Kimi Raikkonen opted for a risky tyre strategy to try and claim Lotus' first podium of the season in China, but it didn't pay off and he dropped down the order to finish well outside the points.
Raikkonen is a former winner at the Shanghai International Circuit, and for a while it seemed that it would once again be a happy hunting ground for the Finn. He ran fourth early on, but was up to second place by lap 41, at which point it became clear that he was going to try and run to the end on his second set of medium tyres.
He was still holding that place at the beginning of lap 48, but was soon passed by Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton and the train behind as his tyres fell off 'the cliff' and he was rendered defenceless.
“We tried to run two stops as it looked to be the fastest strategy and up until the last ten laps it was looking good, but we ran out of tyre performance at the end,” said the 32 year-old. “I was stuck behind Felipe [Massa] for quite a while and couldn't get past as I wasn't fast enough in the right parts of the track to make a move. But even if I'd got past I don't think it would have made the greatest amount of difference to the final result.”
Raikkonen spent a lot of time embroiled in traffic and was gradually slipping down the order by dint of pitting later than the drivers around him. Lotus' director of trackside operations, Alan Permane, insisted that this was a pre-planned strategy which simply didn't pan out the way they expected it to.
“Ten laps before the end of the race, Kimi's tyres were nearing the end of their life and unfortunately he got on the marbles when Sebastian passed. That was the end of his race effectively as he lost ten places over the course of a lap. We'll dissect the data and see if a three stop would have been better for us, but everything before the race suggested a two-stop was the way to go,” Permane insisted.
Team principal Eric Boullier meanwhile allowed frustration to seep through at his team's inability thus far to claim a podium, despite frequent strong showings.
"It is getting more frustrating for us as we are clearly very close to achieving a very good result. Twelve laps before the end of today's race we had one car in P2 and one car in P5 with no more pit stops to go. Unfortunately, we were a little bit too aggressive with our strategy. As soon as we understood some cars were doing three stops it was clear there was potential for us to finish on the podium, but we were not expecting the tyre wear to be as high as it was,” he added.
Raikkonen, for his part, however, refused to fixate too much on the result: “We had good pace in the race, we tried a different strategy and it didn't pay off today; it's as simple as that,” he concluded.
by Philip Barclay