James Calado has described his victory in the GP2 sprint race in Malaysia as a fantastic start to his season.
It was the British driver's second win in the category after the triumph on his debut in the Abu Dhabi non-championship race last November. The result meant that the Lotus GP driver left the opening round of the year third in the drivers' standings.
“First of all, I would like to thank the team and my partners for this fantastic start to the season,” said the 22-year-old. “I had my first taste of the series last year in Abu Dhabi and it certainly was very sweet and I think we built from there and from our good winter tests.
“Qualifying was a big boost for me because I expected to be 4 or 5 tenths off the polesitter, but in the end the gap was just 144 thousands of a second. After starting 6th I was a bit disappointed at the end of the first race, but in hindsight it was not that bad! It allowed me to secure my first championship points and to start from pole on Sunday.
“I just made sure that I had a clean start so I could lead the pack into the first turn, then open up a gap that would not allow Esteban to have a go. From then on it was all about tyre management because degradation was incredibly high. There was no need to try and open up a big gap, even though it was a strange feeling not to be able to push hard. I loved every single lap.”
Calado's teammate Esteban Gutierrez overcame a collision in practice that cost him vital track time and resulted in him only qualifying 15th. He finished the first race in seventh just ahead of Calado, and then followed him across the line in the second race.
“The key to my weekend was the mistake I made in practice because I had only four laps under my belt,” said the Mexican. “The team had to repair the car and we barely knew where we were going in qualifying, especially as I still had to learn the circuit which is not the easiest on the calendar. It is so close here, one tenth and you lose two or three positions on the grid. I set the early pace but then a yellow flag and a little bit of traffic did not bode well for us.
“But I gained several positions at the start of race 1 and steadily progressed through the field. I did have a moment during my pit stop when I ran wide onto the grass but all in all it was a good recovery to finish in P7 after starting 15th.
“I knew my only chance of winning the second race was to take the lead in the first corner. I was side by side with James but he did not make a single mistake and I was not going to do anything silly. Managing tyre wear was very important because the track temperature was well over 50°C, the highest of the weekend.
“This was a very good weekend for us and it bodes well for the future. This was a very nice start to the season, but we must continue working and improve things in order to achieve even better results.”
Team boss Frederic Vasseur was understandably pleased with his squad's 1-2 finish in the second race.
“Everyone always impatiently awaits the first weekend of the season to know if all their hard work over the winter went in the right direction and the end result realized our hopes with a very beautiful double podium finish and overall an excellent management of the event from everyone in the team,” he said.
“In Sepang, there were many new parameters: when and how to use the two tyre specifications, learning the circuit, managing the heat. James raced without fault and deserves his victory while Esteban did incredibly well given the hitch in free practice that left him with very little track time. It is not very often you have two drivers in such great physical and mental shape that they are able to win races right from the start of the season and I am delighted that this is the case for Lotus GP.
“We identified several areas that need to be improved, namely qualifying and we will work hard to be even more powerful in Bahrain. I thank and congratulate all the members on the team as well as our partners who have to us allowed to approach this season with serenity and efficiency.”