INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - A poor month for Lotus ended quickly Sunday.
Both of the engine manufacturer’s cars were black-flagged on lap 11 and pulled out of the Indianapolis 500 for going too slow.
Simona de Silvestro’s car was running 14 mph slower than the race leaders, while France’s Jean Alesi was running laps 15 mph slower. Either way, the only two drivers in the 33-car field that had a Lotus engine couldn’t complete laps within the so-called 105 percent time limit of the leaders as mandated by Indy Car rules.
“We worked hard, it’s a shame we cannot be out there,” said Alesi, who made 201 career starts in Formula One and was the oldest rookie in Indy history. “We tried many things to avoid the lack of performance, but it could not be overcome.”
That’s not good news for Lotus, which has is the only engine-manufacturer in the series without a win this season. Alesi, who will turn 48 in two weeks, said he hopes to drive again at Indy next year _ perhaps with a stronger engine and a longer run.
The early exits were hardly a surprise, given that the Lotus cars were the slowest at the 2.5-mile oval all month.
After changing engines before Bump Day qualifying, de Silvestro of Switzerland qualified 32nd last weekend, more than 12 mph off Ryan Briscoe’s pole-winning speed. Alesi started 33rd and last after qualifying almost 16 1/2 mph off Briscoe’s pace.
And next week at Belle Isle, Mich., De Silvestro will already be in another hole. The engine change means she will likely be starting last on the race grid after incurring a 10-spot starting penalty for an unapproved engine change.
It certainly didn’t help Sunday.
“We didn’t have the speed from the beginning,” de Silvestro said. “We have to have more horsepower to be competitive.”
Alesi and de Silvestro were so slow at the historic 2.5-mile Brickyard that Alesi and other drivers acknowledged there were concerns that the slower cars could become a dangerous impediment for the faster cars.
Track officials decided not to help Lotus by providing extra boost for the race and instead decided to rely on the series rulebook to help keep the race safe.
De Silvestro was stopped after completing only 10 laps in the 200-lap race. Alesi finished only nine laps, and they were the first two cars out of the race.
Earlier this month, Dragon Racing owner Jay Penske filed a $4.6 million lawsuit against Lotus, a legal maneuver that cost his drivers several days of track time as Penske fought to reach a settlement that allowed him to put his two drivers, Sebastien Bourdais and Katherine Legge, in Chevrolets.
It left only two Lotus-powered cars in the field. IndyCar needed Alesi and de Silvestro in the race to avoid not having a full 33-car field for the first time since 1947.
But after only 11 laps, the field was already down to 31.
“We just have to be patient with it,” de Silvestro said. “And we have to work even harder to kind of mask a little bit the lack of speed we have right now.”
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