A disappointing end to the 2013 Formula 1 season for Lotus F1 Team yielded the Enstone squad’s first point-less weekend of the year at the final round in Brazil; Heikki Kovalainen dropping three positions from his eleventh placed grid slot whilst team-mate Romain Grosjean retired with an early engine failure having started sixth.
In stark contrast to the first two days of track action at Interlagos, dry conditions remained for the majority of the race; interrupted only by light showers during the closing stages. A tricky start for both drivers saw Romain drop two positions and Heikki four on the opening lap; completing the first tour in eighth and fifteenth respectively.
Three laps later and Romain’s impressive run of results during the final third of the season came to a premature end; the Frenchman’s RS27-2013 engine failing in spectacular fashion on what would be the final appearance for the V8 configuration power plant. Movement amongst the midfield throughout a two stop strategy race was not enough to aid Heikki in recovering from a slow getaway; the Finn eventually crossing the line to take fourteenth place.
Kimi Räikkönen’s absence from the last two races of the season sees him fall to fifth place in the final Drivers’ Championship standings on 183 points; 6 behind Lewis Hamilton in fourth. Romain takes seventh position with 132 points; trailing Nico Rosberg by 39. For the second consecutive season the team finishes fourth in the Constructors’ Championship; a total of 315 points the final tally from Ferrari’s 354.
Heikki Kovalainen started from eleventh on the grid with a fresh set of medium tyres; pitting for the same compound on lap fifteen and again for new hards on lap thirty-four. Romain Grosjean started from sixth on a fresh set of medium tyres; retiring on lap four.
Heikki Kovalainen, P14, E21-05: “It has been a great opportunity to drive for Lotus F1 Team and I’m upset that I was not able to score any points for them today. I think the car is great, but I was not able to unlock the pace and make the most of it. I made some mistakes – probably through lack of routine – but I was anticipating it would be easier to come back and race competitively. My starts both here and in Austin were really poor, with procedural issues both times meaning I wasn’t able to keep pace with everyone off the line. That was disappointing as it’s such a big part of the race and it’s very difficult to recover positions. I’d like to thank everyone at Lotus F1 Team for all their support during these two races.”
Romain Grosjean, DNF, E21-04: “At this point in the season I think everyone needs a holiday, but apparently my engine decided to go on vacation early! Of course, that’s not the way we wanted to end the year but it’s been a fantastic season for the team and I think we can be really proud of what we’ve achieved together. We’ve proven this year that we are a top team, and I’m certainly proud of all the guys in the garage and back at Enstone. Today was obviously disappointing for everyone as they deserved more from this final race after all their hard work, but now it’s time to get a little bit of rest and then focus on making sure we head into 2014 and the new regulations as one of the top teams once again.”
Eric Boullier, Team Principal: “Clearly this is a disappointing way to end what has been a strong season for the team in often difficult circumstances. Our goal at the start of the year was to improve on last season’s fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship, and although we may have just fallen short of that target, it has certainly not been through a lack of effort. Fourteen podium finishes and 315 points is a commendable improvement on our 2012 performance, and I am extremely proud of everyone who has worked so hard to keep us right at the front of a very competitive pack until the very last weekend of the season. In Kimi and Romain we have had one of the strongest line-ups on the grid, and I would like to congratulate them both on some fantastic performances throughout the year. From Kimi’s memorable win at the opening race to Romain’s recent run of podium finishes, they have both been superb. It’s going to be a busy winter preparing for the challenges of 2014, but for now we wish everyone a good few days of well-earned rest.”
Alan Permane, Trackside Operations Director: “After the season we’ve had with the E21, it’s hugely frustrating that we were unable to give what has been a fantastic car the send-off it deserved. For Romain in particular – who has barely put a foot wrong over the past couple of months – we feel particularly aggrieved after his early retirement. We’ll be looking into what happened with his engine to see exactly what caused such a significant failure, as generally speaking our reliability has been pretty strong all year. After a poor start it was always going to be difficult for Heikki to climb back into the points, but we’re nonetheless disappointed to come away from this weekend with nothing on the board. We now look ahead to the challenge of 2014 aiming to maintain the momentum of the past two seasons.”
Ricardo Penteado, Renault Sport F1 Team Support Leader: “Today was the last race for the V8s and unfortunately Romain’s gave up before the end. We saw a massive drop in oil pressure in the data but we won’t be sure of the exact reason until we get the car back; it could be cause or consequence. In any case it caused the engine to seize and explode in a spectacular way, so we’ll investigate thoroughly to analyse exactly what lead to the failure.”