Team Lotus’ qualifying leap is dampened on race day
Hingham's Team Lotus remained upbeat despite the tough Spanish Grand Prix that followed a superb Saturday qualifying session.
The Norfolk marque made it through to Q2 for the first time since joining the grid last year without the need of rain-induced chaos, with Heikki Kovalainen starting 15th for Sunday's race.
Those were promising signs for Team Lotus' big upgrade package, which they were using for the first time this weekend – but in the end, race day around Circuit de Catalunya proved a trickier affair.
Although Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli were at on point running ninth and eighth respectively, a mixture of tyre and niggling reliability issues saw the yellow and green machines drop back through the field.
Kovalainen's race eventually came to an end 14 laps early after a mistake at turn four sent him into the tyre wall, while Trulli nursed his car home in 18th.
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Chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne said: 'That was a long hard race that was all about managing the tyres. Both drivers started well but Heikki suffered some damage to his front wing that helped Jarno get past. From then on the pace was good…but in the end it was a shame we were not able to get both cars to the flag.
'Heikki made a small mistake on lap 52 and then Jarno had a cracked exhaust which meant we had to keep an eye on that, but overall we have made real progress this weekend and have amassed a great deal of data on the new package that will help us learn how to get the most out of all the changes, so it is another positive weekend for the whole team.'
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At the front of the grid Sebastian Vettel made it four wins from the opening five races – although the Lewis Hamilton's McLaren pushed the German all the way to line.
Mark Webber's Red Bull finished behind Jenson Button in fourth with home favourite Fernando Alonso fifth – despite an electric getaway off the line.
Williams' duo of Pastor Maldonado (15th) and Rubens Barrichello (17th) did enough to take ninth in the constructors' championship from Team Lotus.
Trulli said: 'It was another great start for me, another strong start this season, so that was very positive. I gained a number of positions and was right in the race in the beginning.
'I fought like a lion and I'm happy with myself and felt that I really got the best out of the car today.'
Kovalainen added: 'It's a real shame my afternoon came to an end like that. I made a mistake on the entry to turn four and went off but up until that point the race was pretty good.'