Lotus has taken a big step towards securing tenth place in the constructors' championship after securing its best finish of the F1 season in Japan.
While the team has still yet to score a point, twelfth place for Heikki Kovalainen and 13th for Jarno Trulli cemented Lotus' position as the best of the newcomers, with the team having a superior finishing record to Virgin or Hispania in the fight for tenth and the financial rewards that will follow.
Barring a surprise result for either Virgin or Hispania in the final three races of the year, the Suzuka result could well be the one that secures tenth for Lotus in the standings.
"A really fantastic result for the team today,” chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne said. “Twelfth and 13th places are our best positions of the season so far, and I'm delighted for everyone that we had such strong performances from both cars today. Qualifying went very well this morning – we were just under a second ahead of the other new teams, and we carried that through to the afternoon.
“We had always planned to stop just one car if there was an early safety car, and that was the car ahead. When the Safety Car came out Jarno was in front so we pulled him in and put him on the primes. Unfortunately it took him a few laps to pass Yamamoto, and that really hurt his race strategy, and that, combined with the blue flags, meant Heikki stayed ahead of him on track. Despite that, it was a great race from both drivers. We had a small hydraulics issue on Jarno's car at the end, but it didn't slow him down and he was able to maintain 13th place. I want to say congratulations to the whole team for such a strong performance all weekend – this really was a job well done."
Kovalainen was understandably delighted with his best finish of the season, which was an improvement on the 13th place finish he took in Australia back in March.
"It was a wicked race, really absolutely fantastic for me, Jarno and the whole team,” he said. “We decided to start with the soft tyre, which was a little bit of a gamble, and then stayed out during the safety car. The target was to build up enough of a gap to allow me to pit without losing places to the guys behind and we did that, though it was very close with Jarno when I came out. On the harder tyre the car just felt brilliant - I had a huge amount of grip from the second set and it was a lot of fun to push for the rest of the race.
“Our pace was amazing - we were only lapped once and at this kind of circuit, where we needed to perform, we could not have done any more. An amazing day for the whole team, and now we're another big step closer to that tenth place, which is obviously the main aim of the whole season."