Of the three new teams, Lotus F1 came out on top of Round One of the Stefan Grand Prix Championship and by all accounts, they can say that they achieved all of the targets they had sets themselves for the weekend.
Of the three new teams, Lotus F1 had the shortest amount of time to prepare for the first race of the season yet they seemed to be the most prepared. Throughout winter testing, the team were around 5 seconds off the pace. Considering that the Bahrain track time was about 30 seconds longer than Jerez and Barcelona, Hekki Kovalainens fastest lap time of 2.02.701 compared to Fernando Alonsos 1.58.287 shows that the team are making excellent progress.
In Qualifying, the Virgin Team landed the first blow against it’s rivals with Timo Glock lapping the Bahrain circuit 0.100 seconds faster than Jarno Trulli to qualify 19th. Hekki Kovalainen was a further half a second behind Glock in 21st place.
The main concern for the new teams entering the season was to find reliability. Indications during winter testing pointed to the fact that Lotus F1 had made this a priority with very little issues during these sessions. And so it was to prove correct with Kovalainen finishing 15th, two laps down and Trulli pulling up one corner short of the finish line with hydraulic failure, but being classified 18th. During the race, there was in interesting battle between Kovalainen and Glock, with the latter coming out on top. However, as proved during winter testing, the gremlins in the Virgin Racings hydraulic system came back to haunt the Red and Black cars, leaving both Lotus’ unchallenged to the finish.
Technical chief Mike Gascoyne was understandably pleased with the result, telling Autosport, “As we said, it does what it says on the tin. We said we would be a professional team, we would turn up, we would be ready and we would be reliable. Then we could work on the performance. I think actually in the race, the performance of our quickest lap was not too bad. A 2m02, while a lot of guys didn’t get below two minutes. Our pace wasn’t bad and we felt from all the running we had done actually that single lap was our problem, and we were better over longer runs. It was just good to get to the flag.”
He believes that the pace of the car will only get better throughout the season. “This is the worst we will do. We know we have a reliable car now, we know we need to put bits on it to make it quicker, but it has been a long six months. Everyone has worked so hard so it is a great lift for the team. And for Tony Fernandes, it’s fantastic for him to get a great finish like that because he deserves it having put his neck on the line to back the team. I am just very, very proud of everyone.”
Gascoyne is now keen to start challenging the established teams, with Toro Rosso first on his list. “We have to start qualifying better,” he said, “The Toro Rosso was the car ahead of us and the gap was a couple of seconds, but now, as is right in motor racing, we are focusing on the next team we have to beat. We have to close that gap down and start ticking that one off next.”
And for those who are Twitter users, Mike Gascoyne made history during the Bahrain Grand Prix by being the first Technical Director to use Twitter to announce strategy and race progression keeping the public bang up to date with all the goings on on the pit wall and in the garage. One can understand a team whose strategy is not going to win them podiums and points at the moment announcing these things via twitter, but just how long will it last if Lotus F1 are chasing those fringe points. However, for the time being, this author is all for this innovation. Mike can be followed here!