F1 » 6 October 2013
Korean Grand Prix: Lotus plays down 'team orders' row
The Lotus F1 team has insisted that all is well within the team and with Romain Grosjean despite an emotional exchange between the driver and pit wall over his request to be allowed to pass his team mate.
A brilliant success for Lotus in the Korean Grand Prix which saw them claim second and third places on the podium in Yeongam behind race winner Sebastian Vettel has been slightly overshadowed by controversy suggesting that Romain Grosjean was deeply unhappy with the team for refusing to help him re-pass his team mate in the closing stages of Sunday's race.
Grosjean had been running in second place for much of the race, but then made a small mistake coming out of the penultimate corner after the first safety car period, which allowed Kimi Raikkonen to get past. Before Grosjean could counter-attack the race was back behind the safety car after Mark Webber's Red Bull caught fire bringing a fire marshall's vehicle out onto the track.
"I just made a mistake," said Grosjean. "After the restart I should have been in front of Kimi on the road, but it was my mistake which let him past. I went a bit wide in Turn 15 and got on the Astroturf – which is very slippery – and that let him get a run on me. [If I had then] it would have been the end of the conversation.
"Kimi could go for it and unfortunately there was a yellow flag at turn three so I couldn't get my place back, he continued. I was quicker today but then we have rules not to fight. It's a track where it is most impossible to overtake even though there are long straights. I mean in sector two and three there is so much issue with the front tyres so you cannot get close enough and then lose a lot of downforce, lose a lot of lap time."
Once racing resumed, the television feed listened in to an extraordinary exchange between Grosjean and Lotus team manager Eric Boullier, in which it the driver was pleading to be let past his team mate as he felt that he was clearly the fastest of the two Lotus cars at that stage and was being held up.
"Romain got frustrated because he did a small mistake after the restart with the safety car and Kimi just passed him," Boullier explained. "I think he was begging for some team orders to let him past, but he made a mistake and it was normal racing.
"I think he could have been quicker, but with a bit of pressure he lost concentration so it's just part of the learning curve," he said. "We know he was upset. Romain was clearly pushing on the radio to get some help to get this position back, but we said no team orders and keep racing. We knew he was upset. Yes, he was the quickest, but sometimes it's not enough to gain position."
"It was close between the two, but we let both drivers race to the end which was the right thing to do," added the team's trackside operations director, Alan Permane, hailing a great result for the team. "Romain drove an incredibly strong race, and without the safety car would have taken a very comfortable second place. There was an element of luck for Kimi with the safety car and he certainly made the most of that,."
After the chequered flag, a Lotus engineer radioed Grosjean and told him that "We'll talk about this in the office afterwards but for now big smile on the podium, big smile," but Boullier said this was just to calm his driver down and get him ready to face the media and didn't suggest that there would be a dressing down after the race.
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