Kimi Räikkönen bagged his second podium on the trot in Barcelona, charging hard to finish third behind first time grand prix winner Pastor Maldonado and, by just half a second, Fernando Alonso.
The Finn was disappointed not to finish on the top step, though, claiming that the Lotus E20 had the potential to have won every race this year so far. Nevertheless, he is now fourth in the Drivers’ Championship, just 12 points behind leaders Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso.
Starting on the second row behind team-mate Romain Grosjean, he passed the Frenchman at the start. He held third till the second round of stops, and when Alonso pitted from the lead on Lap 45 the Iceman enjoyed two laps at the front, before being passed by the resurgent Maldonado. Struggling with degradation, he was soon holding up Alonso before pitting for late rubber on Lap 49 and then setting off on
a final sprint on fresh rubber. As the laps counted down he slashed the gap to Alonso by a couple of seconds a lap while the Spaniard struggled with grip. He entered the final of 66 laps 2.3 seconds behind the Ferrari and screamed across the line just 0.6 adrift.
Romain took the chequered flag just ten seconds behind his team-mate, securing fourth place. He had lost several positions at the start, and lost a bit of front wing to Bruno Senna which didn’t help matters, but he recovered to score 12 points.
Currently sitting third, the team now moves within 14 points of McLaren and 25 behind leaders Red Bull Racing in the Constructors Championship.
Kimi Räikkönen: “I had a good start, but I hit the rev limiter and couldn’t take the other two, and then we fell back too far in the middle stint. By pitting late the third time I had a lot of speed for the finish and, given one more lap, I probably could have overtaken Fernando, but that’s easy to say afterwards.”
Romain Grosjean: “Both cars finishing strongly in the points is great for the team. It was pretty difficult for me at the start of the race as it was hard to get the front working properly with the wing damaged, but we made some changes and at the end of the race the car was really flying.”
Lotus GP’s James Calado took a storming pole position and second place in Barcelona’s Saturday round, followed by a strong drive to fourth on Sunday to push his way up the driver’s standings to third.
While others, including team
-mate Esteban Gutierrez, were impeded by a yellow flag on their flying run in qualifying, Calado was two tenths faster than anyone else. In the race, traffic and a bold tyre strategy from rival Giedo van der Garde pushed Calado to second. Starting P7 in Race 2 he then battled Gutierrez through Turn 1 and then hunted championship leader Davide Valsecchi down but just missed out on the final podium place, finishing fourth.
Gutierrez left with five points to show for a testing weekend. Qualifying 11th because he had to abort what looked like a pole lap due to yellow flags, he finished Race 1 tenth and earned a further two points for setting the fastest lap. On Sunday he fought his way up to seventh.
Lotus GP sits second in the team standings on 128 points, behind leaders DAMS on 157.
James Calado: “Race 1 I started from pole and was quite aggressive with Fabio [Leimer] at the start. I was leading when I came into the pits but Fabio was right behind, and we left side-by-side. Giedo [van der Garde] only changed two tyres, which is how he managed to move ahead in the stops. We should look at that for Monaco because there’s obviously a lot of time to be found. From there I just tried to save my tyres, and had to make do with second. Race 2 I made a good start but then got boxed in at Turn 1, where Giedo and Esteban got past. Then I made it past him and Max Chilton too. I got right up behind Davide [Valsecchi] at the end there, but I couldn’t get past and seize third because the car was sliding around too much while I was in his slipstream and I was hitting the rev limiter at the end of the straight.”
Esteban Gutierrez: “The result is not ideal, and our qualifying position affected us a lot. But I did my best. I enjoyed the latter stages of Race 2 as I fought with Giedo [van der Garde], but unfortunately I wasn’t able to take sixth. Five points from this weekend is better than nothing, but I know we are capable of a lot more. We’ll keep pushing!”
Lotus’ American GP3 driver Conor Daly took his first GP3 win on Sunday at the Circuit de Catalunya, at the opening round of the 2012 GP3 Series.
On Saturday, he qualified his black and gold car on the front row behind Antonio Felix da Costa, with team-mates Aaro Vainio in P3 and Daniel Abt in P6. Abt made a jump start, managing to get into the lead before he being penalized. Meanwhile, Daly went backwards and finished sixth. Vainio battled throughout to retain his third place.
In Race 2, Daly started third. He outsprinted polesitter Robert Visoiu via the grass into Turn 1, while Tio Ellinas took the lead after a jump start. When he pitted for his drive-thru penalty on Lap 6, Daly was able to cruise into the lead and seal a popular victory. Vainio, meanwhile, finished fourth and Abt seventh.
After two races, Daly sits second in the championship behind Race 1 winner Mitch Evans. Lotus GP leads the Team’s Championship by three points.
Conor Daly: “It’s really cool. I made a mistake yesterday in Race 1, I didn’t have the best start, and I didn’t put ourselves in a good position. I was lucky enough to redeem myself today at the start. It feels so nice to have my first podium and my first win. It feels really good to be in this form heading to Monaco. The car has been really good. The Lotus GP guys have been fantastic, the way we have worked together during testing has been awesome.”
Team Bullrun’s Lotus Evora GT4 finished second in its class on Saturday at the Snetterton 300, just up the road from Lotus’ headquarters in Norfolk. Martin Byford’s qualifying lap was enough for third on the grid, and team-mate Richard Adams did the first stint of the three hour race. There were six safety car periods during the race, and two were particularly costly for Team Bullrun as they, with third driver David Green, had to unlap themselves twice. Nevertheless, they adapted their strategy and managed to move up a position, scoring the fastest lap along the way, to finish second. The team now leads the championship.
Richard Adams: “Our nearest rivals finished fifth, so this second place is really great news and now we lead the championship, which obviously feels fantastic. It wasn’t an easy race and we lost out twice behind the safety car, having to unlap ourselves. What really got us this result today was the Evora’s excellent fuel consumption. Driving behind the safety car for so many laps meant we were able to take a gamble and pit one time less than we ordinarily would have, and the gamble paid off.”
Lotus-AJR had a character-building weekend in Monterey, California, when they dealt with a series of technical issues which kept their Evora GT from the front. An engine issue meant the team had to switch to a 2011-spec powerplant and a lack of practice for driver Bill Sweedler meant the car had to start at the back of the grid. His team-mate Townsend Bell took the start, and he was catching his class rivals when the gearbox started to misbehave on Lap 22. After pitting for repairs it was Swedler’s turn, but he too was dogged by a half-shift issue.
ALMS will take its yearly break for teams to participate in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The next event will be the American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix, July 6-7 at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut.
Bill Sweedler: "It was a tough weekend all round. We are really pleased with how far the car has come since Long Beach, but we need some development and laps under our belt before we go to Lime Rock in July. I was able to turn some solid laps in the race when we went back out. It was nice to feel the progress that has been made by the Lotus AJR team since we ran at Long Beach three weeks ago. The team is going to continue on the development path during the Le Mans break, do some testing and keep moving forward."