Romain Grosjean may not have expected to appear on the podium in Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix
but, in doing so, he believes he has helped to show that Lotus F1 is a genuine contender for honours in the unpredictable 2012 season.
The Frenchman qualified seventh fastest in Montreal, despite a difficult Friday that saw both Lotus cars languishing in the bottom half of the timesheet. Given the drivers ahead of him on the grid, however, he admitted that a top five result would have been acceptable, so finishing second far exceeded expectations.
The key to Grosjean's success came in making just one stop for tyres, and making his second set last better than either Fernando Alonso
or Sebastian Vettel, who both saw podium finishes slip from their grasp in the final five laps. While Vettel pitted on lap 16 and Alonso three laps later, the Lotus was able to take its supersoft tyres to lap 21, before taking on the harder of the two Pirelli options. Already renowned as a car more sympathetic to its rubber than most in the field, the E20 was then able to run to the end of the 70-lap event, and without significant degradation, as the Ferrari
and Red Bull
either fell away or made a late second stop.
"We thought about going for a one-stop and see what was going on later on," Grosjean explained, "We knew, with the heat, we would be better today [than in the cold of Friday] but the question mark was 'can we go with the option tyres at the beginning', especially [knowing] that they are already two runs [old] from Q1 and Q3. But the car felt pretty good.
"When I put on the prime tyre, I didn't know what Nico Rosberg
was doing in front of me, or Mark Webber, so it was difficult. I was fighting with them, pushing quite hard, but I knew that I was trying to go for one stop and, finally, when I saw Mark coming in, my tyres were quite fresh. I didn't realise I was third, [but] I then I saw Fernando slowing down and I was second. It was a crazy end to the race because I was thinking P5 or P4, but the pace stayed there and the team did a fantastic job with the car."
Dedicating his second podium of the season to inured sportscar racer Guillaume Moreau, Grosjean admitted that running in traffic for much of the race made it more difficult to keep life in his tyres, even if those around him were clearly suffering more than the Lotus.
"It wasn't easy at the start because I was fighting in traffic and didn't know whether the guys were going to do one-stop, two stops," he confirmed, "I tried to jump Rosberg on a pit-stop, but it didn't work, so I was behind him again. When you follow a car, it's not easy to save your tyres and protect [them] a little bit. I know that we were trying to go for one stop [so, when] I saw Nico coming to the pit, I thought 'good news'. Then I caught Mark, [who] was on quite the same pace as I was, so it wasn't easy, but then he went to the pit as well. I couldn't realise [going] from P9, I think, on my pit board to P2 in a few laps. I didn't really understand what was going on, but I knew that we had to carry good pace.
"Lewis [Hamilton] was maybe cruising a little bit at the end. We were not cruising that much, but not trying to make any mistakes either. To be honest, when I was P5 or P4, I thought that would be a good result, having started in P7. I tried a little bit to catch Lewis, but you never know what's going on. It's not an easy race, we were asking a lot of the car and the tyres and so on. When you pit on lap twenty-something and you know there are seventy laps and you have to stay on one set of tyres, you never know when they're going to drop, so you are a bit cautious about that."
Having claimed third position, alongside Lotus team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, in the Bahrain Grand Prix, Grosjean has undergone something of a lean spell in recent races, including a first lap exit in Monaco two weeks ago. Bouncing back, not just with points, but with another top three finish, he believes, is proof that, along with the consistent E20, he can be a factor for the remainder of the year.