The first qualifying session of 2012 was a bit of a struggle for most of the Lotus drivers, but with anything possible during the race and with much-needed further testing just around the corner, everyone is determined to stay focused and keep looking ahead.
“We expected to do better than we did today in qualifying,” said Claudio Berro, Director of Lotus Racing. “There were no engine problems, but maybe we were too conservative on the way we prepared for this first qualifying. We need more testing to better understand the car. I know it’s frustrating for the drivers. Tomorrow’s race will be very interesting, with the times being so close. Strategy, pit stops, accidents, all of these will play a big role in the outcome of the race. We’re looking forward to doing a lot of testing afterwards.”
Alex Tagliani (# 98, Lotus BHA) was the highest qualifying Lotus-powered driver with a time of 1:02.6506, placing him 17th on the starting grid. He was pretty pleased with his overall performance. "The qualifying position is obviously not what we wanted, but we're the fastest of the Lotus teams. The Lotus BHA crew is doing a great job with all of the things we're trying. Right now, our focus will be on the race tomorrow and hopefully we can continue to make improvements so that we can move up through the field."
As for Lotus HVM Racing, after a great practice Friday afternoon, the team experienced a bit of a setback Saturday when the #78 driver Simona De Silvestro got stuck in traffic during qualifying. Unable to get a clean lap, De Silvestro will start tomorrow's Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on the outside of row 11. Clearly disappointed, De Silvestro said, "I think qualifying could have gone a little bit better. We struggled a bit with traffic, so we'll have a long race tomorrow starting from the back. But we'll keep fighting to go forward."
De Silvestro was the fastest of the Lotus-engined teams in yesterday's practice and the team had high hopes for a good qualifying run and strong starting position on tomorrow's grid.
HVM Team Manager Shane Seneviratne is still optimistic about tomorrow's race. "We didn't have the best qualifying session with the traffic, but I think we have a decent car to race with tomorrow. The team's done a great job. The engine side of things is picking up progress. We're looking forward to having a good race tomorrow.
Oriol Servia (#22, Lotus DRR) qualified 23rd for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. He clocked a lap time of 1:02.8771. "We're really disappointed. We knew that we didn't have the speed to challenge up front, but we definitely thought that we would be higher up. Again, it's the first race and we know that we lacked some testing and it's a new car. The important thing for tomorrow is to finish. For the first few events it's important to get points and that's what we are going to do."
Both drivers from Lotus Dragon Racing, Katherine Legge (#6) and Sebastien Bourdais (#7) will start respectively from 25th and 26th positions. Katherine had a bit of a mishap during the session, tapped the wall, and came into the pits for a nose change. "Certainly not the result we wanted, but overall, I am still happy with the progress we've made. We still haven't had much time in the car, so progress is so important right now to keep the team motivated. The team have done a fabulous job in such a short time. We are looking forward to continuing that progress tomorrow and I am excited to finally realize my dream to drive in the INDYCAR Series."
Sebastien Bourdais thought he may have over-driven his car this afternoon after doing well in this morning’s session. “I had a very good feeling with the car this morning, and we didn’t touch anything. We just put the options on, made a mess of it, and overdrove it. I felt good about the car overall and just don’t know what happened. For some reason, we just lost all stability, we lost grip. The car was pretty good on standard tires, and it just went away.”
The pole sitter is Will Power (Team Penske, Chevrolet), while reigning champion Dario Franchitti (Target Chip Ganassi, Honda) had a lackluster first qualifying of the year, starting 10th.
Sunday, March 25, 2012 (will be telecast live on ABC)
Local start time: 13h00
Number of laps: 100