Is Lotus about to shine?

By Pat Espresso

All eyes are on Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen for a big push to make Q2 this weekend and score the first points of the season in the 500th grand prix for Lotus.

Technical head Mike Gascoyne said the team are close to challenging established Formula 1 teams – and there’s an army of fans hoping that they can make an impact in dusty Valencia.
Canada was a massive boost to the team, with Lotus lapping the other new teams to make another big step forward which resulted in Heikki finishing a creditable 16th.

“It was a big step forward. Instead of trying to be the best of the new teams, we are trying to get on to the back of the established teams,” Gascoyne said.

“That’s exactly where we wanted to be at this stage of the season.”

Like the other new teams, Hispania and Virgin, Lotus have yet to register a top-10 finish, with Sauber’s Pedro de la Rosa the only other driver still to open his account.
But as well as finishing ahead of the new teams, Kovalainen beat Renault’s Vitaly Petrov and the two retired Saubers. These are the types of mid-table teams Lotus wants to be racing.

“Canada marked a big turning point for us as a new team,” said Gascoyne. “We nearly out-qualified one of the Renaults, we were racing throughout the race with the midfield teams.

“OK, some of them had got delayed but we were genuinely racing them. And we lapped all the other new teams.”

Gascoyne is hopeful the improvement can continue at Valencia, only the ninth outing for the new Malaysian-owned team, will be the 500th grand prix contested by a car under the Lotus banner.

“It’s something we’ve been very aware of,” said Gascoyne. “Clive Chapman, son of the team’s founder Colin, and members of the Chapman family will be joining us for the 500th grand prix.

“It’s a special thing for us as the new Lotus team and I think it’s right that we recognise that heritage and hopefully people will enjoy watching Lotus go racing again.”

FRIDAY’S QUOTES

Heikki Kovalainen – 19th: I feel really good. It’s been an excellent Friday. We’ve made really good progress with the car, and every set up change we made seemed to be pushing us in the right direction, and in the end the tyres seemed to be working well over the long run. The track itself is good, it’s nice – a semi street circuit, but with a little more room than Monaco! It’s smooth, with quite a good grip level and all in all it’s quite good fun.
I did arrive late today because of the French strikes – we had to drive down from Geneva and arrived early this morning. But I feel fine – it’s just one night with a little less sleep than usual, so it’s no big deal. My physio Petri and I shared the driving, so I feel absolutely fine.
For qualifying tomorrow, we’re going to try to push it to the maximum. Our aim is to get closer to the back of the established teams as much as we possibly can so I’m always pushing, always to the maximum, and let’s see where we are tomorrow afternoon!

Jarno Trulli – 20th: It was a better day for me today after some of the luck I’ve been having. I had one or two gremlins, but it was a good day to shakedown the new chassis properly and make sure everything was working well. We got a good idea of where we want to be on the setup and the direction for Saturday and Sunday, so I think this was much better for me. On track there was good grip out there this afternoon, and the car felt good, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.

Mike Gascoyne, Chief Technical Officer: It was a good day for us. Obviously the first session was dominated by tyres and the condition of the track, with a lot of graining on the fronts, but, as expected, the track cleaned up and we were able to get through the whole program with no real issues on either car. We’ve got a lot of data from today and I think we’re where we expected to be, but I think there’s more to come from the car, so I’m optimistic about our performance over the weekend.

Tony Fernandes, Team Principal: I’ll be in Spain tomorrow to join Clive Chapman, his family and the whole team to enjoy this momentous race. I wanted to come in today, but couldn’t get a seat on AirAsiaX so I’ve had to jump on board one of the competition’s planes to get me in, but I’m very excited about the weekend ahead, particularly after the very solid start today. It’s been good to see our reliability return on both cars today, and I’m hopeful we can put in a good showing tomorrow and on Sunday.

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