Lotus Racing CEO Riad Asmat and the Malaysian flag brought a touch of luck to the team today at the Belgian Grand Prix Qualifying session as Heikki Kovalainen made it through to his second appearance of the season in Q2, and finished the session 16th. Jarno Trulli just missed out on Q2 after yellow flags at the end of an action packed Q1 forced him to back off, robbing him of the chance of joining his team-mate in the afternoon’s second session.
With the Mercedes cars of both Schumacher and Rosberg having to take grid penalties, and Timo Glock’s Virgin being dropped five places after the session, the Lotus Racing cars will provisionally line up 14th and 15th, and with the T127s carrying the Malaysian flag on the engine covers at Spa to celebrate Malaysian Independence Day on 31st August, the team are looking forward to putting in a performance tomorrow to give all their fans in Malaysia and around the world something to cheer for in the unpredictable Belgian conditions.
Heikki Kovalainen (Chassis T127-01) FP3: 14 laps, best time 1.51.384, 21st / QUALIFYING: 16th, 1.50.980, 12 laps “It was a great qualifying for us today, the second time we made it into Q2 like we did in Malaysia. It’s a shame Jarno didn’t make it through as well, and I was just ahead of him, but the team did a great job today and they should all be very pleased. We made the right calls on tyres in both sessions and in the second session it was really about fighting with Timo, and we nailed him so we achieved what we set out to do today. I think we should be in pretty good shape tomorrow against our direct competitors, and those just ahead, as it looks like the lower downforce circuits suit us, so I hope we have mixed conditions tomorrow and can give it our best shot.”
Jarno Trulli (Chassis T127-04) FP3: 14 laps, best time 1.50.600, 19th / QUALIFYING: 18th, 2.01.491, 9 laps “I’m obviously disappointed that I didn’t make it into Q2, but congratulations to Heikki and the team for putting in such a good performance. It was a pretty crazy session, and it started badly for me when di Grassi lost his car – I was quicker than him, and I couldn’t avoid going over him. If he had let me by in the first place when I was much quicker, then it wouldn’t have happened. It’s difficult in changeable conditions, everyone gets surprised, but we’re still in a pretty good position tomorrow, so we’ll do our best to reward the fans.”
Mike Gascoyne, Chief Technical Officer: “In the end it was a very good session for us today. It’s disappointing we didn’t get Jarno into Q2 as well, but the yellow flags at the end of his final run held him up, otherwise I’m sure he’d have joined Heikki in Q2. Heikki did a great job in spite of the conditions, and he managed to get the best out the car. We’ll be in our best starting positions tomorrow and we’re all looking forward to a good strong race. We’re clearly the quickest of the new boys, and tomorrow will be all about getting Jarno up with Heikki, getting both cars across the finish line, and making good on the performance we’ve put in today.”
Riad Asmat, Chief Executive Officer: “I’m absolutely delighted, for the whole team, and for everyone who supports us around the world. We managed to get into Q2 for the second time in our first season which is pretty fantastic by any measure. It’s a shame Jarno didn’t get in as well, but that’s what happens in racing, and this is a really good start after the summer break. It’s important to remember that we’re a small team, with limited resources, and I think that what we have achieved today, and will continue to achieve, is the stuff dreams are made of.
“I’m lucky enough that Tony deputised me for this weekend in place of him who unfortunately can’t be here, but I think Tony, Din and Nasa, our Deputy Team Principals, all wish they were here – that’s for sure! They’ve all sent a load of messages, and they’re delighted with how we performed today. Tony’s passed on his congratulations to everyone and has said that the guys have done a great job today. He, Din and Nasa are here in spirit without a doubt – and we wouldn’t be here in Spa without them.
“To top it all, it’s the Malaysian Independence day on the 31st, so it’s just perfect. For everyone in Malaysia Hari Merdeka is a really important day, and I’m just really proud to see our cars carry the flag today, and to have done so well.”
Tony Fernandes, Team Principal: “This is a very special day for me. It’s funny how things pan out. By me not being there Riad deputised for me and what a story! Riad has gone from a very special assistant for many years to a CEO, and now he’s on the pitwall commanding and directing. That is Lotus Racing. We make the unbelievable believable, and we show that you have to keep dreaming. Whatever happens tomorrow, it doesn’t really matter. What matters today is Riad, Mike, Heikki, Jarno and the whole team who pulled out an amazing performance. Well done to all.”