Lotus ART wrapped up its 2011 GP2 Series season with a win in the second race of the exhibition weekend at Abu Dhabi thanks to the remarkable mastery of James Calado, a rookie in the category, who started from the pole position thanks to his 8th place finish in the first leg. First blood, first pole, first win, James managed track conditions, tyres, and more experienced competitors ideally, in order to bring home his first GP2 Series win.
Esteban Gutierrez first set the tempo with the best time in the free practice session with a half-second lead over second place. Unfortunately, the Mexican driver suffered a transmission problem in qualifying and started from 8th position on the starting grid for the first race. In fourth position going around the first corner, he was bumped by a competitor and had to have his rear wing changed. Starting in 21st in the second race, Esteban moved up to 5th place despite the inherent difficulties in overtaking on the Yas Marina circuit.
Esteban Gutierrez: “We did great in practice but it's in qualifying and in the race that things count and even though we had the sheer speed and the good balance on the car we had a problem with the gearbox and could not complete the qualifying session, which compromised our weekend. Having said that, eighth on the grid was not that bad and I had a good start, I gained several positions but I soon felt somebody hit me hard by behind. My rear wing was badly damaged and I had no choice but to enter the pitlane to change the wing. I resumed my race dead last and fought back but, having lost so much time, I could not do better than P21. With nothing to lose in the second race, I had a lot of fun and some great battles. On the positive side, I'm sure we can build on this interesting experience for next season. We leave with a positive balance. Personally this has helped my confidence, both mentally and emotionally. Now we look into the future and the things to come. I want to thank all my sponsors and Lotus ART for what has been a fruitful rookie season in the GP2 Series. I can't wait for 2012 to start.”
James Calado: “One word: awesome! This weekend was the perfect rehearsal before 2012 and we made the most of it thanks to Lotus ART and Racing Steps Foundation. I had so many things to learn with the pit stop, the tyre management and above all the need to drive at 70% of what I was able to in order to be in good shape for the last laps. Lotus ART helped me a lot to develop these skills and I have to thank them. There's still a long way to go before the 2012 season starts but I feel confident. I made sure to stay away from the chaos in the first race. From then on, 8th was the best I could achieve and I stuck to this aim. Starting from pole was an incredible feeling on Sunday. I tried to open a gap but Ericsson caught me and I knew with his experience it was always going to be tough. I was not too worried because I could manage my tyres and because I was faster than him in the last sector. It was tight but I could keep a small gap and we made it. It's really good to win the award from Pirelli and it makes things a bit easier for next season. I'm looking forward to the start of winter tests!”
Frederic Vasseur: “Unlike many rookies who crack under pressure, James never let doubt creep in and he had a perfect weekend, particularly his second race. Esteban missed out on success in qualifying and in the first race, but he confirmed on Sunday that he is an exceptionally gifted driver. Finishing the year with a win and an excellent performance level is very encouraging and motivating for the work we that awaits us this winter and next year.”