A fantastic Singapore Grand Prix ended in spectacular style for Lotus Racing’s Heikki Kovalainen after he pulled over on the start / finish straight and put out a fire in his car by himself that brought to an end a battling drive under the Singapore lights. Jarno Trulli had suffered a hydraulics failure on lap 26 which ended his race after both he and Heikki had made very good starts and had been fighting in the midfield in 15th and 16th in the early laps. A double pitstop under the first safety car period on lap three gave them both strong track positions which they both held until Jarno’s retirement, and Heikki’s eventual race-ending fire.
Tony Fernandes, Team Principal: “The race tonight marks a major step forward for us. On the pitwall we were talking about beating Michael and Buemi in a straight fight on track, and we told Heikki to take the fight to them – not to take the conservative approach. If we’d taken the safer option maybe Heikki wouldn’t have hit Buemi, but we’re here to race, and that’s what I mean about a big step forward. This is all part of our learning curve, but coming here and racing the Toro Rossos and Mercedes at the end of a pretty hardcore race is a sign of how far we’ve come. We’ll take all these lessons into next year, and it can only help us be an even more potent force in 2011.”
Heikki Kovalainen (Chassis T127-01) 16th, fastest lap 1.53.051 – lap 53, 2 stops – laps 3, 34: “That was not quite how I thought my race would end! Until the fire, I was having a really strong run and the car had felt good throughout. We were looking good for 15th, but then I had a coming together with Buemi towards the end of the race. I spun the car to get back onto the track which I think cracked the fuel tank pressure release valve and it looks like that caused an airbox fire. I didn’t want to come into the pits as it definitely wasn’t safe enough to do so, and pulled over on the main straight. A couple of guys from Williams gave me an extinguisher, so I put the fire out on my own – I told Tony and Mike that they maybe need to pay me more as I’m now a fireman as well…”
Jarno Trulli (Chassis T127-04) DNF, fastest lap 1.56.386 – lap 20, 3 stops – laps 3, 6, 25: “I had a very good start and was running well with Heikki but then the problems started. I had a puncture just after the first safety car which brought me back in early, and then the hydraulic problems that have affected me quite a few times this season struck again. It’s been a difficult weekend to be honest, but now we go to Suzuka which is a track I really look forward to, so hopefully I’ll have some better luck there.”
Mike Gascoyne, Chief Technical Officer: “It was a very eventful race and a real shame at the end to see Heikki’s race brought to an end with the fire. Both cars made a great start and got themselves in front of the Virgins which is obviously what we wanted to do. We stopped them both during the first safety car lap, which seemed to be the right call, and the pitcrew did a great job to get them both turned around as quickly as they did. Unfortunately Jarno then picked up a puncture from some debris on track and then a hydraulics problem brought his race to an end. We tried to get him back out, but after having done so the problems started again straight away so he had to come back in.
“Heikki clearly had a pretty dramatic race. When the fire started he made the decision not to come into the pitlane for safety reasons, and did very well to put the fire out himself. Until that point he was having a fantastic race and we were looking forward to fighting with Michael and Buemi right to the end, but unfortunately the fire put paid to that. The main thing really is to say thanks to him for being brave enough to put it out, and be thankful that he’s fine after what was a pretty spectacular end to his race. After such a good race performance from him and the whole team, we will take some real positives from this weekend, and look forward to the last four races.”