Proud day for Lotus
Lotus Racing team principal Tony Fernandes was in dreamland after witnessing the legendary brand return to Formula One. Heikki Kovalainen finished 15th while team-mate Jarno Trulli was classified 17th, although a hydraulic problem forced the Italian to pull over on his final lap, so he was officially recorded as DNF (did not finish).
Lotus Racing team principal Tony Fernandes was in dreamland after witnessing the legendary brand return to Formula One.
Heikki Kovalainen finished 15th while team-mate Jarno Trulli was classified 17th, although a hydraulic problem forced the Italian to pull over on his final lap, so he was officially recorded as DNF (did not finish).
Despite that, Fernandes could not contain his pride and joy at the result for a team that was only re-born six months ago, 16 years after Lotus last competed in the sport.
'I'm completely over the moon,' exclaimed entrepreneur Fernandes, pictured right, who runs the AirAsia airline.
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'I cannot describe the feeling. We're thrilled, we're happy and the spirit in the team is fantastic.
'I'm really proud of Jarno, Heikki and everyone here. It's a great start and better than I could have dreamed of. We wanted to finish the race, and to do so ahead of established teams is fantastic.'
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But Kovalainen, while delighted with his result, suggested the hard work has only just started for the Norfolk-based marque.
'Everybody in the team should be really happy, but the honeymoon is over and we need to start working on better results,' insisted the Finn.
Like Fernandes, veteran Trulli was another proud man, appreciating the work that has gone into building the team in such a short space of time.
'I'm really happy and proud for the team because in six months every single target we have fixed we have met, so it's really good,' said the Italian.
'As Tony has said, one day Lotus will win, and I hope to be here when we do.'
Chief Technical Officer Mike Gascoyne said 'I'm very very proud of the whole team. Everyone here, and back in Hingham.
'Firstly I have to say thank you to both drivers. They drove great races - Jarno struggling early on but when he changed to the soft tyre he was much more competitive.
'Apologies to Heikki because he may have suffered from the strategy, and apologies to Jarno because he had a hydraulics problem and he had to slow down to get the car to the finish, but overall a great result.'
The day had begun with Fernandes giving the team a stirring speech to thank everyone for the hard work so far, and lay out the challenge ahead, saying: 'The last six months have shown that if you dream you can achieve, but now it's not about being the best of the new teams, it's about making a serious challenge for the very top.'
As for Virgin Racing and Hispania Racing, it was a tough first day at the office, with none of their drivers making it beyond lap 18.
At Yorkshire-based Virgin, Lucas di Grassi retired on lap three after losing hydraulic pressure.
Team-mate Timo Glock was running strongly until he began to suffer with a high gearbox temperature that saw him unable to select third gear, then fifth, forcing him out on lap 18.
Technical director Nick Wirth said: 'We leave our first grand prix disappointed we did not manage to get either car to the finish.
'But at least we haven't had a repeat of any of our winter testing problems.
'Most importantly, we now know that our faith in the all-CFD design approach was justified, as we have demonstrated that we have built a competitive Formula One car.
'That is one reward we can take away from this weekend.'
Hispania, who had not managed a single lap in testing before Bruno Senna took to the track for first practice on Friday, endured their own problems.
On lap two, Karun Chandhok caught a bump in the circuit that spun him into a barrier, damaging the front wing and left-rear wheel.
As for Senna, a broken water fitting from the radiator caused his car to lose all its water and overheat the engine on lap 18.
Team principal Colin Kolles, who hailed 'an historic first step for the team,' added: 'The focus for the team was to start the race and run both cars on track.
'We'll go home with lots of important data to make steps forward.'