Trulli, Kovalainen confirmed at Lotus
|Monday, December 14th 2009, 04:48 GMT|
Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen will race for Lotus next year, after the newly-formed Formula 1 team confirmed its line-up in a press conference held in Malaysia today.
Malaysian-born Fairuz Fauzy was also announced as the team's third driver.
The Lotus line-up was officially revealed by Malaysia's sports minister Ahmad Shabery Cheek in a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, and the minister emphasised the government's expectations from its support of the new team.
"I'm very pleased that local talents have been recognised to help drive the team, with key appointments being made among Malaysians in particular," Cheek was quoted as saying.
"I'm very elated that the driver development programme is already underway to promote motorsports as an affordable sporting activity among Malaysians.
"This project will not only make the country proud but will be a launch pad for Malaysia towards future growth, especially towards high-tech industry. Indeed, this project should be 100 per cent supported by Malaysians, individuals or corporations to ensure it becomes a success.
"Since the prime minister announced the 1Malaysia project in September, I'm very happy to note that the team has achieved significant progress, with the car being fully built and tested and I believe they are on track to make an impact next season"
The Malaysian minister further congratulated Lotus on its experienced choice of drivers, stating: "I'm personally impressed with Lotus F1 Racing driver line-up for next year, with its good combination of experience, drive and stamina."
Trulli joins Lotus from Toyota, after the Japanese team pulled out of F1 last month; while Kovalainen has left McLaren, where he will be replaced by world champion Jenson Button.
Lotus team principal Tony Fernandes also outlined the drivers' experience, but also said the Italian and Finn will bring exuberance to the team.
"Trulli will bring us a lot of experience to develop the team. Heikki is a young driver with a lot of experience so I think we have fantastic drivers, with Fairuz as well. It is a wonderful mix of experience, youth and passion."
Lotus is one of four new teams to join the 26-car F1 grid in 2010, along with Campos, US F1 and Manor. Fernandes stated the team's objective is to be the best of the newcomers.
"We are not setting any big targets, we want to at least be the best of the new teams," he said. "But I think it shows our seriousness today by announcing two really world class drivers."
For Trulli, this will be the third time in his F1 career that he will team up with technical director Mike Gascoyne, having worked with the Briton at Renault and then Toyota. And the Italian admitted this was one of the main reasons he elected to join Lotus.
"I have been impressed by the long-term vision of the team management and technical staff," Trulli said in a statement. "Tony has set out very ambitious plans and I am ready to help the team achieve these high targets.
"I am also pleased to be back working alongside Mike Gascoyne, someone with whom I have enjoyed previous success at other teams. I get on very well with him and I respect his working style."
Kovalainen too emphasised how impressed he is with the team's progress, saying: "I recently visited our factory and was so impressed by seeing how far the team has come in such a short time since it was launched in September, and by how determined everyone is to meet Tony's ambitious targets.
"I knew immediately it would be a fantastic opportunity to help them achieve their goals."
As for Fauzy, the 27-year-old Malaysian driver said joining Lotus was the highlight of his racing career, which includes testing for Spyker in F1, racing in the GP2 series and in A1GP, and most recently racing in Formula Renault 3.5, where he finished second in the 2009 championship.
"There is no greater honour than having the chance to drive for your country," the Malaysian said. "I was given the opportunity to do that for A1 Team Malaysia in A1GP for a couple of years, but to have the chance to join Malaysia's first fully fledged Formula 1 team is very special for me and the highlight of my career so far.
"I look forward to working closely with Jarno and Heikki on developing the car and the team in our first season together in Formula 1. I am sure we can do Malaysia as a nation proud."