Team Lotus matched their best result of the season at Monza today as Heikki Kovalainen brought his car home in thirteenth place, just ahead of team-mate Jarno Trulli.
Both drivers avoided the first corner melee caused by Vitantonio Liuzzi but were handicapped by their lack of KERS around this circuit of long straights.
“I had a great start, passing Jarno and then seeing the HRT coming into T1 in a pretty hardcore style so I avoided that and was then up into a good position early on,” recalls Kovalainen. “I managed to hold that place for a good number of laps and found the tyre degradation pretty easy to manage. The pitstops were really good today – the calls to come in were made at the right times and the whole crew did a great job to get me out so quickly, so thanks to them and the whole team for a good end to the weekend.”
Trulli had a much more eventful start but overall enjoyed his home race on a day that he announced an extension to his Team Lotus contract. “For once I didn't have a great start but I managed to avoid the crash at the first corner and luckily Heikki and I were able to get through that and avoid damaging our cars,” said the Italian.
“While I was racing Heikki, I think Massa got into trouble into the first chicane, so I had to go off track to avoid hitting him. When I rejoined the track he shut the door on me, so I went down the inside, kept flat out and managed to overtake him. Then, going into the first corner I had two faster cars behind me with KERS – they had just pressed the button and while going into the second corner Massa lost the car under braking and hit me which forced me into the car next to me, damaging the front end of the car and the front wing. It was really unlucky as I was basically in a sandwich and I was the only one that was damaged!
“The team did a great job to bring me in , change the nose and then rethink the strategy, switching me to one stop strategy pretty much straight away. From there my lap times were really good and I enjoyed the whole of the rest of the race. I'm really happy about the performance today and the pace was excellent all afternoon.
“In fact, throughout the whole weekend I have been very happy with the pace of the car overall and this morning's news about next year's contract has made this a fantastic home race for me – thanks to the whole team for that!”
Chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne congratulated both drivers on their performance today and recalled that the team’s position looked much less positive after Friday practice. “That was a great race for us,” he said. “Both drivers managed to avoid the carnage at the start but then Jarno lost a bit of time early on after being hit by Massa. That incident meant we had to bring him in to change his front wing, putting him back a few places but we switched his strategy and put him onto a long stint on the soft tyres tyres before changing to the mediums. That change, and the fact he was pushing throughout the whole race, helped him get back in front of his direct opposition and he did well to finish 14th.
“Heikki was also strong all afternoon and was holding the places he had gained at the start as long as he possibly could – we are all delighted that he brought his car home in 13th without any issues at all as that was the primary goal for today.
“After a difficult Friday this performance was a great recovery from the team to show how we can bounce back from a difficult start to the weekend. It is been an extremely positive result which sets us up well for Singapore, so well done to everyone.”
Tony Fernandes was also very pleased with the team’s performance. The Team Lotus team principal saids that there will be more announcements on the future of the team in coming weeks but, for now, he is ready to concentrate on footballing matters.
“It has been a great day for Team Lotus and, for me, about the best race I have been to so far!”, he said. “To come 13th and 14th at Monza is way above my expectations so I am very proud of both drivers and the whole team. Obviously the race had a number of incidents which helped our final grid positions, but there are two key points for us to take out of today – we were there at the end to take the advantage of the positions that were available and our pace over the race distance was strong enough to keep up with a number of the established teams.
“Both Heikki and Jarno did an absolutely fantastic job throughout the whole afternoon and they were helped by the pitstop crew who performed brilliantly, and the engineers who made the right calls at the right times. Well done to all.
“This has been a pivotal few days for our team and we will be making anumber of announcements over the next few weeks that will show just how well we have laid the foundations for the future of our team. But now for me it is back to London and Loftus Road!”