There was much reason for celebration down at Lotus for Friday practice in Malaysia. The team was participating at a race weekend in its home country, Fairuz Fauzy, a Malaysian driver was in the car in the morning session, and to cap it all off, it was Mike Gascoyne’s birthday.
Fauzy was in Heikki Kovalainen’s car in Free Practice 1, completing 19 laps. Speaking afterwards Fauzy was very excited to have taken part in a session for Lotus, in front of his home fans. “I feel very good, very motivated and this is really a special day for me as it's our home run. It's great to be back again. The last time I was in Barcelona, which is a long time ago! I've always said that I'll be ready and fit, but it's still great that I was on the pace immediately. I'm happy and I hope we can do well this weekend – the car feels great, and I think it's faster than it was in Melbourne. It's going to be an exciting weekend – in Malaysia, anything can happen! If it rains and we can get an advantage out of it, then that's good.”
The sight of a Malaysian driving for a Malaysian team in Malaysia was understandably very exciting for Lotus team principal Tony Fernandes. “It's just unbelievable! I woke up at 6am today as I couldn't sleep I was so excited. I'm just really pleased to see Fairuz out there with Jarno and the rest of the household names that make up the grid.
“It's great that F1 gives the chance for developing teams and developing countries to come to the fore and grab this sort of opportunity. It shows that the combination of British and Malaysian skills can dare to dream of competing on a global level, and can do so in an innovative, fresh way. Fairuz is a lad who has climbed the motorsport ladder – from his local roots at the kart circuit his Father built in Kuala Lumpur, to being on track in F1 in a car built in the UK and competing all around the world. For me that's a very clear sign of how well our Anglo-Malaysian collaboration is working, and long may that continue.”
Jarno Trulli, who completed two practice sessions for the team today, was very positive after getting out of the car. “It started off as a difficult day but I managed to do some good setup work and it was a positive two sessions. It seems we are competitive when compared to the other new teams but as we are ultimately aiming to fight with the top teams we are looking to get ourselves into a position where we can work on detailed setups, and that will start from Barcelona.
“I am pleased that today's sessions, when compared to the previous two races, both went faultlessly and I'm very glad about that. I like the heat – I like racing in the heat as it tests fitness and I've always performed well here, so I'm looking forward to tomorrow and the race on Sunday.”
Heikki Kovalainen, who only took part in the afternoon session echoed the sentiments of his teammate. “I'm really pleased with the car – obviously I didn't get much time to practice today, but it felt good and I'm feeling very confident with it. I'm looking forward to the race ahead – I think we're in really good shape. We tried a different set up with my car, and it took a few laps to get into it, but really I was very pleased and happy and looking forward to getting in the car again tomorrow. Weather wise, it is very hot and humid, and it's difficult conditions here, but I'm feeling good and am very fit for the race.”
Birthday boy Mike Gascoyne was full of praise for his drivers and the team. “All round a very successful day. It was good to have Fairuz in the car this morning and he was able to complete his entire program. Heikki took over the car in the afternoon and was also able to finish his planned program – evaluating the tyres and the race pace of the car. We had no mechanical issues on either car and in general I'm very pleased with the progress we're making, so well done to the whole team.”
Tony Fernandes had the final word after the opening day in Malaysia. “Great day – we did everything we wanted to do and I'm extremely pleased. We're getting better and better so let's hope we continue this tomorrow in qualifying. We are being realistic though – points aren't in my mind. I just want to finish the race, get both cars home and keep our feet on the ground. Of course I'm still dreaming – I put Colin Chapman's cap on the pit wall to remind everyone of what we're aspiring to, but we'll get there in the right way, and the dream continues.”