Lotus ART started the fourth GP2 Asia Series season on the right foot despite going into the championship opener at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi with a few reservations after some very close winter testing. Lotus ART delivered a strong and very rewarding weekend, with young French driver Jules Bianchi secured a strong result in qualifying, second, followed by his maiden win in the series in the opening race.
The first race was red flagged on lap one due to an accident involving Dani Clos and Liuz Razia but thirty minutes later when it got back underway, Bianchi, took to the lead and never looked back. He handled the position with authority and intelligence despite constant pressure from Romain Grosjean from start to finish Sent back to eighth place due to the reverse grid regulations in race two, Bianchi then fought back strongly to cross the finish line in fourth place overall as well as securing the fastest lap of the race. However, due to a post race penalty for overtaking under yellow flags, he dropped back to eighth. He now leads the championship with a total of twelve points.
Meanwhile, teammate Esteban Gutierrez, who qualified ninth in his maiden race in the championship, was the highest placed rookie driver in the field until he was hit by a mechanical gremlin ion race one, which forced him to retire. This meant that the reigning champion of the GP3 Series had to start race two from the back of the grid, but despite his handicap, the Mexican driver fought strongly to reclaim several positions and eventually cross the lie in twelfth place overall. Through the course of the weekend, Estaban made the most of the situation and learnt a great deal about this very competitive series.
Jules Bianchi: "What a great achievement! The winter tests were good and we did a great job optimizing the new car with the new tyres but you never know for sure where you are standing until the first race of the season. I was confident for qualifying because I knew where I could improve, but I hit traffic and I made a few mistakes. Starting from the first row on a circuit where it is extremely hard to overtake, I knew the start and the first lap would be crucial. I had a good start and I was in the lead arriving in the first turn but the red flag broke my momentum and I tried not to think too much about the race during the interruption. I had a good re-start but it was never easy as Romain pushed hard from the first to the last lap. It is the best way to start the season and I thank the team and all our partners. Despite our success this is no time to rest on our laurels as we have to make sure we are in good shape in Bahrain as soon as next week."
Esteban Gutierrez "I can't say I'm 100% happy with the way the weekend developed but at the same time the most important thing is that I feel very good inside the car, I improved all the time and we are headed in the right direction. This is a learning phase and we already have the assurance that we can fight for points, which is a fantastic feeling for my first weekend in the most competitive series after F1. To be in the top 10 for my first qualifying was a nice reward for our hard work and it opened up some good perspectives, as to finish the first race in the top 8 is the key to a good weekend in the GP2 Series. Unfortunately right from the start I felt the clutch was letting me down. I raced to gain some valuable experience then we decided to call it a day. The second race was very interesting because I fought hard in the core of a strong field and to win lots of battles, to see the chequered flag and to have a faultless race when experienced drivers did not, is very encouraging. I hope we will keep this momentum for Bahrain, but without the mechanical gremlins!"
Frederic Vasseur: "To start the season with a win and the leader in the championship is extremely satisfying. We knew we could be strong after the winter tests but then again it does mean you are going to dominate in a series which is so competitive and introduce a new car and new tyres. Jules was clever handled the weekend with perfection and it is good to see him get the result he deserved after such hard work and a tough year in 2010. I must say Esteban impressed Lotus ART greatly in his maiden weekend in the GP2 Series. He was unlucky the transmission failed in the first race, but his commitment, raw speed and zero mistakes over the weekend bodes well for the future."
-source: art gp