The Lotus F1 Team embarked on an aggressive strategy in Shanghai that saw both drivers pit twice. The gamble worked for Romain Grosjean, who improved on his tenth place grid slot to come home sixth, while Kimi Raikkonen fell back. The Finn started an excellent fourth place and ran as high as second during laps 41 to 47. Having pitted for the second set of medium tyres four laps before Romain, he suffered huge degradation and was swamped by his rivals during the final laps. Grosjean’s sixth place yields eight points – the first of his F1 career.
Kimi Raikkonen: “Up until the last ten laps it was looking quite good, but we ran out of tyre performance at the end. We had good pace in the race, we tried a different strategy and it didn’t pay off. It’s as simple as that.”
Romain Grosjean: “It was a very good race, I really enjoyed it. To be up there fighting with McLaren and Red Bull is a great feeling and I’m happy to have got my season started properly. We’ve had high hopes since P3 on the grid in Melbourne, and now after a few setbacks it’s time to aim higher.”
A tough weekend for the Lotus-engined teams in California. Having been sidelined for much of practice and qualifying due to bad weather and a water pump issue, Lotus HVM’s Simona di Silvestro suffered an engine failure 11 laps from the end of the 85 lap race, demoting her to 20th. Lotus Team Barracuda BHA’s Alex Tagliani, who qualified tenth, struggled during the race and was also hit by EJ Viso, forcing him to pit for a new front wing. Ultimately, he retired and registered 21st place. Lotus Dragon Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais finished 17th after hitting a tyre wall and losing two laps. His team-mate, Katherine Legge, also lost her front wing – she crossed the line in 19th. The highest Lotus finisher was DDR’s Oriol Servia. He dropped two laps due to a kafuffle in the pits, but passed champion Dario Franchitti on the last lap for 15th. However, a car pile-up bumped him back down to 16th, after he stalled and needed his crew to push him across the finish line.
Oriol Servia, Lotus DDR: “We lost a wheel nut and that's what put us two laps down. Not the best day out there, but I'm really happy with the team, they kept their heads down and in the end that's what will give us the results."
Alex Tagliani, Lotus Team Barracuda BHA: “I think the car was decent in the race. We made some passes and I think the car would have been good to have a decent finish if we ran the whole race.”
Simona De Silvestro, Lotus HVM Racing: “We had issues in practice and qualifying and only ran like six laps total going into the race, so we were excited to be running such a great race. We had good pit stops and only 11 laps to go when we lost the engine, so it’s really frustrating. Not fun!”
Sebastien Bourdais, Lotus Dragon Racing: “I lost the car on brakes, lost the rear, and went sideways. By then, it was too late, I was in the tyre wall. I thought for sure the car was all broken, but when I checked for damage, there was nothing, When the safety team got me going, I was two laps down, but decided to bring it home.”
Lotus AJR’s Evora took the chequered flag in its first ALMS race at the weekend, at Long Beach. Bill Sweedler was at the wheel at the start of the race and was hit from behind as he braked to avoid a stopped car. He was spun around and then, moments later, hit for a second time which caused severe damage to the exhaust and robbed the Evora of valuable horsepower. The crew made repairs, but Sweedler and team-mate Townsend Bell were down several laps. They soldiered on to take the flag.
Bill Sweedler: “It was an unfortunate start. There was pile up in the Fountain Turn, I got hit from behind by a GTC car and he spun me. I was getting back underway when a prototype came in and hit me harder. That caused the exhaust pipe to be crimped by about 90-degrees, so we were putting out about one-tenth of the horsepower. The guys did a good job to make the repairs and keep us going.”
Townsend Bell: “The team hustled and worked hard to replace the exhaust and keep us in the race. It was nice for me to go out and drive this car against competition for the first time. We have a long list of things to work on with this car. We are realistic about the challenge ahead of us. I got to ride around the streets of Long Beach in a fast Lotus today, so that wasn't all bad.”
The Lotus Cup UK and Elise Trophy seasons got underway at Silverstone this weekend. In the Elise Trophy races Steve Quick and Rob Boston took one win each, whilst Martin Donnelly and Steve Williams (owner and fellow co-driver of SW Lotus) achieved a great result for the debut of their newly built GTN Evora S race car which was up against some well established competition and secured a ‘best in class’ victory.
Martin Donnelly commented “Qualifying went very well considering the car had only just been completed that morning! I am very pleased with the result. We were third overall and fastest in class which is incredible considering the timeframe we had to get the car ready! With some more track time between now and our next race at Brands Hatch, which supports the German DTM Championship, we will be looking for the outright win.”