Maldonado still smiling despite disastrous day for Lotus

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“It never rains, but it pours” is a saying that is perfectly applicable to Lotus F1 Team in 2014. Following a difficult 2013 season that was blighted by a number of financial problems and public disputes, the team is now in the process of restructuring and rebuilding in order to try and return to the front of the field.

However, after a terrible weekend in Australia that saw Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean qualify last and both retire from the race, the team’s fortunes have failed to improve on Friday in Malaysia.

Romain Grosjean completed just 18 laps on Friday, but his first run was brought to an early end when his car stopped out on track. Having also been hit with a problem on his car, Maldonado eventually came out towards the end of FP1, only for the E22 to start spewing smoke from its engine before eventually coming to a halt on pit entry.

Despite not posting a time, Maldonado remains optimistic about what the team can do, but did not make any secret of his struggles.

“Well we have had so many problems today,” he admitted. “We’ve been stuck in the garage and have not even been able to complete a lap. But that’s just the way it is!

“Since the pre-season we’ve had quite a few problems around the power unit, and again today – it’s not what we want but we just need to accept it and work a lot harder than the others.

“I think the team is doing quite well and is working very hard, but the power unit is very complicated. However we need to be strong together and keep pushing.”

Grosjean did manage to post a lap time in FP2, albeit 2.6 seconds behind pace-setter Nico Rosberg and ahead only of the Marussia and Caterham drivers.

It’s a far cry from the team that won a race in 2013 and scored podiums on a regular basis, and it will be interesting to see just whether or not the British outfit can return to such heights in 2014 in the face of such adversity.

Josef Newgarden wins pole for Grand Prix of Alabama

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With time running off the clock, Josef Newgarden lapped Barber Motorsports Park with a speed of 122.773 mph to win his third career pole and first on this track in the Grand Prix of Alabama.

Newgarden was .0128 seconds faster than teammate Scott Dixon in second.

Newgarden has two previous wins at Barber. He won last year’s edition of this race after starting seventh and in 2015 from fifth.

“I didn’t know if that was going to be enough,” Newgarden said after winning the pole.

“Team Chevy has done a good job,” Newgarden said. “They’ve really given us good power this weekend – good driveability. We’re going to need some fuel mileage tomorrow, which I think we’ll have. But it’s going to get mixed up with the rain.”

Dixon’s lap of 122.750 mph was not quite enough.

“I’m sure you could pick out a number of different things on a lap when it’s that close,” Power said about what made the slight difference between him and Newgarden. “A little mistake out of 9; a little lift here or there.”

Sebastien Bourdais (122.605 mph) qualified third, with Ryan Hunter-Reay (122.159) and James Hinchliffe (121.859) rounding out the top five.

Scott Dixon was the last driver in the top six.

Fast 12

Newgarden topped this chart with a speed of 123.475 mph.

He brought Power, James Hinchcliffe, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Sebastien Bourdais along with him to the Fast 6.

Marco Andretti (122.480), Alexander Rossi (122.216), Simon Pagenaud (122.050), Robert Wickens (122.042), Zach Veach (121.784) and Ed Jones (120.984) failed to advance.

Round 1, Group 1

Newgarden posted the fastest single lap in round one, group one of qualification for the Grand Prix of Alabama with a speed of 122.550 mph.

Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe, Wickens, and Andretti also advance to the fast 12.

Taking the final slot was Jones with a speed of 119.835 mph after an off-course excursion in final practice.

This was Andretti’s first advancement to the fast 12 for the first time since 2014.

Round 1, Group 2

Power had the fastest lap of 121.570 mph.

Bourdais, Veach (who is battling food poisoning-like symptoms), Rossi, and Pagenaud grabbed positions 2-4.

Scott Dixon had an uncharacteristically slow lap of 121.006, but managed to advance to the fast 12 when the session was red-flagged for an incident involving Tony Kanaan.

With three minutes remaining, Kanaan spun into the tire barriers while leaving pit road. Since he brought out the red flag, he lost his qualification time of 119.996 mph.

Takuma Sato had slipped off-course midway through the session and posted only the Ninth-fastest speed of 120.789 mph.