“#wheresmypodium” tweeted the Lotus F1 Team throughout the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend. Having come close in each of the opening rounds, the obvious pace of the Lotus E20 and the unquestionable skills of Kimi Raikkonen and young hotshot Romain Grosjean, it was only a matter of time. Finally, in the Middle East, it came together.
Kimi qualified 11th, and in missing out on the Q3 cut-off he saved a set of Pirellis which would come in handy. Romain qualified seventh.
The start was scintillating from both Lotus drivers. Grosjean shot up to third, Raikkonen up to sixth. Then they set about picking off more rivals, and emerged from the pitstops second and third respectively. On soft tyres, Kimi was the faster of the pair and was allowed to overtake on Lap 24. Let off the leash, he began hunting down race leader Sebastian Vettel. Having reigned him in with DRS, and had a stab at the end of the straight, Seb and Kimi pitted together on Lap 39, the German maintaining his lead and slowly pulling away.
The Lotus is kinder to its tyres than the Red Bull but on this occasion Vettel’s RB8 was able to keep a gap to the fired-up Finn. They crossed the finish line a few seconds apart, with Romain taking his first F1 podium further down the road.
Lotus now leaps from sixth to third in the Constructors’ Championship, sandwiched between McLaren and Ferrari.
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 Gutierrez 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, Gutierrez 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 Gutierrez’ 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 Gutierrez 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 Gutierrez and Calado crossing the line to seal a double-podium for Lotus – the first of the day, but not the last.
Esteban Gutierrez: “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.”
Team Bullrun’s Evora GT4 crossed the line first in their class at the Donington Park endurance race and is leading the way at the top of the table after the second round.
David Green: “We are delighted with the win at Donington in difficult weather conditions and against strong opposition. The Evora performed very well with the constantly changing levels of grip and gave us added flexibility to adjust our race strategy accordingly. With a quarter of the season already gone we are exactly where we want to be - leading both the Class and Overall Championship."
Claudio Berro, director of Lotus Racing: “A fantastic weekend for Lotus Racing and well done to all the teams involved – the Lotus F1 Team, Lotus GP and Team Bullrun. It’s such a thrill to see a pair of Lotus drivers back on the podium. It’s been 33 years since we’ve had two F1 drivers up there, in their black and gold suits, and we’re all very proud. There’s plenty more to come from Kimi, Romain, and the Lotus E20 so stay tuned. Congratulations to our GP2 drivers, we saw some really spirited racing there. And it’s wonderful to see our Evora GT4 show the rest how it’s done in the Britcar series.”