Team Lotus are heralding the 2011 Chinese Grand Prix as one of their best since they resurrected the team at the beginning of last season.
The result – 16th for Heikki Kovalainen and 19th for Jarno Trulli – is not the best the team have achieved in the 22 races of their short life, but for the first time today they were able to compete with the established team on pace.
In fact, Trulli’s fastest lap of the race, a 1:42.052, was quicker than anything that Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari could manage.
“That was an absolutely fantastic race from both drivers and from the pitcrew who performed brilliantly under huge pressure,” exclaimed Mike Gascoyne, the Team Lotus Chief Technical Officer. “It is very satisfying to have beaten two other midfield teams on track on pace and strategy and to be able to show that we have bridged the gap to the established teams.
“Both drivers made a good start and with the higher track temperatures we knew our race pace would be good, and so it proved. With the tyre degradation we were able to stick to two stops, which was always our plan and that allowed us to jump a couple of people, giving us our strongest race in F1. Additionally, we were only lapped once, right towards the end of the race, so I am very proud of the whole team today.”
Kovalainen, who finished the race ahead of Sergio Perez and Pastor Maldonado, agreed with Gascoyne’s comments. “That is our best ever performance,” said the Finn. “It’s not the highest place we’ve had but today we beat two midfield cars in a straight fight so I am very happy, with my performance and the performance of the whole team.
“We knew we would struggle in the cool conditions yesterday but today the temperatures rose and we expected to be able to put in the sort of race that would do justice to the pace that is in the car. We will keep working hard to improve the car’s behaviour in the cooler conditions and we can only get better from here.”
Trulli did not seem entirely happy, having finished behind his team-mate, but could see the significance of today’s result for his team. “I had a good start and then Heikki and I were able to pull away from the cars behind and keep to the strategy to fight with the guys ahead,” he explained. “My first stop wasn’t great and I’m still having a few issues with the tyre degradation but really today is about the team result. We have shown we are developing exactly as we want to and that’s a huge motivation for everyone.”