Round 2 of the 2012 F1 feeder series, GP2, saw the black and gold Lotus cars reach the podium three times in the weekend’s two races.
Esteban Gutiérrez started on the front row for Race 1, just behind Davide Valsecchi, while team-mate James Calado started seventh. The Englishman suffered mysterious handling issues which dogged his weekend, but his pace was still clear to see. In the race, he got up to P2 while Esteban had a slow pitstop and slid down the field only to recover in style. Taking Johnny Cecotto for P5, the Mexican was forced off the track and across the sand, but still made his thrilling move stick. Battling with tyre degradation, James was passed by Luiz Razia and then Esteban for fourth. While Calado had to accept fifth position, Gutiérrez set off after Max Chilton’s Carlin and, on the final lap at the last opportunity, he nailed him and slammed the door shut. Third place, and a very happy Mexican.
The results meant Calado started Race 2 in fourth and Gutierrez sixth. And what a start it was. Down into Turn 1 the Englishman stole the lead while Esteban chased in third. Fabio Leimer was sandwiched between them and on Lap 2 was mugged by Esteban on the main straight. The two Lotus team-mates fought each other hard for the lead, a slight contact snapping off a small but not insignificant part of Gutiérrez’ front wing. Calado locked up into Turn 1, they touched, and Leimer came between them again. Struggling at the front, the chasing pair managed to slip passed Calado who would finish in third. Then Leimer was given a drive-through for ignoring yellow flags, and that promoted Gutiérrez to the lead. Behind him, though, Valsecchi had been nursing his tyres and was ready to pounce. On the final lap the Italian DAMS racer took the position, with Gutiérrez and Calado crossing the line to seal a double-podium for Lotus – the first of the day, but not the last.
Esteban Gutiérrez : “It was a very positive weekend for me, with two podium finishes. I hope we can build on this consistency for the rest of the season and make a small step forward so we can fight for wins every time.”
James Calado: “Around right-hand corners the car understeered terribly. It was like the front left wheel was off the ground. So this is something we need to look into. We made some changes after Race 1 but they only made the problem worse. It led to the tyres overheating, and that made it extremely difficult. So given that, I think we can feel very fortunate to finish where we did.”