Both Lotus cars finished the race on the lead lap, which hasn’t happened since the first F1 race at Suzuka in 1987.
|Heikki Kovalainen||Jarno Trulli|
|Qualifying time comparison (Q1)||1’35.454 (-0.06)||1’35.514|
Lotus drivers’ lap times throughout the race (in seconds):
|Pit stop 1||Soft 21.412s|
|Pit stop 2||Soft 21.519s|
|Pit stop 3||Medium 22.532s|
Kovalainen’s rapid getaway took the team by surprise: “I made an incredible start, no wheelspin, the perfect clutch slip and was suddenly past a load of cars and up into 14th.
“It looked like everyone else went into reverse and I even heard one of the engineers laugh and accidentally telling someone else how brilliant the start was, and I thought ‘no! Don’t mention it now, I need to get on with the rest of the race!'”
Kovalainen launched his car down the inside along the pit wall and picked up four places – particularly impressive for a driver in a car that doesn’t have KERS.
Both the Williams drivers came past him on lap two and Sergio Perez did likewise on lap seven.
Nico Rosberg was the next driver on Kovalainen’s tail but surprisingly the Mercedes driver didn’t find a way past before Kovalainen made his first pit stop on lap ten.
Kovalainen came out of the pits back ahead of Pastor Maldonado, but lost the position when he made his second stop on lap 22.
By his final stint the other midfield runners had jumped ahead of him via the pits, but his pace compared favourably with Rubens Barrichello, who was also running on medium tyres.
|Pit stop 1||Soft 21.636s|
|Pit stop 2||Soft 22.233s|
|Pit stop 3||Medium 22.156s|
Trulli was unable to use Lotus’s new-specification power steering system at Suzuka. In its place the team supplied a revised system based on the one he last used in Hungary. However he lost time within an electrical problem in the second practice session.
After qualifying behind Kovalainen by a narrow margin he gained a place at the start then passed Sergio Perez, who was on the medium compound tyres.
Perez came back past the Lotus on lap six, followed by Nico Rosberg the next time by.
Trulli and Kovalainen were on the point of being lapped when the safety car came out on lap 24 and spared them. This helped both drivers to finish on the lead lap, though without the safety car they would likely have been a lap and a half in arrears.
Drove Heikki Kovalainen’s car in first practice.
2011 Japanese Grand Prix
Image © Team Lotus