As he has increasingly hinted since being dropped for the German Grand Prix, Jarno Trulli will remain with Team Lotus for a third season in 2012.
Even ahead of this weekend's Italian Grand Prix, the veteran suggested that his future in F1 was assured, but it was not until raceday morning at Monza that Team Lotus announced that it had extended his contract into his third season.
Trulli's future in the top flight was called into question when he was dropped in favour of reserve Karun Chandhok at the Nurburgring, but his mood has been more positive since coming back in Hungary, where the introduction of a new power steering system appeared to coincide with the end-game in his contract talks.
“I am very pleased that we have been able to confirm today that my contract with Team Lotus has been extended into 2012," the Italian noted, "The challenge I first accepted when I joined the team is becoming more exciting every day, and I am very proud that I can keep helping the team take steps forward for at least another year. I would like to thank Tony, Kamarudin and Nasa for the chance to keep working with them, Riad, Mike and the whole team and I am looking forward to the challenges that lay ahead.”
Trulli, a former Monaco Grand Prix winner, was first confirmed alongside Heikki Kovalainen in late 2009 and has played an integral role in the development of the team, from its entry into the 2010 world championship to its current position, closing the gap to the established teams and laying the foundations for a long-term challenge, in 2011.
“We are all delighted that we have been able to reach an agreement to keep Jarno on board for at least one more year with our team," team principal Tony Fernandes confirmed, "He has shown in qualifying in Monza just how much pace he has and how he can wring every last drop of performance out of his car and, since day one with us, he has brought a level of professionalism, insight and raw speed to our team that has helped accelerate our development on and off track. Today's announcement will give us the benefit of his experience and knowledge into 2012, another very important year in the growth of our team.”
Ironically, Trulli admitted earlier in the week that the revised power steering system on the T128 still isn't perfect, and it may be that he has to revert to the unloved older system at future events, even though he was happier with Saturday's performance at Monza.
“I'm really happy with the job the team has done today," he reported, "and I think I got the most I could out of the car, particularly on the second run. There's only really one line here in Monza – it's not a particularly technical circuit, but you need to be extremely precise and, with the power steering system we had in Hungary back on the car, I'm able to feel my way around the whole lap, which gives me the chance to put in laps like I did to get into the 1min 26s. The car has definitely improved since yesterday - we found the balance we were struggling for in FP1 and FP2 and I think that puts us in a good place for the race tomorrow.”
Trulli out-qualified team-mate Kovalainen for only the second time this season, and the Finn was at a loss to explain the difference between them.