Lotus Renault GP got both its cars home in the points at the Turkish Grand Prix, despite Nick Heidfeld and Vitaly Petrov making contact with each other early in the race.
Although both drivers qualified in the top ten on Saturday afternoon, there was no repeat of the sort of start that propelled the black-and-gold cars into starring roles in Australia and Malaysia, and Heidfeld and Petrov found themselves battling in the midfield for much of the race Their coming-together came on lap twelve after the pair went through turns 12-14 wheel to wheel, with Heidfeld showing his displeasure at almost being forced into the pit entry by his team-mate.
"That's not nice - it shouldn't happen," the German complained the British broadcaster BBC
after taking the flag in seventh place, ahead of Petrov, "He just pushed me wide and we made contact. It's not a safe thing to do."
Unsurprisingly, there was no mention of the incident in the team's post-race briefing, which preferred to focus on another healthy points haul as 'best of the rest' behind F1's three leading operations. Another ten points secured Lotus Renault GP's fourth place in the constructors' championship, with both drivers having contributed 21 points to the total. Heidfeld's engineers had planned an aggressive strategy in an attempt to catch Jenson Button's McLaren in the closing stages but, despite setting the fifth fastest lap of the race in his pursuit, traffic meant that he came up short.
"It's always good to score points, but I think I could have finished even higher up today," Heidfeld commented, after making the most of a four-stop strategy, "Even though I started in P9, I am not totally happy with the race. I was stuck in traffic for quite a while, overtaking was difficult and Vitaly made contact with me, but my pace was good, especially at the end, when the car was light on the soft tyres. I also think our strategy was the right one. Overall, to finish in P7 and take six points for the team is good, given that I did not qualify in a higher position.”
Petrov, who qualified two places ahead of his team-mate, also followed the preferred four-stop gameplan, but dropped behind Heidfeld in the race after also making contact with Michael Schumacher on lap two. He appeared to be heading for ninth, before catching and passing Sebastien Buemi on the final lap.
“It was an interesting race, and strategically it was challenging for all the teams," he reflected, "I think what really affected my position today was the collision with Michael early in the race. He hit my car and then I was stuck behind some slower drivers after the first pit-stop. If this had not happened, my race would have been much stronger and I could have pulled away. However, I was pleased to overtake Sebastien at the end, which took me back into eighth, and we must be positive. We have both cars in the points and it's another ten points for the team.”
"Going for four pit-stops was the right decision," team principal Eric Boullier confirmed, "There was no spectacular start from our cars, but we pitted at the right time to ensure both drivers finished in the points."
With technical director James Allison confirming that there would be more developments for the R31 in coming weeks, Boullier admitted that there team needed to work harder early in the weekend to get the most from a package that has slipped further form the front of the field since the start of the season.
"From here, we will push even more, as the result today was not as strong as it could have been," he commented, "We will be striving to get back into the top six, but we definitely need to work harder on Fridays to understand the tyre degradation, which will allow us to know where we stand for the rest of the weekend.”