Heikki Kovalainen declared his Brazilian Grand Prix qualifying performance one of his best of the 2011 season, even though Lotus did not achieve its goal of getting into Q2 with its upgraded car.
Lotus hoped the arrival of a new rear wing with an improved DRS would allow it to make a final step forward at the end of the year. Although Kovalainen was not far behind the Toro Rossos, Saubers and Williams, he was still 19th on the grid – but remained satisfied, especially as he had to dig deep to beat teammate Jarno Trulli.
"That is a great way to end qualifying for the season, one of the really good laps," he said. "I've had a lot of good sessions this year but that really stands out as one of the best.
"Jarno has been strong here all weekend and I was just behind him after the first runs so I had to really pull out everything to beat him. We made a couple of adjustments to the tires and it paid off with that final lap with seconds left on the clock.
"We've also finished here closer to the opposition than we have all season, and even though it's a shorter lap here it's still a very good sign that we've found quite a bit of time with the new rear wing and I think that will help us again tomorrow."
Team boss Tony Fernandes was also pleased with Lotus' pace relative to the cars ahead.
"We were within a second of cars right up to 11th place, and just over 0.4sec off Williams, so to bring to an end our qualifying for 2011, having made up that amount of time, is a real achievement," he said. "People forget that we do not have KERS this year. If we had KERS, as we do next season, would clearly be fighting in the midfield, so I am very happy with how far we have come in such a short amount of time."