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Lotus lead amid mixed fortunes for new teams 12 Mar 2010

Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Lotus T127.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Practice Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Friday, 12 March 2010 (L to R): Jarno Trulli (ITA) Lotus with former Toyota team mate Timo Glock (GER) Virgin Racing.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Practice Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Friday, 12 March 2010 Timo Glock (GER) Virgin Racing VR-01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Practice Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Friday, 12 March 2010 Bruno Senna (BRA) Hispania Racing F1 Team (HRT) HRTF1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Practice Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Friday, 12 March 2010 (L to R): Karun Chandhok (IND) Hispania Racing F1 Team (HRT) with team mate Bruno Senna (BRA) Hispania Racing F1 Team (HRT).
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Practice Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Friday, 12 March 2010

As brand-new teams facing established rivals, Lotus, Virgin and HRT all knew they faced an uphill battle over this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix. But while the fears of two of them were realised on Friday as practice at Sakhir got underway, Lotus emerged with their heads held high after both Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli finished in the top 20 in the afternoon session.

As well as finishing just five-tenths down on the Red Bull of Mark Webber in the timesheets, the team also managed to cover 73 laps during the course of the day’s running, as Kovalainen and Trulli tested aerodynamic upgrades to the T127. For chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne it was a proud day.

“Everyone worked very hard and it was satisfying to see us first out on track and then put in a solid performance throughout the day,” Gascoyne said. “We tried an aero upgrade this afternoon and we’ll look at the results of that in this afternoon’s debrief, but now we’re looking forward to putting in another professional performance tomorrow in qualifying.”

Fellow newcomers Virgin fared less well. Although they weren’t far off the pace of Lotus, with a best time of 2m 02.037s set by Timo Glock, they covered just 32 laps. Lucas di Grassi spent the morning in the pits after the late arrival of some new parts, whilst team mate Glock was hampered by gearbox issues in the afternoon.

“Today hasn’t been the start to the weekend that we hoped for,” said Glock, who finished last year’s Bahrain race seventh for Toyota. “We always knew it was going to be tough but we’ve had too many technical problems which have prevented me getting track time today. We already had two tough nights but we have another one ahead, I’m afraid, to get us to a point where we can feel confident going into the rest of the weekend.”

Virgin’s technical director Nick Wirth added: “We had to work all through last night to have the cars running today, which is not ideal. We found some interesting new challenges today, ranging from some engine set-up issues which caused handling problems, to the high ambient conditions bizarrely causing off-car electronics to overheat, affecting our ability to communicate with the car.”

Virgin can at least seek some solace from the fact that the final 2010 debutants, HRT, endured an even tougher Friday. With the Spanish team not completing any pre-season testing, it was vital they covered a lot of running, but with Karun Chandhok sidelined for the entire day with clutch problems, the team only completed 20 laps with Bruno Senna behind the wheel.