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.