LRGP opened its 2011 account in fine style as Vitaly scored his first podium in just his 20th Formula 1 race. He drove a consistent and faultless race to move up from 6th to 3rd. Nick Heidfeld was unfortunate in the opening lap and could not push the car as it should.
Highlights for Lotus Renault GP:
• Both Nick and Vitaly adopted two-stop strategies: soft / soft / hard
• Nick stopped on laps 15 and 30, while Vitaly made his stops on laps 16 and 36.
• Vitaly set his best time on lap 55, while defending his third place from Fernando Alonso
• Vitaly makes history as the first Russian to stand on a Formula 1 podium
Vitaly Petrov, P3, R31-03
I’m delighted to be here on the podium, especially after the winter that we had as a team, which was very tough. Even during testing we didn’t really know where we were compared with the others, but we continued adding new parts to the car this weekend, and they worked pretty well. I made a great start today, which was probably the key for my race because it got me ahead of Alonso and Button, and I was able to run in some clean air and push hard, as well as looking after my tyres. Our two-stop strategy was clearly the right decision and we made it work. I have to say a big thanks to everyone in the team for working so hard and for supporting my over the winter. This result is for all of us and I’m totally ecstatic.
Nick Heidfeld, P14, R31-01
Today was a tough race. I’m obviously disappointed not to finish in the points, but it just wasn’t possible, especially after I got hit on the first lap. It’s a shame because I had made such a good start from 18th to 12th by the first corner. The damage to the car was quite severe, mostly to the right hand bodywork, sidepod and engine cover. So it wasn’t a strong race for me at all. But, I’m pleased for the team and Vitaly that we have this excellent result today. It shows that we have a competitive car and that we can fight hard this year.
Eric Boullier, Team Principal and Managing Director
The podium today is a huge relief and a big reward for all the work which has been done by all the team, and obviously I am very happy. It shows that the decision we took to be aggressive with the design of the car was the right call, and it’s something we can build on going forward. The performance of Vitaly was very strong and it shows that we can deliver strong results this season. In fact, I have no doubt that both our drivers can be fighting towards the front at the next race and that we can build on the competitiveness we have shown this weekend.
James Allison, Technical Director
I’m utterly delighted for everyone in the team because it has not been easy getting here. I would be lying if I said I thought we’d earn a podium like we did today, but Vitaly’s place looked very good in qualifying and we knew we were competitive. We thought we were in with a shout of a good fight with the Ferraris, and we did exactly that. Going forward we will have more aero updates for the car in Malaysia, which are worth a few extra tenths. It should allow us to build on our strong showing today.
Riccardo Penteado, LRGP Engine Support Leader, Renault Sport F1
A fantastic result for Lotus Renault GP today and a dream start to the season. Vitaly drove a great race, under lots of pressure from former world champion Fernando Alonso, but he didn’t make a single mistake and showed that the car has a huge amount of potential. He drove every lap like a qualifying lap and therefore we were a bit tight on the fuel towards the end of the race, but both he and the team managed the economy very well and finally it worked out how we wanted, in fact even better, with a podium. Nick’s race was compromised by some damage to the car. From the engine side we’re obviously very pleased with how it’s gone today and are already looking forward to Malaysia.’