Heikki Kovalainen was the first driver out on track in Friday practice at the new Yeongam circuit in South Korea today. He and Jarno Trulli went on to complete 81 laps between them, finishing the day 19th and 20th respectively.
These performances mean that Lotus Racing start the inaugural Korean Grand Prix weekend ahead of the other new teams, despite Trulli having another difficult day with reliability issues.
“That was a pretty hard day for me – it does feel like quite a few of the things that could have gone wrong did go wrong, but the mechanics did a great job to repair the gearbox twice and make sure I could get a relatively decent number of laps completed,” said the Italian. “I learnt the circuit pretty quickly, and on the options the car felt good as the track surface developed, which helped me to improve my times lap after lap.
“Overall I think this is a good circuit. I need to do some more running to really find where I can push, and we'll do some more work tonight to look at the setup for tomorrow and Sunday, so I think we'll be ok.”
In contrast, Kovalainen had a decent Friday. The Finn was full of praise for the track and the race organisers, but did point out a potential hazard at the entrance to the pit lane – a complaint voiced by many of the other drivers.
“Today was good for me,” he said. “I want to say thanks to the race organisers first for having done such a good job to make sure everything was ready for us, particularly when you bear in mind some of the concerns people had about the event, and it was great to see so many fans in the stands on a Friday – I think this very looks good for this weekend and for future races here.
“On track we had a good day. We found a clear direction for the setup and our pace is strong compared to our direct competitors, so I think we're in good shape. I enjoyed the day's work – the high speed section at the beginning of the second sector is pretty cool, and there are some pretty challenging corners in the third sector. I think you'll see some overtaking in sector one where you have the long straights and tight corners, so while it's not too tough through there, I think it will provide some action.
“We're all going to have to be careful around the pitlane entrance as it's a bit tight around there, with cars on quick laps having to keep a close eye on the guys slowing down to go into the pitlane, but I'm sure we'll handle it ok.”
Mike Gascoyne said that despite the challenges associated with visiting a brand new circuit, he feels the team are in a good position Friday’s two practice sessions.
“An interesting Friday and obviously it's always a good challenge when you come to a new track,” said the Lotus chief technical officer. “As expected it was very slippery early on, and the large track evolution has made evaluating the tyres and setup changes very difficult, but we're pleased with where we have ended up.
“On Jarno's side of the garage we had a couple of gearboxes issues which limited his running today, so he did very well to get as close to Heikki's laptime as he did in the closing stages of FP2. Heikki had a trouble free day and it's again pleasing to see that we finished ahead of our nearest rivals at the end of FP2.
“Overall today has been much as we had expected it would be, and I want to say well done to the circuit organisers for making sure that everything was ready in time for us to go to work today. I think we have a good weekend ahead of us.”