Kimi Räikkönen salvages points for Lotus in Melbourne opener
14:47 18 March 2012
Kimi Räikkönen salvaged some points for Lotus at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on Sunday.
The Finn put his disastrous qualifying to bed to take seventh on the last lap from 17th on the grid, a battling performance that showed some sparks of pace from the Hethel-based outfit.
But it was disappointment for Romain Grosjean, who sat third at the start after his superb efforts on Saturday only for his race to end on the first lap thanks to a glancing blow from Pastor Maldonado.
Still, Räikkönen was more than glad to make up for his error in exiting early on Saturday to get some points on the board at the first attempt.
“It feels like I’ve never been away,” said the 2007 champion. “Yesterday we made some mistakes which cost us quite badly so it could easily have been better in the race.
“I made a good start but then there was an accident in front of me at the first turn, so we lost a few places there as I had to almost stop and move on to the grass to avoid it.
“That made the race harder again as we had the speed, but a lot of traffic to get through. When you look at all these things we could have finished in a much better position.
“We had the safety car which I think actually hurt us a bit as well. Overall the weekend was far from ideal, but the car feels good and to come back to seventh means we at least come away with some points.”
Grosjean added: “I think we could have achieved a great result today. It’s frustrating as I really wanted to make the chequered flag and even the podium, but on the positive side the car is performing very well.
“From what I saw Pastor braked far too late and hit my right front wheel which broke the steering and that was it. The team deserved better because they have been working very hard.”
Team principal Eric Boullier was very happy with Lotus’ opening showing in Melbourne.
“We should be leaving Australia with mixed feelings, but actually we all have a little grin on our faces tonight,” said Boullier. “Yes, we had great expectations from Romain and seeing another car taking him out of the race early on was very disappointing.
“But on the other hand, the performance shown by the E20 this weekend makes us optimistic for the rest of the season.
“Kimi has been able to demonstrate that we have more than just single-lap pace; gaining 11 places in his first race after a two-year break is certainly a satisfying performance.”
Lotus will be hoping for more from their undoubted early pace at the Malaysian Grand Prix in seven days’ time.