Formula One’s feeder series stayed out in Bahrain for a second successive weekend, with Lotus GP hoping to repeat their brilliant triple-podium performance. However, a poor qualifying session made Race 1 rather frustrating.
Both cars sat out practice in order to save tyres, but found the track conditions were very different come quali without the benefit of sticky F1 rubber. Traffic, too, cost the team dearly. Esteban Gutiérrez could only muster P13. Team-mate James Calado continued to struggle with the balance issues that dogged him a week ago, and lined up 22nd.
Esteban made a good start but then tangled with a rival and had to pit for a new front wing, dropping him to 21st. It made sense to change tyres too, but this meant his second stint was painfully long. He fought hard for a points-paying position and, with a post-race penalty for Felipe Nasr, was rewarded with 10th. Calado’s woes continued. He stalled on the grid and had to start from the pitlane. His ill-handling car destroyed the front tyres and he had no choice but to pit twice for new boots and finally finished 17th.
Race 2 proved a stronger showing for Lotus’ Mexican. Esteban sliced through the field up to third but with the chequered flag in sight the tyres started to crumble and he was forced to settle for fourth. Calado’s race was slightly happier than his last, with a number of overtaking opportunities coming his way. He finished 12th, a five-place improvement on where he started.
Esteban Gutiérrez : “My wing was badly damaged at the start of Race 1, and that made life very difficult. Not only did I drop to the back of the field, but I had to wait for the pitstop window to open so as to avoid two-stopping. In the circumstances, we adopted the best strategy we could and I was also very happy with the balance of the car. I was able to fight back and, thanks to another driver’s penalty, I earned one point – so the day could have been worse. Race 2 was very interesting. I pushed very hard at the start and made some decisive passes. However, this cost me tyres and I paid the price for it at the end. Fourth place is not so bad, but I know I could have finished on the podium had qualifying been better. Having said that, we have a quick car and that gives us confidence.”
James Calado: “It was a terrible weekend with the same car handling troubles we had last weekend. We thought we had fixed it but the car was under-steering and it was destroying my front tyres, I just couldn’t find any grip. We changed everything we could: dampers, suspension and everything. We have to fix the handling problem in time for the Spanish races. I know what this team is capable of, and I will keep the faith.”