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First lap incidents hamper Lotus fightback
8 September 2013
It hadn't exactly been an idea lead-in to the Italian Grand Prix when neither Lotus managed to get through to Q3 in Saturday afternoon qualifying at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, but Kimi Raikkonen still had high hopes of improving on his 11th place on the grid and finishing in the points on race day.
Those hopes were effectively shattered by a first corner collision with the rear end of Sergio Perez' McLaren, which forced Raikkonen to pit lane for a replacement front wing putting him over half a minute down from the leaders.
"When I lost the front wing I had to come in and change to a new one meaning an extra pit stop which we hadn't planned," explained Raikkonen. "It's not just the time in the pits, but you have to work your way through the field afterwards.
"We did a pretty good job of that and the car felt good, surprisingly good given where we were on Saturday. Unfortunately, there's not much you can do after the start to the race we had," he sighed.
At one point he was as high up as fifth place, but the inevitable second stop bumped him back down to 14th from which he could only manage to recover back to his starting position, although there was a spirited battle with Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton that was one of the highlights of the latter half of the race for the fans and what Lotus F1 team manager Eric Boullier described as "a superb display of his talents."
Meanwhile Raikkonen's team mate Romain Grosjean survived his own first lap incident - being rear-ended by the Force India of Paul di Resta in the run down tot he second chicane - and went on to claim the team's only point of the race by finishing in the top ten after starting from 13th place on the grid.
"We got the best result we could have done having started in P13," said Grosjean. "Unfortunately we had a poor pit stop where we had an electronic problem and the light didn't turn to green, so we lost a few seconds there.
"I think we could have come out in front of the two McLarens and the Toro Rosso, which would have made things a bit easier for a stronger result."
Grosjean was the second Lotus to come under fire from Lewis Hamilton in the closing stages of the race - and in the Frenchman's case, he was able to repulse the Mercedes and hold on to eighth place until the finish line.
"I had a good battle with Lewis on the last lap," said Grosjean. "I think we did the best we could here in Monza and I hope that for Singapore we can get back to the level of performance that we had in Budapest."
Despite the lack of significant points from the day's work, Lotus F1 team principal Eric Boullier was still impressed by how Lotus had performed despite the setback in qualifying.
"If you want to be competitive for the championships you need to be able to fight every weekend at the front on Saturday as well as on Sunday," Boullier pointed out. "The positive from this weekend is that we showed fantastic race pace and both drivers drove exceptionally well. Romain withstood great pressure and performed great overtaking moves on both McLarens, Kimi fought back from a first lap incident in a superb display of his talents.
"The negative from this weekend is that we couldn't qualify where we needed to be," he admitted. "The results at the end of the race aren't rewarding for the team, but there are plenty of positives to take from the final European race of the season and we head to the final flyaway races with plenty of fight."
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