Lotus reached another milestone in their attempts to establish themselves as a front-running Formula 1 team, with Heikki Kovalainen getting into the second part of qualifying for tomorrow’s Malaysian Grand Prix.
The Finn took advantage of the ever-changing track conditions in the rain-affected session to qualify fifteenth. Teammate Jarno Trulli just missed out on Q2 but will start the race eighteenth.
Kovalainen said that reaching Q2 was a big achievement for the team. He also pointed out that Lotus had a better qualifying strategy than some of the bigger teams, including his old employers McLaren. “I'm so pleased! I really like these conditions – it's very hard to judge your speed and you really have to take some risks, and all the time you're feeling like you might lose the car, but that's the challenge and I love it! On some parts of the track it was very wet and raining hard, and on others it wasn't so much.
“Getting to Q2 really exceeds expectations for me and the whole team – yes of course we've been a little bit lucky today for sure, but it means we beat the other new teams, again! Although we were lucky, we played our strategy just right -if you look at the McLarens and Ferraris they didn't think it was going to rain that much and look what happened. They missed their window at the beginning of the session and we took full advantage of it. Now I can't wait to race tomorrow!”
Jarno Trulli said that his quest for Q2 was ruined by an out-of-control driver in front of him. “It was disappointing because I was doing very well. Unfortunately on my quickest lap a car spun in front of me, which impeded me through the second and third sector so I couldn't close my fast lap; and then the rain was getting worse, so there was no chance to improve on lap time. Still – we'll do our best tomorrow and we'll see what happens.”
Mike Gascoyne thought that two drivers in Q2 would have been a realistic target in the rain-hit session, and says the team made the correct decision on the tyres. “Obviously we're all very very pleased to get a car into Q2 and Heikki did a tremendous job to get us there! I'm disappointed for Jarno as he got traffic on the lap that would have got him in. I think we got all the calls on the tyres right on the pit wall and in Q2 we ran the whole session on intermediates, which was clearly the thing to do. We made a change five minutes before the end, and Heikki got in a good clear lap to get P15. Well done to the whole team, and especially to Tony, for such success at one of our two home races – I know he's very very proud.”
And Tony Fernandes was indeed proud, which was evident from his comments after the session. “I'm speechless! What a day! To get 15th place in our home country, in front of our home crowd is amazing. I'm over the moon and just so excited. We gave the Toro Rossos a run for their money today and Jarno was just unfortunate to get blocked, otherwise he'd have been in Q2 as well. Tomorrow's another day, and we'll see what happens, but it's a good step forward. Today we'll enjoy it, and we'll live for the day, and we'll see what happens tomorrow.”