Lotus insists there are no regrets about starting Kimi Raikkonen from the back of the grid in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, despite his first-corner exit.
Raikkonen had been excluded from qualifying after his car failed a front floor deflection test because a support strut had broken during an off-track excursion. Rather than play it safe and start from the pitlane, as Sebastian Vettel did at the same track last year, Lotus decided that they were better off having Raikkonen try to make up places off the grid. It all went wrong as Raikkonen clipped Giedo van der Garde’s Caterham at Turn 1 and broke his right-front suspension.
Although starting from the pitlane would have guaranteed Raikkonen avoiding a first-corner incident, Lotus team boss Eric Boullier still stands by the decision his team took.
“We don’t regret it,” said Boullier. “If you want to gamble a bit on an aggressive strategy you have to be on track.
“It was obvious for us to start on the track. The couple of seconds — perhaps as much as three to four — that you gain by doing so could be exactly the ones you need at the end of the race.”
The circumstance that caused Raikkonen to be at the back in the first place was the result of a support strut on the front floor breaking, which meant the car did not pass a flexibility test. However, unlike in Hungary when a similar situation struck Romain Grosjean, the stewards did not accept accidental damage as a good enough reason for the car not passing the floor tests.
Boullier says he is at a loss to understand why the stewards took that stance, because the damage to the car was quite extreme.
“You have the video footage and you have the data, and you can see that during his lap there is a peak of 21G and that the sensors stop so everything is destroyed below. So I am not very happy with the rationale behind the decision. It was a normal incident.”
Raikkonen’s exit from the race could prove costly in the constructors’ championship, because Lotus has now slipped to 26 points behind third place Ferrari, with Mercedes 11 points clear in second.