and is now 17 points behind Evans in the championship. Daly finished ninth and Abt 11th. Daniel Abt: “I also had a second place in Hockenheim but that one felt really, really bad. I was quite comfortable from the beginning but I was a bit unhappy with my qualifying, but like always I was able to make a good start. For sure I was not able to stay with Antonio but it’s a difficult track with the low downforce, so you need a lot of confidence to push. But I kept it safe and I was able to keep Mitch behind. It started in the first corner because I was able to overtake him. Then he made a great move to overtake me in the second corner, it was on the outside and I was quite surprised to see him there. I knew I had to get him back and I did, so I think it was some kind of revenge for Hockenheim after he stole my home win! So in the end I am quite happy. Honestly, I had really high expectations of myself coming into this Series this year. There have been some races which haven’t really gone to plan, especially in qualifying I need to improve. In the last few races I have been able to take some good points and close the gap to Vainio in the championship. I would like to close the gap with Mitch, I know it’s quite a big margin but I am going to try everything. I can just give my best and try not to make any mistakes.”

European Rally Championship – Rali Vinho Da Madeira Lotus’ groundbreaking Exige R-GT, the first car in this category of tarmac-racing rally sports cars to be homologated by the FIA, made its competition debut at the weekend in Madeira, Portugal, with works driver and local hero Bernardo Sousa at the wheel. The priority was on reliability over performance, but unfortunately despite showing a lot of promise in the opening special space, the car was not able to complete the rally due to an electronics issue. In the first special stage the car ran well and lapped seventh overall, but in the second special stage a problem emerged with the internal electronics connection which affected all the systems and its laptime, finishing tenth. In the third and final stage an electronics glitch caused the gearbox to fail, the wheels to lock, and Sousa and co-driver Corrado Mancini to career into the wall at slow speed.

The Lotus International Team is focused on resolving this electronics issue, and Bernardo’s next date with the car will be an extensive four-day test in Italy at the end of the month to validate all systems. Bernardo Sousa: “I’m disappointed because I really wanted to finish the rally, but we can take heart that the potential is clearly there. We crashed out due to a failure, which is frustrating, but not uncommon when you debut an all-new car. On Special Stage 3 when I braked, the gearbox wouldn’t downshift, the wheels locked, and we didn’t make it through the corner. We crashed at about 40km/h. The first stage was promising, though, particularly as there were lots of chicanes and we don’t have power steering. I know that on proper stages we can be a lot faster. I’m very confident this car can compete at a high level. Despite the electronics glitches, the parts are high quality and we will fix this one problem.” Claudio Berro, director of Lotus Racing: “A memorable week for Lotus Racing, with success in the single-seater categories and our debut in the European Rally Championship.

First of all, well done to the Lotus F1 Team on their double podium. Next they head to Spa, where Kimi Raikkonen has won four times before and is looking incredibly motivated. Congratulations to Esteban Gutierrez on his third GP2 race win for Lotus GP this year, and Daniel Abt on second place in GP3. So, a very strong weekend for Lotus. On the rallying side, we hoped the Exige R-GT would complete the course in Madeira, but it was the car’s first taste of competition and these things rarely go smoothly. The pace is there, we just have to make the car 100 percent reliable, so we’re looking forward to a big test at the end of August.”


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