Shanghai Day 2: Lotus report

Apr.14 (Lotus Press Release) Kimi Räikkönen set the fifth fastest time whilst Romain Grosjean made it through to Q3 but did not set a time in the final session before tomorrow’s Chinese Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit. Kimi benefits from a gearbox change penalty for Lewis Hamilton and will start in P4 for tomorrow’s race whilst Romain will start from P10.

Kimi Räikkönen, E20-03. Q: P5*, 1:35.898. FP3: P10, 1:37.061. *Starts from P4.
“The grid position is okay but when you look at the times, I’m disappointed with the pace of the car today. We’ve gained a position after Lewis’s penalty but the speed wasn’t where it should have been, especially when you look at the pole time. We’ve tried some updates this weekend, but they haven’t worked as we wanted so we’ve gone back to how the car was before. We go into the race less confident in the car than in the last two races, but knowing that we start from a higher position on the grid. Let’s see what we can do tomorrow, we’ll try to do the best we can and hopefully we can be higher up than we are on the grid, and that means a podium.”

Romain Grosjean, E20-04. Q: P10, no time. FP3: P12 1:37.274.
“I have mixed feelings after today’s session. After struggling a bit yesterday it’s great to have both cars in Q3, but unfortunately after a terrible first run in Q2 we were forced to use up all our new sets of soft tyres before the final session. This meant there was no point trying to set a competitive time in the pole position shoot out which is a real shame, as our pace in Q2 was good. I feel much more comfortable with the car and I think that shows in the lap times today. The team did a great job to turn things around and get us back towards the top where we should be. I still have some fine tuning to do but 56 laps in tomorrow’s race will certainly help that!”

Alan Permane, Director of Trackside Operations:
“It should be interesting…”

Both drivers in the top ten again, are we happy with today’s performance?
“Kimi is where the car should be and I think he’s reasonably happy with his performance. He did an excellent job through qualifying and considering the build up of this weekend I think we can be reasonably happy. Romain’s absolute pace is very similar to Kimi’s but qualifying is hungry for tyres if you can’t get the pace straight away. Kimi got through to Q3 with just one set of soft tyres, but Romain required three sets, meaning he then didn’t have a fresh set for his Q3 lap. Romain’s got the pace, we just need to unlock that pace on the hard tyre in a qualifying situation.”

Why didn’t Romain set a time in Q3?
“As he didn’t have a new set of soft tyres, it was always going to be a tough ask to get a blinding lap in the final session, especially as everyone else who got through to Q3 did have a new set. It was unrealistic to expect Romain to qualify higher than tenth in this scenario, but we sent him out anyway. We soon saw from the split times that there was no possibility we brought him in to save a lap on the tyres for the race.”

What’s the assessment of the weekend so far?
“We brought a new update package for the car and we weren’t convinced by a large part of it yesterday. This meant we reverted almost entirely to our Malaysia specification which is why we have missed out on potential pace from the car. We hope to get all the new elements working soon.”

P4 on the grid is Kimi’s best starting position, what can be done from there?
“We have to take every race as it comes, but we’ve certainly seen that we’ve raced more strongly so far than the two Mercedes ahead of us, but that said we were a long way off the pole time, so they are clearly looking very strong. I’d like to think we can take the race to the other cars around us. We’re confident in our starts and our tyre wear and race pace. It should be interesting.”

Early Report

Lotus F1 Team may not have topped the time sheets during the free practice sessions here in China, but the team once again demonstrated true fighting spirit to end the day with an encouraging qualifying performance ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix tomorrow afternoon

Qualifying kicked off at 14:00 local time today at the Shanghai International circuit. Both Kimi and Romain took to the track early in the first session sporting the white marked medium tyre, and setting solid initial times during 4 and 5 lap stints respectively.

Despite posting respectable laps both drivers opted to head out for a second attempt, with Kimi remaining on the medium tyres (albeit a fresh set) and Romain opting for a set of yellow marked softs with 6 minutes of the first session remaining.

The switch paid off immediately for Romain, as he leapt to the top of the leader board with his single lap effort. Kimi took a steady approach to his second run, as the team monitored the field to assess whether the Finn would need to complete another flying lap. As it happened there was no need, and he duly cruised back to base without improving his time.

Both drivers made it comfortably through to the second part of qualifying; Romain posting a best time of 1:36.343 from 8 laps to finish the session in P3, while Kimi’s best effort of 1:36.850 from 7 laps was good enough to progress in P12 – despite not using the notably faster soft compound tyres.

As Q2 got underway Kimi was first to head out of the Lotus F1 Team garage on the soft compound tyres, briefly jumping to the top of the time sheets with the second effort of his 2 lap stint. Romain by contrast had a slightly untidy flying lap at the first attempt, subsequently deciding to pit for a fresh set of soft tyres having yet to set a time.

While Kimi remained in the garage – the team confident that his time would be good enough to progress – Romain returned to the fray with just over 2 minutes left to run. Despite the immense pressure, the Frenchman produced a fine lap to pip his team mate by less than one tenth of a second and join the Finn in the pole position shoot out.

As the final competitors crossed the line it was Romain who lead the team into the final session of the day, with his best effort of 1:35.903 from 5 laps putting him in P7. Kimi’s 3 lap run produced a time of 1:35.921 which was good enough for P8.

With both the air and track temperature beginning to drop, it was anyone’s guess as to how the final grid would shape up. Kimi was the first driver out on track as the green lights were illuminated; just 10 minutes remaining for the drivers to show their hand.

Not satisfied with his initial effort, the Finn returned to the pits for a fresh set of tyres having set just one flying lap. As his team mate headed back to base, Romain fired his E20 out onto the circuit for his one and only stint. Having used his quota of fresh rubber in Q2, the Frenchman was unfortunately unable to produce his best, ultimately opting not to attempt a flying lap.

Kimi’s second run was significantly more productive, with the 2007 World Champion putting the trials and tribulations of Friday’s practice sessions well and truly to rest. When the chequered flag dropped at the end of a frantic final minute on track, the Finn found himself in an impressive P5 after setting a fastest time of 1:35.898 from 5 laps.

As mentioned Romain struggled to replicate his Q2 pace on the worn tyres, but will nonetheless start the race in a solid P10 despite not setting a time in the final part of qualifying. With Hamilton taking a 5 place grid penalty, Kimi will be promoted to P4 on the final grid for tomorrow’s Chinese Grand Prix.