Heikki happy after Monaco

Michael BaileyHeikki Kovalainen attacked his way around Monaco this weekend - and believes the same mentality will see Lotus Racing challenge Formula One's established teams soon.Michael Bailey

Heikki Kovalainen attacked his way around Monaco this weekend - and believes the same mentality will see Lotus Racing challenge Formula One's established teams soon.

The Finn felt buoyed by his encouraging race, despite its premature end on lap 59 from a steering joint failure.

Meanwhile, the stuttering start to team-mate Jarno Trulli's season continued after a spectacular tangle with HRT's Karun Chandhok at Rascasse brought a close to his Monaco Grand Prix.

Hingham-based Lotus have consistently outperformed fellow new boys HRT and Virgin Racing in the first third of the season, but are still some way from seriously troubling the rest of the field.

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However, Kovalainen noticeably gave everything he had in qualifying and during the race in Monaco at the weekend, and believes the rewards are there if the Norfolk team keep pushing.

"It was a fantastic race right from the beginning," said the Finn.

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"I had a bit of a struggle at the restarts to get the tyres up to temperature, but once I got everything working I was able to almost keep up with the Renault.

"I was pushing very hard, and the car felt fantastic - the balance was really good.

"Just before I retired I could feel the steering alignment was a bit uneven - on the right hand corners I had to use maximum lock, even in the tunnel, and it got the point where it didn't feel safe anymore.

"In Monaco you can't take a risk with it so I came in.

"It was a mechanical issue, but despite that I'm really pleased. We again showed we're firmly the best of the new teams and we are nearly there with the next group, so I think we just need to keep attacking, and that's how we'll achieve results."

A problematic tyre change left Trulli struggling behind the slower new cars, a frustration that finally told when the Italian went for broke and ended up beached on top of Chandhok's HRT.

The veteran does have four classified finishes this season, but sits behind the Indian driver and Virgin's Lucas di Grassi in the drivers' standings in a car more prone to problems than his Finnish team-mate.

Trulli said: "This wasn't a great weekend for me."

There are clear improvements from Lotus, who remain about three seconds off the leaders' pace and several places from gaining their first point of the campaign.

A new rear wing and further upgrades will arrive in time for the next race, in Turkey at the end of the month, and chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne remains optimistic - although he admitted the team need to ensure Trulli's troubles come to an end.

"This was our strongest performance yet compared to the midfield, so obviously mixed emotions for where we finished," said Gascoyne.

"Heikki had a very strong race and in the middle his performance was particularly good compared to the midfield group.

"For Jarno, he had a much more difficult weekend, clearly struggling with the balance of the car and I think as a team we have to take a look at everything to be able to do a better job for him.

"So I leave feeling pleased we showed such good pace, and we move on to Turkey."

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