There aren’t many great stories in the aftermath of the first Grand Prix in Bahrain, but one of them is the performance of the Lotus team, both of whose cars were classified finishers today. Heikki Kovalainen crossed the line in 15th place and Jarno Trulli was 17th, albeit he stopped on the circuit. But that may have been tactical so that the team can change a gearbox without penalty for the next race.
But Lotus had a great day, with perfect reliability and once they switched onto the soft tyre on lap 30, their pace was pretty good too. For most of that final phase of the race, Kovalainen was lapping in the 2m 02s, at the same time as the bulk of the established midfield teams were doing 2m 00s. At one stage Kovalainen even had a battle with the Williams of Nico Hulkenberg.
The Lotus team was celebrating in the paddock as if they had won a world championship and to them it felt like it. The project was only given the green light six months ago and to get a car designed, built and through to the finish in temperatures of over 30 degrees is a fantastic achievement. It is also a good base from which to move forward.
The car was designed conservatively, with a 20% margin on cooling and a fairly basic aerodynamic package. For Spain there will be a major development step, shrink wrapping the bodywork more closely and refining the aerodynamics. This will give them a step which could be measured at around a second, rather than in tenths.
“I’m completely over the moon,” said team boss Tony Fernandes. “I cannot describe the feeling. Six months of work and to have both cars finish is just unbelievable. We’re thrilled, we’re happy and the spirit in the team is fantastic.”
Fernandes said that the F1 teams had been largely positive towards Lotus over the weekend and he was proud that the team’s debut had been conducted in a professional manner. Both Fernandes and technical director Mike Gascoyne were both actively Tweeting during the race, Gascoyne saying at one point that he was going to bring forward Trulli’s pit stop for soft tyres.
This was a welcome addition to the media coverage of the sport.