Another solid qualifying session for Lotus Racing in Turkey saw Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen secure 19th and 20th on the Istanbul grid, comfortably ahead of the Virgin Racing and Hispania teams.
The impressive progress shown by Lotus over just seven races apparently prompted Tony Fernandes to offer his drivers kebabs for their qualifying efforts.
Jarno Trulli summarised his Saturday in Turkey: “I'm pretty pleased even though it was a bit of a difficult day. I had a minor problem this morning which meant I couldn't really use all the time available to focus on setting up the car, so I just got in and got on with it.
“In quali I used both sets of hard tyres and it felt like the track was quite slippery, particularly in the braking zones, so I changed my driving style a bit and think I did quite a good job to be best of the new teams.
“I think we are catching up with the guys ahead, even though we are still a bit off. But we will have another big step when we go to Silverstone, and we're also now working hard on next year's car, so we're definitely going in the right direction.”
Heikki Kovalainen was also happy with the day’s efforts, and hopes to be closer to the more established teams in tomorrow’s race. “It was good out there today,” said the Finn. “On our first run we went with the soft tyre which was probably the wrong choice as it wasn't working quite as well as yesterday, but the second run on the primes was good. “The car felt particularly stable around the high speed corners and the balance felt great so I'm happy.
“Jarno did a better time today, but I'm pushing hard – I'm always pushing to the limit and am looking forward to the race tomorrow. I feel confident, and hope we can close the gap again to the other guys ahead.”
Mike Gascoyne explained the tyre dilemma facing the teams today, and emphasised the progress that Lotus have made since the opening race in Bahrain. “I'm pleased with our performance in qualifying this afternoon,” said Gascoyne. “There was a question mark from this morning whether to run the prime or option tyres – we felt the car was more stable on the primes and that decision paid dividends with us being only 3.2seconds away from the Red Bulls who used the same tyres in Q1- that shows just how much progress we've made as a team from the start of the season, and that's very satisfying. So – a good solid performance today and we'll look forward to the race tomorrow where we want to get both our cars to the finish line.”
Team principal Tony Fernandes is evidently still enjoying the journey Lotus have been on since September, and had a lot to say after qualifying about the team’s performance, and their aims for the future:
“All in all today's been another good day and it proves to me that our future is very bright,” exclaimed Fernandes. “To be honest I was starting to dream about Q2, and while we may still be a little bit off that we're clearly getting closer and closer, and thinking back to where we started, that's incredible.
“We need to work on giving Jarno more confidence in the car, and perhaps today we could have got more from Heikki's tyres, but I think there's still more to come from the 2010 car – maybe even another 0.5 seconds.
“Tomorrow will be all about getting two cars home, and I know our team has the experience and strength to do that.
“Today we were just 3.2 seconds off the pace of the Red Bulls in Q1 and if you cast your mind back 10 short weeks to Bahrain you can see just how far we've come. There we were over five seconds away from the outright Q1 pace and anyone in the sport will tell you what an achievement it is to find nearly two seconds in just seven races.
“We were also just 2.4 seconds off Ferrari, celebrating their 800th race in Turkey, which is pretty spectacular for a team who are only seven races old – I think that shows to all those who expressed doubts about our participation that they were wrong.
“We're also now in a position to turn our attention to the 2011 car, but we're still here and fighting hard for this season – I want, in the nicest possible way, to take this fight to my mentors Frank Williams and Patrick Head and their team, from whom I've learnt an awful lot over the last few years, and compete with them and the likes of Toro Rosso and Sauber, and today's yet another example of how we really can dream of doing just that.
“I'm now off to order a kebab for Jarno and Heikki. Well, maybe a kebab pizza for Jarno, and a reindeer kebab for Heikki, if anyone in Istanbul can find them one…..”