Heikki Kovalainen managed to finish the Singapore Grand Prix in sixteenth place, and over 15 seconds ahead of the Renault of Vitaly Petrov, after a strong performance for Team Lotus.
However, there were contrasting fortunes for the drivers at the Anglo-Asian team, with Jarno Trulli being forced to retire on Lap 48 with a gearbox issue.
“I'm really pleased with the performance today and we should all be happy as it was a great race from the whole team,” said Kovalainen. “The pitstop strategy worked out well for us and the boys worked brilliantly to get me out quickly each time, helping me make sure I could stay ahead of Petrov at each stop. The car felt balanced throughout the whole race and the tyres worked well so I was able to pull away from Petrov and ended up finishing strongly in 16th.
“It's also good that the upgrade we've brought here has helped us take a small step forward and I think we'll see more from that in Suzuka where it will come more into its own. After a race like today I can't wait to get back in the car, so we leave Singapore feeling pretty good about the last few races of the season.”
Trulli had a more eventful race. He was hit by Jaime Alguersuari in the early stages – an incident that earned the Toro Rosso driver a drive-through penalty – and on the necessary recovery drive he was halted by the gearbox problem.
“I had another really good start and was ahead of both Renaults and the Toro Rosso,” recalls the Italian. “They were pushing me but the car felt great and I was able to keep ahead of them pretty comfortably, coming out of the first stop still ahead and feeling good on the second set of tyres. Then Jaime hit my left rear and I had to come which was pretty disappointing – it's just bad luck really, but that meant I had to try and fight back which I did my best to do until the gearbox problem meant I had to pull over.
“I'm pleased for the team that we were able to fight from the start and I think it's a good sign that we could do so well in the race, but now we move on to Japan and I hope we can keep pushing on there.”
Chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne was disappointed that they could not get both cars to the end of the race, but is pleased with the overall pace of his two drivers, especially compared to the two Renault cars.
“Mixed reactions from me because that was possibly our strongest race performance, particularly early on, but it obviously did not end for Jarno as we would have wanted,” he said. “Jarno drove a very good first stint and by switching the strategy and stopping Heikki early we were able to control the cars behind us that we were racing at that point.
“When we pitted Jarno we got him back out in front of the cars he was racing but unfortunately Alguersuari hit him, causing a left rear puncture and ruining his race. He kept pushing when we got him back out but finally he had to stop with a gearbox problem.
“Heikki drove a very strong race and it was good to beat one of the Renaults on pace today, both on track and in the pitstops. It is a shame we could not get both cars to the finish, but this was still a very good performance from the whole team.”
Team principal Tony Fernandes sounded more positive than Gascoyne in his evaluation of the Singapore Grand Prix: “For me that is probably the best race we have had in our short life in Formula One so far,” he said. “Heikki drove an outstanding race and was able to keep pace with a lot of the cars around him, and pull away from the cars behind, and he made the most of the new package we brought here to finish very well.
“Jarno again suffered from bad luck and maybe the strategy we gave him was not the best, but we called it as we saw it and I am sure we will learn from how his race worked out. I am delighted for everyone back at the factory to see their hard work on the upgrade work out well on track, and I think we can look forward to a strong end to the season, knowing we can fight with established teams around us when the opportunities arise.”