Teams react to Monaco GP; Lotus, Force India among the happy ones

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Team quotes are starting to trickle out of Monaco. A few seem worth highlighting as we await the stewards’ decision regarding Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso.

The Lotus team showed some fast pace but reliability troubles still bedevil the team:

Mike Gascoyne, Lotus chief technical officer
“This was our strongest performance yet compared to the midfield, so obviously mixed emotions for where we finished. Heikki had a very strong race and in the middle his performance was particularly good compared to the midfield group. It’s a shame we had a problem on his car – the steering joint failed, something we’ve not seen before – but overall it was a very positive weekend for him. 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. Obviously he was compromised by the slow pitstop, which dropped him down the field and affected his whole race. He was capable of going much faster and when he made the move he unfortunately fell victim to the nature of the Monaco circuit. So I leave feeling pleased we showed such good pace, and we move on to Turkey.”

Team principal Tony Fernandes, who I’m convinced was the slow guy working the cars’ rear right wheel, is calling parts of it “the best race of the season” for Heikki Kovalainen.

Tony Fernandes, Lotus team principal
“I take a lot of positives from the race today and it was another one where we had at least one car classified. Most importantly Heikki made a great step forward and it was fantastic watching him race with Petrov. He and the whole team felt it was the best race of the season for him and that boosts confidence further for the season ahead. We’ve got some more new parts coming which will continue to take us forward, and hopefully Jarno’s luck will turn, but even with that we’re all pleased. It’s also great to see so many of our fans out around the track – hopefully we gave them some good racing today, and in years to come we’ll give them some good results as well.”

And what does Heikki have to say for himself?

Heikki Kovalainen (DNF)
“It was a fantastic race right from the beginning. 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 with today. 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.”

Also feeling pleased are the Force India guys.

Adrian Sutil (9th)
“It was a very good race for us here today. I was P12 on the grid but we had a really great start and I made up two positions on the first lap. We then had a good first stop where I gained a position to be P9 and then I could just do my own race. I had quite a lonely race with a big gap most of the time to the car in front and then the car behind so I was just pacing myself for a lot of the race. I had a very good balance at the end when the grip picked up so I am pretty happy with everything today: ninth position and a few points, we can be quite satisfied with this after the qualifying yesterday.”

Vitantonio Liuzzi (10th)
“It was quite a difficult race with a lot of incidents and safety car periods to deal with, but I like these type of conditions. We were P9 after the start but I think we stopped a couple of laps too early for our tyre change, which just allowed Adrian to pass us when he came in. But as a team we can be very satisfied as we got both cars in the top ten and in the points, which is good for the overall morale of the team. We have really deserved this type of result but for various reasons this is the first time it’s happened. It’s really just the start – we have to try and carry this forward for the rest of the season. We are doing a good job back at the factory and from this point on the circuits should come towards us so we can be positive about the future.”

Dr Vijay Mallya, Force India chairman and team principal
“I am delighted with today’s results. At the start of the season we said we wanted to be regular points’ finishers and to date that’s exactly what we have done, but to do so with two cars is a real step up. Adrian and Tonio drove brilliant races, keeping focussed despite the numerous safety car periods and yellow flags, and really deserved to get in the points. It’s very pleasing to see us keeping pace yet again with the larger teams on merit and we can now take this result away with us, build on it and come back even stronger in Turkey.”

Not surprisingly, the Williams and Sauber folks are singing the opposite tune.

Rubens Barrichello (9th)
“What happened today was a real surprise. I had such a good start but the car started to feel really strange after the pit stop. The steering wheel, in particular, didn’t feel normal. The problem continued to get worse and then I crashed. We now have to investigate the car to find out what the problem was.”

Nico Hulkenberg (16th)
“I didn’t have a good start, obviously. There was a problem with the clutch before the start of the formation lap which meant I had to start from the back. I’m then not entirely sure what happened in the tunnel. The car felt odd one minute and the next I was in the wall. I am really disappointed not to have completed the race and get the mileage under my belt, but that’s life.”

Sam Michael, Williams technical director
“That was not a good day for the team after a promising start for Rubens. Nico had a problem with the clutch paddle on the steering wheel during the formation lap. He then had a failure with the front wing mounting on the first lap of the race. Rubens had a fantastic start and was running in sixth when he started to experience poor handling after his stop. Eleven laps after his pit stop, he had a failure at the rear end of his car. We need to get all the parts back to the factory in order to identify correctly what components on both cars caused the failures. We have quite a bit of car damage to repair, but we’re making progress with performance and look to further that in Istanbul.”

And Sauber:

Kamui Kobayashi (DNF)
“It is a shame because our race pace was a lot better than our performance in qualifying. I think we again missed a chance to score points. My start was good. The first corner is never easy in Monaco, but it went alright. But then I wasn’t able to shift up anymore. I just looked for a safe place to park the car and that was it.”

Pedro de la Rosa (DNF)
“Obviously another race I wanted to finish. The car was okay at the beginning. At the start I stayed away from trouble, which was the main target, and then I was taking care of the tyres. We had a split strategy, which I think was good. I was on the softer compound, Kamui on the harder one. I was cruising behind Vitaly Petrov and waiting for my chance to push. But I was alarmed when I had a problem with the quick shift, and when the power steering became heavier and heavier it was clear I had a problem with the hydraulic system.”

James Key, BMW Sauber team principal
“A disappointing end to a tough weekend, and one we wouldn’t want to repeat. It was frustrating in many ways because our drivers were being held up in the race, and there was more to come from the car. We felt that a strategic call could help us to overtake some cars ahead. We split the strategies of our cars to take advantage of safety car situations. So we had left our options open for the race, but then we saw on the data that we had a significant increase of hydraulic temperatures on Pedro’s car. Pedro reported that the steering had become particularly heavy. We pitted him and wanted to see what the problem was, but there was clearly a hydraulic pressure problem. We couldn’t diagnose it quickly enough to get him back out again into the race. Just a few laps later there was a gearbox issue on Kamui’s car. He lost a gear and then couldn’t select the next one, which caused him to stop on the track. That problem is currently under investigation. We shall learn what we can from this weekend, but look forward to tracks where we think the car will work better and hope for a much more promising showing in Istanbul.”

I said in today’s Your View that I thought Force India could arguably lay claim to being the fifth best team on the grid, even though Robert Kubica in his Renault is skewing the results between the two teams. More to the point here, I think Williams and Sauber are really at this point battling to not be the worst of the “old” teams. Tough to see two such storied teams going in the wrong direction.

Anyone have a sense of what’s at the heart of those two team’s troubles?

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