Team Lotus continued to lead the way amongst the new teams after Heikki Kovalainen secured another strong finish at the Buddh International Circuit - taking 14th place in the Indian Grand Prix.
Yet again Kovalainen was able to demonstrate that Lotus can mix it with the established teams with the Finn running as high as tenth and looking relatively comfortable while doing so and beating the Williams of Rubens Barrichello.
The Finn did concede that car wasn't as comfortable on the harder prime tyre, something the team will have to work if they want to challenge for higher positions regularly while the 2008 Hungarian GP winner was also critical of the HRT's, criticising their slow response to the blue flags - a comment which outlines the position Team Lotus now finds itself in.
“I had another good start, maybe not quite up there with the last two races, but avoided the problems in turn one and three and from there I had a really strong race," he said. "At one point I was running tenth and the car felt great all afternoon. I was still in it after the first stops and as the fuel level dropped I was able to keep pace with Senna ahead, and keep a gap to the cars behind, but when I went onto the hards it was much harder to keep up the pace.
"I was also seriously held up by the HRTs when they had blue flags shown to them. I think they held up Lewis as well and they definitely cost me quite a lot of time. I probably wouldn't have finished any higher, even without them holding me up, but when we're pushing as hard as we are, and fighting with midfield cars, it's a good feeling, for me and the whole team.”
Unfortunately for team-mate Jarno Trulli, his afternoon wasn't as strong or straightforward after his opening lap collision with HRT's Indian driver Narain Karthikeyan left his Lotus pointing the wrong way round with a rear right puncture whilst sustaining damage to his floor, compromising his aero levels and performance. The Italian could only limp home to 19th place.
“The bad luck struck again," he said. "I had a pretty good start but then one of the HRT's hit me from behind as we came out of turn three and that was basically the end of my race. I had a puncture and had to do almost a full lap to get me back to the pit, so from that position there wasn't anything I could do. I think the car suffered some damage to the floor when I was hit as the balance had completely gone for the rest of the race and I just couldn't put any decent times in.
"Despite that this has been another good weekend for the team. Our reliability has been strong, Heikki's pace in the race was good so I just hope I have better luck in the last two races and help make sure we secure tenth in this year's championship."
Team Lotus chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne was naturally pleased with the pace Kovalainen shown but was equally mixed after Trulli's disappointing race. Gascoyne however commended the progress his team have made once again and even spoke of the possibility of scoring their first ever point.
From a man who is renowned for simply 'telling it like it is', this has to be very encouraging for everyone involved.
"Yet again we showed the progress the team has made throughout the season and we are continuing our strong end to 2011," he said. "Now we have two more races to look forward to – two more chances for us possibly to score our first point, but, more importantly, to finish tenth."
by Simon Evans