Lotus GP will head to Spain in a strong second place in the 2012 GP2 Series Championship after securing a further nine points in last weekend’s second successive weekend at the Bahrain International Circuit. Round three of this year’s 13 round GP2 Series Championship took place in Bahrain’s searing temperatures once again with both Lotus drivers opted to sit the practice session out after completing just one installation lap in order to save their tyres as much as possible. With just an hour between practice and qualifying, there was little room for error.
Without the benefit of F1 rubber on the circuit, lap times were slower than those of last weekend. It turned out to be a difficult qualifying session, mainly in terms of traffic and while Estaban was a lot quicker than appeared, he was forced to settle for 13th on the grid after failing to improve on his final run. Meanwhile James Calado was unable to find the perfect balance on his car and like his teammate, found it hard to find enough grip in the front end. After a decent start in race one, Estaban found himself with a damaged front wing due to contact with one of his rivals, forcing him to pit earlier that planned. As a result his tyres were forced to undergo a longer than normal stint. After being the first driver to pit for fresh rubber, the Lotus GP driver fought hard to get back into a points position (10th).
Tyre degradation was higher than expected in race two and despite a brilliant drive from Esteban, slicing through the field before making it to P3 in the final laps, his tyres failed him and he was unable to hold onto the final spot on the rostrum. Meanwhile, teammate Calado, had a tough weekend. After stalling on the grid in race one he was forced to start from pitlane. This was followed by two pitstops, one unscheduled due to massive tyre degradation. Although he finished 16th overall, he set the fastest lap of the race. On the reversed grid in race 2, James had a better balanced car beneath him and got off to a good start, winning a few close battles with his nearest rivals to finish the event in 12th place.
The Championship now heads to Barcelona in Spain with Gutierrez third in the drivers' championship on with 54 points, nine points clear of fourth place while James is in sixth place with 29 points. Lotus GP is still second in the team championship with 93 points.
Esteban Gutierrez: Qualifying was frustrating and we all know it’s the key to a good weekend. I tried to gain a few positions at the beginning of the first race but it was the other way around and my wing was badly damaged in an early contact, dropping me down to 21th position. I had to wait for the pit stop window to be opened in order not have to pit twice. But our strategy was very good and I was happy with the balance of the car. It was good to fight back to 11th and I was happy to hear a driver got penalized which landed me one point, a nice reward for the team after such a difficult start to the weekend! The second race was very interesting because I knew I had to push hard in the first few laps to gain some decisive positions, but all the same it degraded my tyres and I paid the price in the end. 4th position was not so bad but I would have liked a better result and I know it can only come from a better qualifying. Having said that, the team's and the car's performance was really good and it's encouraging for the future. We need to work hard to be sure we're always in position to fight for the top spots in qualifying, to help with track position in the race, strategy and tyre management.
James Calado: It was a terrible weekend with the same car handling troubles we had last weekend. We thought we fixed it but the car was under-steering and it was destroying my front tyres, I just couldn’t find any grip. The front end tyre was so badly damaged that I had to pit twice in the first race which was already destroyed after I stalled on the grid. We changed all we could change: dampers, suspension and everything. It's very frustrating to know that you can't find the same basis as your rivals and use your full potential. We have to fix this handling problem in time for the Spanish races and I know this team is capable of an incredible good work. I will keep the faith; we'll bounce back in Europe.
Frédéric Vasseur: It was an extremely frustrating weekend because the results do not reflect the good work, inspired strategies and raw speed of Esteban and James. We chose to sacrifice a little in qualifying for the race, hoping that we would benefit from fresh tyres, but Esteban was blocked twice in traffic on his fast laps with both sets of new tyres. If you put all the sector times together, he got the 3rd fastest lap, but he was 10 places further down on the grid! Starting P13, our strategy was a bit screwed and definitely dead when Esteban had contact at the start which damaged his front wing. He was brilliant, smart and very fast. Fourth position in the second race is a good recovery but it does give justice to Lotus's and Esteban's potential. James's weekend was a nightmare with a technical problem in qualifying and a recurring handling problem in the race, which we have to address without delay.