Lotus began their 500th grand prix weekend by completing exactly 100 laps over the two Friday practice sessions, finishing the day in 19th and 20th with Heikki Kovalainen just in front of teammate Jarno Trulli.
Kovalainen was pleased that both he and his teammate had an incident-free day of practice. “I feel really good,” said the Finn. “It's been an excellent Friday. We've made really good progress with the car, and every set up change we made seemed to be pushing us in the right direction, and in the end the tyres seemed to be working well over the long run.
“The track itself is good, it's nice – a semi street circuit, but with a little more room than Monaco! It's smooth, with quite a good grip level and all in all it's quite good fun.”
The Finn qualified 2nd at this track last year, and while not expecting to match that this year, is hoping to put in a competitive showing in tomorrow’s session. He also revealed that air traffic control strikes in France had meant an overnight drive down to the Spanish coast.
“I did arrive late today because of the French strikes – we had to drive down from Geneva and arrived early this morning,” said Kovalainen. “But I feel fine – it's just one night with a little less sleep than usual, so it's no big deal. My physio Petri and I shared the driving, so I feel absolutely fine.
“For Qualifying tomorrow, we're going to try to push it to the maximum. Our aim is to get closer to the back of the established teams as much as we possibly can so I'm always pushing, always to the maximum, and let's see where we are tomorrow afternoon!”
Jarno Trulli, who had a new chassis to use today, was pleased to avoid his usual Friday reliability problems, and is looking forward to a good weekend. “It was a better day for me today after some of the luck I've been having,” said the Italian. “I had one or two gremlins, but it was a good day to shakedown the new chassis properly and make sure everything was working well.
“We got a good idea of where we want to be on the setup and the direction for Saturday and Sunday, so I think this was much better for me. On track there was good grip out there this afternoon, and the car felt good, so I'm looking forward to tomorrow.”
Technical director Mike Gascoyne said that tyre wear had been an issue for the team during the morning session, but track conditions throughout the day. “It was a good day for us,” he said. “Obviously the first session was dominated by tyres and the condition of the track, with a lot of graining on the fronts, but, as expected, the track cleaned up and we were able to get through the whole program with no real issues on either car.
“We've got a lot of data from today and I think we're where we expected to be, but I think there's more to come from the car, so I'm optimistic about our performance over the weekend.”
Tony Fernandes couldn’t even get a seat on his own airline to be in Valencia today, but said that he will arrive in time for qualifying to join his guests of honour. “I'll be in Spain tomorrow to join Clive Chapman (son of Colin, Lotus founder), his family and the whole team to enjoy this momentous race. I wanted to come in today, but couldn't get a seat on AirAsiaX so I've had to jump on board one of the competition's planes to get me in, but I'm very excited about the weekend ahead, particularly after the very solid start today.
“It's been good to see our reliability return on both cars today, and I'm hopeful we can put in a good showing tomorrow and on Sunday.”