After an eventful Singapore Grand Prix for Lotus, the team now prepare for this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, aiming to consolidate its position as best of the new teams.
Heikki Kovalainen showed his skills with a fire extinguisher as his T127 sat ablaze on the Singapore pit straight. “First I want to thank the boys at Williams for their help with the little incident that brought my Singapore GP to an end,” said the Finn, grateful to the mechanics who supplied him with the fire extinguisher in question. “I've had an amazing response to putting out the fire, and while it was clearly the best way to stop what would have been a very dangerous situation, if I'd come into the pits, it was a pretty spectacular end to a great race. We were racing Michael and Sebastien for position, and made the right call to fight them as hard as we could. It didn't pay off this time, but not taking the easy option of just getting the car home shows what we're made of, and that's a very good feeling.”
Kovalainen reveals what he has been up to since the Singapore race, and that he is now looking forward to getting back into his car at Suzuka. “After the race the whole team flew into Kuala Lumpur in a team-branded AirAsia plane,” he added. “That was pretty cool – getting on board an aircraft with my race number at the back, and all the seats in green and yellow – it shows just how dedicated AirAsia are to our team, and it was an awesome feeling taking off and landing back at the team's other home in KL. I had a couple of days staying with our Chief Exec and managed to get some golf in, and then went for a few days of relaxation before making the trip to Japan.
“I love Japan – it's a bit mad, but in a really good way. The fans are pretty hardcore – they know more about the drivers than we do, and the track itself is obviously great to race on. I think we'll do pretty well there. It's quick, and you need a good rhythm to get the best lap times, but experience and concentration play a big part, and I can't wait to get back in the car.”
For Jarno Trulli, the Singapore Grand Prix lasted only 21 laps, thanks to more hydraulic issues. In a Toyota last year the Italian qualified second and finished in the same position at Suzuka and, after enjoying his AirAsia flight to Kuala Lumpa, Trulli is now also looking forward to returning to Japan:
“After what had been a very busy Singapore race I joined the team for the flight to KL before heading back to Europe,” he says. “Seeing how everyone responded to 'our' plane was really cool. It's the sort of thing that makes the guys in the team very proud and seeing how excited all the AirAsia staff were about seeing us on board was very special.
“Coming back to Japan is something I'm looking forward to. I really like the track and last year was on the podium in second place. I know we won't be repeating that this year, but I think we'll be ok. Everyone in the team is pumped up for the final few races, and we want to focus on beating our nearest rivals. We're in a good fight, and the fans are being given some great action to keep an eye on further down the grid, so we'll do our best to reward them.”
Mike Gascoyne, the Lotus team principal, says that tenth place in the constructor’s championship is still their target and, despite bringing no updates to Japan, believes that Lotus can continue to challenge rivals Virgin and HRT. “Suzuka is a classic race venue, one that really brings out the best in the car and the drivers,” he says. “The team have had a bit of time off to recharge their batteries since Singapore, and I think they'll get to Japan ready to get straight back to work and help us secure tenth place. As most of the efforts back at the factory have now been focused on the 2011 car for several months, we won't be bringing any new updates to Japan, but it's obviously good to see that even though our direct rivals are continuing to update their cars, we can still take the fight to them.
“Singapore was a great battle, and had Heikki not had to do his fireman act, we would have finished comfortably ahead of Virgin. We want to continue that next weekend and we're aiming to put on as strong a performance at Suzuka as we did in Singapore.”
Tony Fernandes also paid tribute to Kovalainen’s fire-fighting skills, and his general performance in Singapore. “I'm just about over the excitement of the Singapore race!” exclaimed the Lotus Team Principal. “Seeing Heikki stay so cool under pressure really drove it home to me just how tough the drivers are – first making the decision to fight Michael and Buemi, and not let them pass just to bring the car home, lifted the spirits of everyone in the team after what had been a very long, hot weekend. Then having the clarity of thought to pull over in the right place, get out and sort out the problem – I think that gained him a whole new level of respect and it's that fighting spirit that we love. Maybe less of the fire fighting in future, but not one bit less of the aggression.
“This has already been an incredible season, and it is a credit to everyone in our team that there is so much interest around the world in our future. We have achieved so much in one year, and, while nothing in life worth having is easy, when we savour victory the taste will be that much sweeter. For every single person who has given us support, praise and encouragement we thank you. We will leave no stone unturned to be the best.”