Lotus F1 Team kicked off the 2012 Formula 1 season with a day of mixed emotions in Melbourne. Kimi Räikkönen mounted a superb comeback charge, slicing through the field from his P18 grid slot to finish well inside the points in 7th. At the other end of the scale, Romain Grosjean’s fairytale weekend came to a cruel end on only the 3rd lap after contact forced him to retire.
Both cars started on the yellow marked soft compound tyres. Kimi made two stops, opting for a soft-soft-medium strategy. Romain retired before making a stop.
Romain’s retirement was caused by a collision with Pastor Maldonado at turn 13, where the Williams driver made contact with his right front wheel, breaking the steering.
Kimi started the race’s final lap in P10 and finished it in P7.
Kimi Räikkönen, P7, E20-03 “It feels like I’ve never been away. Yesterday we made some mistakes which cost us quite badly so it could easily have been better in the race. I made a good start but then there was an accident in front of me at the first turn, so we lost a few places there as I had to almost stop and move onto the grass to avoid it. That made the race harder again as we had the speed, but a lot of traffic to get through. When you look at all these things we could have finished in a much better position. We had the safety car which I think actually hurt us a bit as well. Overall the weekend was far from ideal, but the car feels good and to come back to 7th means we at least come away with some points.”
Romain Grosjean, DNF, E20-01 “I think we could have achieved a great result today. It’s frustrating as I really wanted to make the chequered flag and even the podium, but on the positive side the car is performing very well. I was keeping pace with the guys in front of me and everything was looking good. My start wasn’t great so we’ll need to have a look at the data. Then of course there was the collision with Pastor (Maldonado). From what I saw he braked far too late and hit my right front wheel which broke the steering and that was it; my race was over. The team deserved better because they have been working very hard, but by tomorrow morning it will all be a memory. We’ll move on to Malaysia now which is one of my favourite circuits and focus on getting a result there.”
Eric Boullier, Team Principal “We should be leaving Australia with mixed feelings, but actually we all have a little grin on our faces tonight. Yes, we had great expectations from Romain after his third position in qualifying, and seeing another car taking him out of the race early on was very disappointing. But on the other hand, the performance shown by the E20 this weekend makes us optimistic for the rest of the season. The team has produced a very solid car, responsive to set-up changes, and quick. It has been a tough winter, and I’d like to congratulate everybody at Enstone for their hard work which seems to have paid off. I’m proud to be part of a team that can take blows like we suffered in 2011 and still bounce back to show what we are made of. Kimi has been able to demonstrate that we have more than just single-lap pace; gaining 11 places in his first race after a two-year break is certainly a satisfying performance. We’re now all looking forward to Sepang, a completely different track, where we hope we’ll be able to put on another decent show. We think there’s definitely more to come from us.”
James Allison, Technical Director “Though we may have some disappointment from the race, when you look at the weekend overall we can be proud about how the car, team and our drivers have performed as it’s a much more satisfying story. Starting from P3 on the grid, we hoped for something better than P7. However, for Kimi to have converted his rather lowly grid position into a handful of points gives us some consolation. Most importantly, however, the car looks quick and we are optimistic of bringing home strong results with both cars in Malaysia.”
Ricardo Penteado, Renault Sport F1 Team Support Leader “Australia is a hard track engine-wise as we need to deliver responsiveness out of the slow and medium speed corners for good acceleration down the straights. However this makes fuel consumption very high, so careful engine management is needed. Across the weekend we’ve worked very well as a partnership, with a strong starting position for Romain and ultimately an excellent race result from Kimi giving us a decent amount of points from the first race. Our aim now is to build on this strong form in Malaysia, which puts a very different set of stresses on the RS27.”