The opening phase of Lotus Racing's 2010 campaign ended with another solid performance in China as the Anglo-Malaysian outfit not only cemented its position at the head of Formula One's 'new' teams, but also, for the first time, came out in front of an established rival.
Heikki Kovalainen dealt superbly with the tricky conditions at Shanghai International Circuit, making a bold call to stay out on dry tyres early on, when most of the pack opted for wets. The Finn's reward was to finish the race in 14th place, having enjoyed a tight battle with Nico Hulkenberg's Williams.
“This was a great way to round off our first four races," Kovalainen commented, "I think we had the correct strategy today, in what were pretty tricky conditions, and the pace was good, as we were again ahead of the other new teams and, this time, had a good battle with Williams.
"The decision to stay out early on dry tyres was made by me and the team together – it wasn't wet enough to come in and, as soon as the race started, I could see the rain had calmed down, so we agreed it was the right call to stick with the plan. The other cars on wet tyres were obviously struggling, so that worked out very well. It might not always work out like this for us, but today it showed we're a good team who make the right decisions, so I'm really pleased."
Team-mate Jarno Trulli wasn't quite so happy, however, having again attracted the Lotus team's bad luck. The Italian's race came to a premature end on lap 34 with the return of an old nemesis.
“It was a tough day out there from the start, which is a shame because we'd had a trouble-free weekend and I was able to push for quite a few laps," he sighed, "The conditions weren't too bad and I was enjoying myself , but I had more hydraulics issues which brought me in on lap 18. The team did a good job to get me back out again but, unfortunately, the problems struck again and I had to retire.
Chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne sympathised with his long-term F1 ally, before celebrating Kovalainen's achievement in coming home ahead of an admittedly tyre-troubled Hulkenberg.
“Whilst I'm obviously pleased, I want to say first how disappointed I am for Jarno," Gascoyne admitted, "He's had a lot of bad luck so far - it seems all our bad luck has been on his car, so apologies to him - but it was a fantastic race from Heikki.
"We judged all the calls correctly and were on the right tyres all the way through, so congratulations to the whole team for that. I'm also very pleased to see our race pace was very good, especially at the end on the wet conditions.”