Another Race, Another 10 Points in the Bag for Lotus F1 Team
As the heavens opened at the Sepang International Circuit, Romain suffered a bout of bad luck, while Kimi managed to pick his way through the crowd to take home a good haul of points from Malaysia.
A matter of minutes before the scheduled 16:00 start time, the grid became a flurry of activity as rain began to fall on the grid. Within seconds the track was sufficiently damp to warrant a switch onto intermediate tyres before the lights went out.
Romain got a phenomenal start, launching well and using his KERS to weave his was up to P3 on the run down to the first corner. However the Frenchman’s poor fortunes from Australia continued as contact with Schumacher at turn 5 left him facing the oncoming traffic, subsequently dropping to P20. Things were to get even worse for Romain, as severe aquaplaning through turn 5 on just the third lap sent him backwards into the gravel and out of the race.
Conversely, Kimi struggled to get his E20 off the line, but managed to find a path through the confusion that unfurled during the first few corners to sit in P9 at the end of the first lap. Huge forks of lightning and torrential rain ensued, as the safety car emerged to bring some calm to proceedings. As giant raindrops continued to fall Kimi pitted for wets, falling to P13 before an immense downpour brought out the red flags and a break in the action of almost hour.
After a safety car restart the team immediately brought the Finn in for an early switch over to intermediate tyres, which proved the right call as Kimi moved up 3 places during the stops, with another position gained as Button collided with Karthikeyan. Progress continued for the former World Champion, as he jumped up to P6 by lap 16 as rivals once again dove into the pit lane for fresh rubber.
With the DRS enabled on lap 20, Kimi honed in on the back of Vettel, following the German past his compatriot Nico Rosberg on lap 24, pulling off a superb move around the outside of turn 1 after engaging the DRS down the straight.
As the laps fell away, Webber began to pile on the pressure as the team chose to remain on the intermediate tyres despite a drying track, with further rain forecast in the coming moments. Unfortunately this was not to be, and having final pitted for slicks on lap 41 Kimi was jumped by Webber who came in 1 lap earlier to put on the dry tyres.
Having withstood further pressure from Senna and Di Resta, the Finn jumped another place as a puncture for Vettel on lap 47 moved him back up to P5.
The remainder of the race was a lonesome affair, and in clear air Kimi set the fastest time of the day on lap 51, and then again on lap 54 to become the only driver in the 1 minute 40 second bracket by the time the chequered flag dropped.
All in all a mixed day for the team, but with more points in the bag and further signs of encouraging pace in varying conditions at a number of different circuits, the outlook is one of optimism for the coming races. As we head to China, Kimi occupies 7th place in the Driver’s Championship, the luckless Romain sits in 24th, while Lotus F1 Team hold 5th position in the Constructor’s Championship.
My visor got so dirty in the opening laps it was hard to even see anything.
Kimi Räikkönen – “We Just Need the Chance to Really Show What We Can Do”
Kimi runs through his first wet weather experience in the E20, after another resilient race performance saw the Finn climb five places, and take home a useful haul of points for the team.
Kimi, it was a pretty eventful race out there today. How was it from where you were sitting?
I was a big handicapped to be honest as I didn’t know what to expect from the tyres. I’d only done one installation lap on the intermediates before today so it was tricky to predict how the car would behave. I spent the first part of the race trying to explore the limits and pushing as far as I felt comfortable without going off the track. My visor got so dirty in the opening laps it was hard to even see anything, especially with the spray. When you look at the whole weekend fifth isn’t a bad result but we’ll be looking for more at the next race.
While you may have been hoping for more, in such an unpredictable race it must be satisfying to bring home some points for the team?
It’s good to get more points on the board and obviously P5 is an improvement on qualifying after the penalty, but I think with more knowledge of the wet tyres we could have been further up. Once we switched to the slicks the pace was very good, so under different conditions today had the potential to be a very strong race for us.
When the race was stopped and you climbed out of the car to shelter from the rain, did it bring back memories from 2009? Were you tempted to grab a Coke and an ice cream?
[Laughs] Not this time; the difference today was that I was still in the race so no need!
Two good race performances under your belt now on different tracks and varying conditions; does this give you confidence going to China?
Hopefully we can have a ‘normal’ race weekend with no penalties, crazy weather or other setbacks! It would be good to have a trouble free weekend so we can see where we really stand, as it’s hard to tell after the first two races with so many factors affecting our results. We seem to have a very strong package, we just need the chance to really show what we can do over a whole weekend.
Romain Grosjean – “We’ve Proved We Have the Speed”
Another cruel end to an otherwise strong weekend for Romain in Malaysia, as torrential rain resulted in an early exit at the Sepang International Circuit. The unlucky Frenchman talks us through his race.
Romain, bitterly disappointing to be talking to you so early in the day, especially after more bad luck in Melbourne. What happened out there?
There was a lot of standing water at turn 3 and it was a struggle just to keep the car on the track. When we got to turn 4 Mark (Webber) managed to carry a bit more speed through the corner and edged in front. Michael (Schumacher) tried to follow him through but there was not enough space so we touched and I spun. From there things became really tough. The visibility was so poor I couldn’t see anything in front of me. We made the decision to stay out on the intermediate tyres but the rain got heavier and there was far too much water. I had massive aquaplaning into turn 5 and unfortunately ended up going backwards into the gravel. Once you head in there facing the wrong way it’s almost impossible to get back out.
You had a few issues getting of the line in Melbourne, but that start today was fantastic. Can you talk us through it?
We got a perfect start. The team did a great job giving me the right setup for the wet even though we hadn’t run in these conditions before. We got a good jump on the others and with the KERS I managed to weave through the cars in front without touching anybody. Coming out of the first two corners we were up to third which was an amazing feeling.
Unfortunately you didn’t have many laps today, but how did the car feel on your first proper run with the intermediate tyres?
It’s difficult to say really. On the first lap the tyres were cold and the field was really close so it was very slippery. Then we had the incident at turn 4 and from there the rain got heavier making it almost impossible to see. It would have been good to have more time to see how the tyres work but that’s how it goes.
You’ve mentioned the spray and how poor the visibility was out there; how do you know where to brake, turn and so on?
You have to try and spot different things around the track, as looking for the markers is pointless; you just don’t have the visibility to see them through all the spray. For example, as a distance guide for turn 1 you can use the lights as the pit lane exit. It’s a challenge, but you just have to pick out reference points and judge the conditions as best you can.
Although you’ve had terrible luck in the first two races, it must be encouraging to know that you have the pace to run at the front of the pack?
Absolutely, and I have to thank the team for that as they have been doing an unbelievable job to get us where we are. It’s just a shame we couldn’t build on that good start because we were right where we wanted to be; up there fighting for a podium. We’ve proved we have the speed, and with a little bit more luck we have a real chance to be battling at the front of the pack.