A win for James Calado, Lotus-ART in GP2 and strong results at the ILMC race in China for Lotus Jetalliance overshadow disappointing F1 performance.
FORMULA ONE - ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX
Lotus Renault GP were disappointed to finish outside the points at the penultimate round of the FIA Formula One World Championship after another tough weekend.
Vitaly Petrov wrestled some technical issues in practice to pull out a maximum attack lap in qualifying, but that was still only good enough for P12. Bruno Senna, meanwhile, made a mistake on his single Q2 flyer and had to settle for 14th. From there, race strategy demanded a degree of gambling.
The Brazilian pitted on Lap 1 to exchange medium for soft rubber and then sprinted from the back. Meanwhile Vitaly played a more conservative game, which was not helped by a faulty DRS system. He crossed the line 13th while Bruno, who was handed a drive-thru penalty for failing to respond to blue flags, also battled with a KERS issue and wound up 16th.
Vitaly Petrov: “It was quite a frustrating afternoon because my DRS wasn’t working. We thought we could have a good fight with the cars in front, but we were pretty helpless. The pace was not good enough to score points, and that’s the reality.”
Bruno Senna: “Let’s be honest here – there’s not a crumb of comfort to take from that performance. We suffered from a KERS failure, drive-thru penalty and a car which was not on the money at this particular track. Put those together and you can see why I finished where I did. Overall my pace this weekend was as good as it could have been. Maybe for Brazil we will have a better baseline.”
GP2 SERIES FINAL – ABU DHABI
Lotus-ART took a lights-to-flag victory at Yas Marina Circuit on Sunday, finishing the final race of 2011 on a high. The non-championship showdown saw team-mates Esteban Gutierrez and series debutant James Calado united for the first time, ahead of Lotus-ART’s 2012 campaign. And it was Calado who took the spoils.
The Englishman was out-qualified by Gutierrez, starting Race 1 11th and eighth respectively. The Mexican made an absolutely blinding start and shot up to fourth before Stefano Coletti tagged the rear of his green-and-yellow car and bit half the wing off. Gutierrez soldiered on, setting the fastest middle sector despite his impediment. But on Lap 4 he had no choice but to pit, and this sent him to the back of the field and a lap down.
Calado, meanwhile, was patiently promoted, making up a place at the start and rising to eighth by the chequered flag. This put him in pole position for Race 2’s reverse grid, and he seized the opportunity by leading all 31 laps to the finish. It earned him a 15,000 Euro prize from Pirelli.
Gutierrez once again proved his pace, fighting his way through the field from his 21st place grid slot. By Lap 5 he was 14th, and by Lap 18 he was ninth. As Alexander Rossi and Fabio Leimer squabbled over fifth place, and the field bunched up behind them, he kept his head while others were losing theirs and came through to steal fifth on the final lap.
James Calado: “It’s a fantastic feeling. The emotion going over the line was incredible. To be at such a prestigious event and win is just great. I got a good start which was obviously key because around here it’s quite hard to overtake. I saw that Markus Ericsson was behind me and I knew it was going to be tough because he’s experienced on these tyres, but I managed to hold him off.”
Esteban Gutierrez: “Congratulations to James. He’s a great guy and it’s important for me to have a very competitive team-mate, so this weekend has confirmed to me that 2012 with Lotus-ART is going to be brilliant. We had strong race pace on both Saturday and Sunday. Unfortunately traffic and a gearbox issue meant I qualified further down the field than I would have liked. I made a very good start in Race 1 but was then hit and my car was damaged, and this is a familiar feeling as it’s happened a few times this year. So that ruined my race and made Sunday very difficult. Nevertheless, it was great fun cutting through the field and in the last couple of laps there was a real scrap going on for fifth position. I managed to come through unscathed and I think I can be very happy with fifth, having come from 21st.”
ILMC – SIX HOURS OF ZHUHAI
Lotus Jetalliance managed to get both Lotus Evora GTE’s to the finish of China’s sports car endurance meeting, claiming an impressive fourth and sixth place.
The Lower Austrian team also set the quickest time in class during free practice in heavy rain, courtesy of Lotus works driver James Rossiter. Martin Rich, Oskar Slingerland and Rene Rasmussen crossed the line P4 in the GTE/Pro class with team-mates Rossiter, Johnny Mowlem and David Heinemeier not far behind.
And the day was not without drama, as team manager Jan Kalmar explains: “We did have some problems, but in the end we can take pleasure from a great result. Above all our drivers were struggling with the heat in the cockpit and, on top of that, there were problems with the gearbox, a tire failure, two off-track excursions and hostile contact with a competitor. But we’ve come through all that in one piece today. Congratulations to the entire team.”
Group Lotus director of motorsport Claudio Berro sums up the weekend: “Congratulations to Lotus-ART and James Calado for victory in the final GP2 round of 2011. It’s been a great year for the team and I think the driver pairing of Calado-Gutierrez is a very special one which bodes well for next year. Well done too to our ILMC team, Lotus Jetalliance, and their strong result in China. The potential of the Evora GTE can be in no doubt. Finally, we hope that in Brazil, the final round of this year’s Formula One World Championship, we can get back in the points where we belong.”