For the second year in succession, the Enstone outfit has secured the last two podium places at the Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend, with Flying Finn Kimi Raikkonen and papa-to-be Romain Grosjean aiding the team’s charge to second place in the Constructors’ Championship behind Infiniti Red Bull Racing. This is as well as Kimi securing his third podium of the season, which puts him behind current points leader Sebastian Vettel.
Even an allergic reaction before the race didn’t stop the “Iceman,” who made great strides from P8, having started on the medium tyres, switching to the hard compound Pirelli P-Zero for his two stops on Laps 16 and 34. He may have suffered at the start, with too much wheel spin from the rear tyres, but his efforts during the race made up for the lack of pace the E31 was clearly missing to put both drivers higher up the grid.
“I’m happy for the team,” said the 2007 World Champion, even though he said that the team didn’t have the pace against Vettel, but were able to capitalize on their increased race pace to get on the podium. “You’re never really happy if you don’t win, but I suppose second place is as close as you can get. I drove to the maximum and the car had the pace that we missed in qualifying yesterday so it was a pretty good result.”
Grosjean was clearly ecstatic to secure his first podium of the 2013 season, even though he admitted that he hasn’t had the easiest of times from Melbourne, but said that the team made good progress throughout the weekend made him feel a lot more in tune with his car: “The result today is a deserved reward for everyone after all our hard work. It was a really enjoyable race with a lot of overtaking and a couple of tense moments along the way, so to come from P11 through to the podium is really satisfying.”
He also went on to say about the fact that being in the hunt means finishing, but finishing well every time out: “We’ve had consistency already, finishing every race in the points, but now it’s the big results we’re chasing and this is a very good start to that challenge.”
Team Principal Eric Boullier was delighted with the result for the team, but was clear in his statement that this time, their qualifying results were under their clear expectations, making things incredibly more difficult. The E31 was evolved to become more of a complete package but it didn’t seem to come together for both drivers when they called upon the cars to deliver when trying for flying laps: “The win was not quite within our reach after the start we made, but to come away with a double podium when the top six would maybe have been a more realistic pre-race target was a great performance from everybody involved. I’m delighted for the whole team here in Bahrain and back at Enstone; it’s a well-deserved result.”
Alan Permane described Lotus’ change in approaching the race from a strategic point of view, specially with how the E31 is kind on its tyres: “We chose an aggressive strategy with Romain, opting for a three-stop race from eleventh on the grid, and it worked perfectly. He was able to drive aggressively when asked and conserve his tyres when needed, so we are very happy as he delivered everything we wanted from him. With Kimi we used a two-stop strategy and relied on our long run pace. Considering he was suffering from an allergic reaction before he started the race it’s a very impressive performance indeed.”
As one of the teams on the grid that enjoys a very harmonious engine supplier partnership with Renault Sport F1, Team Support Leader Ricardo Penteado was clearly impressed with the fact that for the second year in a row, Renault power has locked out the podium at Bahrain. Formula One is also about highly-tuned components being pushed to the limit, and it was in the case for Grosjean this weekend, after his collision with McLaren’s Sergio Perez early in the race: “Kimi again drove an impeccable race, while Romain’s podium was even more impressive considering that the collision with Perez near the start blocked one of the cooling ducts, sending the oil temperatures some 20°C higher than average!”
Both parties now have a lot of positive energy moving into the European leg of the season, as the Circuit de Catalunya may see more from the gold and black liveries of both Lotus cars making their way to the forefront, being ones to keep your eyes on for the rest of the season…
(Images courtesy of Octane Photographic)