Lotus reaches top 10 for the first time in 2014 thanks to Grosjean

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Romain Grosjean has secured Lotus’ first top 10 grid position of the season during qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix on what was a bittersweet day for the British team.

Whilst the Frenchman finally found his feet with the E22 car to qualify 10th, teammate Pastor Maldonado did not even make it out on track after an engine problem forced him to sit on the sidelines during qualifying.

The Venezuelan driver had a disastrous Friday in China, spinning in FP1 and then crashing at the pit entry in FP2. However, when he was forced to pull over during practice on Saturday morning, it was through no fault of his own. When the car was recovered and brought back to the pits, it was found that there was an engine problem that required fixing.

Fighting alone, Grosjean was keen on securing the Lotus’ best qualifying result of the season after a difficult start to the year. Financial problems blighted much of the team’s progress at the beginning of the year, meaning that it had to miss the first test in Jerez. Ever since, it had been behind in the development race, but the team finally appears to have found some form in China.

In Q1, Grosjean managed to scrape through in 16th position ahead of Esteban Gutierrez after the rain grew heavier towards the end of the session, preventing any improvements. A well-timed lap in Q2 meant that he eased through in 7th place whilst Kimi Raikkonen, Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen all failed to make it into the final part of qualifying.

Q3 was a less fruitful session for the Frenchman, and he finished three-tenths of a second adrift of the rest of the field to finish down in 10th place. However, simply to make it through into the top 10 shootout was a major achievement for the entire Lotus team.

Now, the target will be for Grosjean to score the team’s first points of the season tomorrow, and with light rain forecast, he might just be able to make it a reality.

Despite not technically qualifying, Maldonado should be permitted to race by the stewards after setting times within the required 107% of the fastest driver during practice on Friday.

Lewis Hamilton will start the Chinese Grand Prix from pole position. You can watch the race live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 2:30am ET tomorrow.

Verstappen doesn’t want F1 season to end after recent run of form

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Max Verstappen says he is not ready for the 2017 Formula 1 season to come to an end after enjoying a run of strong form through the closing stages of the campaign.

Verstappen endured a rocky run of form through to the end of the European season that saw him suffer a number of reliability issues and score just a single podium finish, taking third in China back in April.

However, the Dutchman has rallied to score more points than any other driver in the last five races, including victories in Malaysia and Mexico, as well as a podium finish in Japan.

Verstappen heads into next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix chasing a third win of the year to sign off, but joked he does not want the season to end just as he’s got into a good groove.

“We will, of course, try and end the season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi,” Verstappen said. “Last year was actually quite a good race after skipping a pit stop following a spin at Turn 1, it was hard to manage the tires to the end of the race but we did it and finished fourth.

“I would say that my favorite part of the track is at Turns 2 and 3, the fast left, right. It’s also very cool driving underneath the hotel and racing in the darkness with all the lights.

“The final sector at Yas Marina is actually quite technical so you have to be really precise there, but it should also be our strongest part of the track.

“There are quite a few overtaking opportunities to make the race interesting, before the long straight at the hairpin and then at the end of the straight under braking for the next chicane section.

“Abu Dhabi is the last race on the calendar, but I don’t actually want the season to end. I’m really fired up at the moment and I just want to keep going.

“The nice thing will be to spend some time with friends and family over the winter break and then I will look ahead to January and get back into training before it all starts again.”