Lotus Racing celebrated twelfth and thirteenth place in today’s Japanese Grand Prix just as vigorously as Red Bull, who secured a one-two finish.
Heikki Kovalainen finished just ahead of teammate Jarno Trulli to secure Lotus’ best result of the season, and all but guarantee that they will finish tenth in this seasons’ constructors championship – ahead of both Virgin Racing and HRT.
Kovalainen came twentieth in the rescheduled qualifying session, which began just five hours before the lights went out to signal the beginning of the grand prix. “It was a wicked race, really absolutely fantastic for me, Jarno and the whole team,” the Finn explained. “We decided to start with the soft tyre, which was a little bit of a gamble, and then stayed out during the safety car. The target was to build up enough of a gap to allow me to pit without losing places to the guys behind and we did that, though it was very close with Jarno when I came out.
“On the harder tyre the car just felt brilliant – I had a huge amount of grip from the second set and it was a lot of fun to push for the rest of the race. Our pace was amazing – we were only lapped once and at this kind of circuit, where we needed to perform, we could not have done any more.
“An amazing day for the whole team, and now we're another big step closer to that tenth place, which is obviously the main aim of the whole season.”
Trulli, who qualified nineteenth in this morning’s session, seemed just as ecstatic. “What a great day for the whole team, just fantastic,” said the Italian. “I'm really pleased for everyone with the result, and congratulations to Heikki as well on a great race. I had a really good start and came in under the safety car to switch to the primes. I came out behind Yamamoto and immediately attacked him – I got past him pretty quick and then went after Heikki.
“We both had a strong run to the end, and even though I had another hydraulics issue in the last couple of laps, I managed to get the car home which was obviously the main objective.”
Lotus chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne also shared the enthusiasm of his drivers. “A really fantastic result for the team today. 12th and 13th places are our best positions of the season so far, and I'm delighted for everyone that we had such strong performances from both cars today,” he said. “Qualifying went very well this morning – we were just under a second ahead of the other new teams, and we carried that through to the afternoon.
“We had always planned to stop just one car if there was an early safety car, and that was the car ahead. When the safety car came out Jarno was in front so we pulled him in and put him on the primes. Unfortunately it took him a few laps to pass Yamamoto, and that really hurt his race strategy, and that, combined with the blue flags, meant Heikki stayed ahead of him on track. Despite that, it was a great race from both drivers.
“We had a small hydraulics issue on Jarno's car at the end, but it didn't slow him down and he was able to maintain 13th place. I want to say congratulations to the whole team for such a strong performance all weekend – this really was a job well done.”
Tony Fernandes wasn’t at Suzuka today, but speaking after the race from Sepang, Malaysia, the Lotus team principal wanted to thank all involved. “I am absolutely delighted, just so pleased for the whole team,” he said. “The result today is a tremendous response to the negativity that we have been dealing with off-track over the last week or so. This is the best ever result in the as yet very short life of Lotus Racing, and 12th and 13th far exceeds any of the expectations I had at the start of the season.
“The future for our team is so bright, and the decisions we have been making recently are giving us an incredible platform from which to build on days like this. Thank you Mike, Heikki, Jarno, Riad and everyone – it was an amazing feeling watching them all on TV and keeping up with the race on my iPad – I actually watched the end of the race whilst doing a press conference with Fahmi, another star in the making, from Sepang in Malaysia, and it was a very special feeling to be able to share the end of the race with everyone in our other home.
“This is a big, big day for us – we let our actions speak louder than our words, and that is what makes us who we are. We are a team with passion and integrity, and we conduct our business in the right way. As I always say – 'believe the unbelievable' – we did that today and look at what we have achieved.”