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10 July  2012

Lotus in racing last weekend, 7 - 8 July 2012


Formula One: British Grand Prix

Lotus showed strong pace once again during the team’s home race at Silverstone, but difficulties on Saturday ultimately kept them off the podium.

While the sun came out on Sunday, Friday and Saturday’s running was wet and slippery. During qualifying, Romain Grosjean set the fifth fastest Q2 time but then beached his Lotus E20 in the gravel, meaning he was unable to compete in Q3. He started the grand prix ninth, benefiting from Nico Hulkenberg’s five place gearbox-change penalty. Kimi was able to run in Q3 despite having no KERS for the entire qualifying session. He finished up P6, which was impressive given the advantage a horsepower boost has around the very fast Northamptonshire track.

At the start Kimi made an aggressive move down the outside of Sebastian Vettel at Turn 4 but launched himself across the inside kerb in order to avoid Felipe Massa’s Ferrari. Romain was forced to make an early pitstop on Lap 2 after he hit Paul di Resta’s Force India at the start and suffered a broken front wing. The damage and the subsequent nose-change sunk him to 20th place, from where he fought through the field. Kimi came in on Lap 13 and emerged one place ahead of Grosjean in P7. With the soft tyres out of the way, both Lotus drivers did their second and third stints on the superior hard compound.

The pair then set about dispatching the cars in front of them, Kimi passing Michael Schumacher and Romain pulling off some thrilling moves on Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton. In the final laps, Kimi was pushing Felipe Massa for fourth but was unable to improve, while Romain followed in sixth seven seconds behind his team-mate.

Lotus remains third in the Constructors Championship with 144 points. Ferrari improves and is now second to Red Bull with 152 points, while McLaren slips to fourth two points behind Lotus. Kimi moves up to fifth place in the Drivers’ Championship with 83, while Romain retains seventh on 61 points.

Kimi Raikkonen: “"I had a pretty okay first few corners but I had to avoid the cars in front and drove over the kerb on the inside of the turn, then I lost a place and was pushed wide. If I had stayed in front of Mark [Webber] at the start it would have been pretty good seeing where he finished, but after that Lewis [Hamilton] also got past me. I fought back and our car was strong, especially on the harder tyres. If I’d had a better start I could have finished much better; but that’s racing and sometimes you pay a bigger price than you expect from the first lap.”

Romain Grosjean: “There was a little bit of confusion at Turns 3 and 4, and I was on the outside at Turn 3. The Force India came from the inside and just touched my front wing with his rear wheel. It was a shame but there's nothing you can really do in these situations. I think the best thing is to qualify on pole or second place and then it's easier in the first corners. The result itself is not fantastic, but the way the race went, from 22nd to sixth is very good. To come in the points after a change of nose is quite unbelievable, but the team did a great job to give me a car, which was fantastic. The strategy with only one stop in the middle was quite risky, but it worked well, and there were some good battles on track with Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. It was very enjoyable.”


GP2 – Silverstone

Lotus’s Esteban Gutierrez took his second feature race win on the bounce at Silverstone, promoting himself to third in the drivers’ standings.

With Stefano Coletti demoted on the grid for failing to provide a fuel sample, Gutierrez and team-mate James Calado started fourth and fifth on the grid. The wet conditions were extreme, and the decision was taken to drive the first seven laps behind the safety car. Once the race got underway, Esteban held his position. Pole-sitter Fabio Leimer was able to pull away while the following cars dealt with poor visibility. Esteban was brought into the pits for an early stop, and he used this to great effect, undercutting both third-placed Jolyon Palmer and second-place Johnny Cecotto Jr.

Then Calado, stopped out on track signaling the safety car’s reappearance. A gearbox electrics issue rid the Englishman of a strong result at home. He had been running fifth at that point. Leimer had yet to take his mandatory stop as he was led by the safety car, the field bunching up behind him and his nine second lead wiped out. When the race got underway again, Esteban kept his cool knowing that the lead was his to inherit. A crash from Coletti sparked another safety car, and any hope Leimer had of creating another gap was gone. He was forced to pit and slid to 15th. Esteban pushed hard at the restart to build a comfortable lead over Cecotto, winning the race by 1.7 seconds and posting the fastest lap on the run to the chequered flag.

The Mexican put in another strong performance in Sunday’s sprint race to finish fourth, having started P8 on the reverse grid. Fabrizio Crestani passed him at the start, but once he was comfortable with the dry but slippery conditions and got a rhythm Esteban ate his way back into point-scoring positions. Having dispensed with Crestani the 20-year-old set his sights on Max Chilton for P7, then Nigel Melker for P6 while defending from a resurgent Jolyon Palmer. He did so successfully and nailed Melker, snatching fifth place from Guido van der Garde who killed his tyres early. At this point Esteban’s pace made him a podium threat. He was all over fourth-placed Cecotto like a cheap suit but struggled to find a way past the Venezuelan. Two laps to go he did it, and then found himself riding Felipe Nasr’s gearbox and staring at a podium. He made the move but locked up his wheels, and Cecotto seized the opportunity to retake fourth. Screaming down to Stowe corner on the last lap Esteban made a do-or-die move around the outside. Cecotto drifted wide touching Esteban and forcing him off the track. The Lotus driver returned to the track but with wet slick tyres lost control and banged into Cecotto. Cecotto crashed out but Esteban regained control and, with a flat tyre and broken front wing, crossed the finish line in fourth place, earning eight points.

Calado crashed out on Lap 19 from tenth place as he desperately tried to fight his way from the back into the point-scoring Top 8. He took out Max Chilton, which has earned him a ten-place penalty for Hockenheim

Gutierrez, too, was handed a penalty. The stewards, having investigated the last lap incident, announced that Esteban will get the same penalty as Calado. His points from Silverstone are unaffected.

Having begun the weekend sixth in the championship, Esteban’s 35 points have elevated him to sixth and he now sits on 122, stretching the gap between him and Calado to 27 points. Luiz Razia, who won Sunday’s sprint race, now leads with 165. Lotus leads the teams championship from DAMS with a total of 217 points to 205.

Esteban Gutierrez: “I’m very happy with this weekend, it feels terrific to win two weekends in a row. Thirty-five points is fantastic and I’m pleased to leave Silverstone third in the championship. July is an important month, with three races, and my aim is to score big points in each and close the gap to Luiz [Razia] and Davide [Valsecchi]. With the penalty in Hockenheim it will make things more difficult, that’s for sure, but we have to accept the stewards’ decision.”

James Calado: “Qualifying was quite wet, and my first time at Silverstone in the wet so to be fifth was reasonable. I was following Esteban for the majority of Race 1, until he went into the pits. I pushed really hard, got a good stop, but when I can out there was a big red ‘F’ on the dash and everything stopped. It was an electric failure than caused the gearbox to completely shut down. By retiring I had to start Race 2 last. The pace was really good, I was overtaking pretty much every lap. Two laps from the end I made a move on [Max] Chilton at Becketts, we touched and crashed. I had nothing to lose, I had to try and score a point. The potential was there for podiums this weekend, so it’s just unlucky.”


GP3 – Silverstone

Lotus GP took two podium places at Silverstone, with Aaro Vainio taking third on Saturday and Conor Daly second on Sunday.

Vainio qualified second for Race 1, with team-mates Daly 5th and Daniel Abt sixth. However, Daly receieved a 10 place grid penalty for an incident in Valencia. At the start, Vainio was passed by Antonio Felix da Costa who went on to win, and Abt made up a place to run fourth. Daly was on an absolute charge passing on every one of the opening seven laps of the 14 lap race and finishing fifth.

On Sunday, on a treacherously slippery track, Daly was to prove his overtaking prowess once again. Starting on slick tyres saw this Irish-American fall back through the field from P4 to P19. But then the brave slick runners came to the fore and he followed Will Buller, who started on slicks at the back, across the finish line to take second. Vainio struck the back of Arden’s Mathias Laine at Vale and crashed out, earning a ten place grid penalty for Hockenheim in the process. Abt spun off across the grass on his own accord and was then clouted by Marlon Stockinger’s Status car for good measure.

Vainio remains second in the drivers’ championship while Lotus GP is one point shy of MW Arden in the teams standings.

Conor Daly: “Honestly I was really unhappy with the decision to go on slicks. When you are at the front you want to go with the majority of what everyone else is doing. I should never have doubted the Lotus guys, though. It’s great to be driving for a team like that. Once it started drying out it was fantastic. I didn’t even know where I was at the finish, I thought I was fourth or fifth but it turns out I was second!”

Aaro Vainio: “I always liked these conditions, coming from Finland I think it’s quite normal! I pushed really hard even though I knew is would be difficult on the tyres but I tried my best. Antonio [Felix da Costa] was able to pass me [in Race 1] and I was lucky to keep [Mathias] Laine and [Daniel] Abt behind me. Obviously then Antonio and Mitch [Evans] were able to pull away. I’m a bit disappointed with the result because I know the pace is there.”


IndyCar: Toronto

Lotus brought an upgraded engine to Canada for Simona de Silvestro, which brought the driver much encouragement but ultimately her weekend was ruined by a rolling tyre and mechanical gremlins.

Having qualified a lowly 21st due to a tyre pressure problem, Simona crashed out of Sunday morning’s warm up session when she hit a rolling tyre. Sebastien Bourdais had clipped the tyre barrier at Turn 1, setting it loose, and it sent Simona’s Lotus HVM flying into the outside wall. There was damage to the whole left side of the car, the left suspension, the front wing, the floor. The Lotus HVM Racing team rushed back to the garage, and worked nonstop to get the car fixed up and ready in time for the race.

Unfortunately, De Silvestro’s race ended after only eight laps. She was heard on the radio saying: “The engine’s not pulling. I have no power.” She made it to the pits, and got out of the car. The crew took the car back to the garage, hoping to find the problem, fix it, and send Simona back out. However, on Lap nine, the #78 Lotus car was retired from the race for mechanical reasons. Simona finished in 24th position, ahead of Scott Dixon.

Simona de Silvestro: “I’m pretty disappointed. Something happened with the engine. We were hoping for a good finish, trying to stay out of trouble. It’s hard to say right now, we just did a couple of laps. We’ll have to see what happened and go to Edmonton and try to do better.”

Vincent Pereme, Motorsport Engine Manager, Lotus Racing: “The accident this morning had nothing to do with this afternoon’s engine failure during the race. It is clear it was engine failure as you could hear it when the car was on track. The first analysis on the data seems to show that the engine failure was not related to the new engine spec. It might be an unfortunate reliability issue, which has never happened before. We will send the engine back to England tomorrow morning to be able to analyze it better at the workshop, and have it ready for the next race, in Edmonton.”


American Le Mans Series – Northeast Grand Prix

Lotus Alex Job Racing finished tenth at Lime Rock at the weekend. The team is developing its Lotus Evora GT and managed to get a lot of miles under their belts during the two month ALMS break, and a top ten GT class finish is a steady step in the right direction.

Townsend Bell qualified the Evora 23rd overall and tenth in class, and handed the car to team-mate Bill Sweedler for the start. Racing in his home state of Connecticut, Sweedler is something of a local hero. Unfortunately, he was pushed off, costing the team positions, but he managed to get it back on track without damage. Bell took over on Lap 88 and showed very consistent pace to help return the car to where it started, tenth in this highly competitive class and 18th overall.

Bill Sweedler: “Our goal today was run hard all race, and we did. We are developing the car and we are showing a lot of promise. Townsend and I were really close in speed. Townsend was a bit quicker, but we had a good day with the Lotus. It was unfortunate, I got pushed off the track by one of the Ferrari's on the downhill and cost me a few laps, but the car was fine, and we kept it going. We had good pace, diced with some RSRs and passed a few competitors. It was a good day for our development program.”

Townsend Bell: “I am really proud of this team. We ran pretty strong all weekend. The team has worked really hard on the development of the car since Laguna Seca, and it is paying off. We have come, literally thousands of miles development wise. The guys have put in a lot of hours on the car. The car ran flawlessly. We are starting to close on the competition.”

Claudio Berro, Director of Lotus Racing: “A challenging weekend for Lotus at the British Grand Prix, our home race, but some very valuable points in the end which sees the team move ahead of McLaren in the world championship. Congratulations to Esteban Gutierrez on a great win at Silverstone, his second feature race win in a row and now a contender for the GP2 drivers’ championship. Well done too to Aaro Vainio and Conor Daly on their podiums in GP3. More frustration in IndyCar but we’ll keep pushing.”