Points for Grosjean, but Maldonado fails to start

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Lotus F1 Team once again experienced a grand prix of highs and lows in Monaco, with Romain Grosjean’s points haul being juxtaposed by Pastor Maldonado’s failure to start the race.

Maldonado has gained a lot of criticism this year for his aggressive driving style, but he had no control over a suspected fuel pump issue that meant his car could not start on the grid. He had qualified in 15th place, his best result of the season.

“We don’t know yet precisely what happened,” he explained after the race. “The engine switched off after 30 seconds. When we did out laps to the grid the car and the power unit were working well. We need to work to find out what the problem was.

“It is disappointing and I was expecting a solid race, we had a good strategy in place, I love this circuit where I have been competitive in the past. We have already worked hard on performance and reliability but today it was not to be. This afternoon we’re not happy but we are keeping focused on improving.”

Grosjean’s race appeared to take a turn for the worse just a few minutes later when he was forced to pit under the first safety car period due to a puncture. He then took his time passing the backmarkers, but ultimately fought his way through to finish ninth on track, which became eighth following Jules Bianchi’s five second penalty.

“It’s good to finish the race here for the first time in my career and it’s good to get some points too,” he said. “It started as a pretty bad Sunday for us with a puncture for me on the first lap after Adrian drove into me. We swapped to the soft tires but it was impossible to overtake on these so we came back in for the super softs.

“The safety car timing didn’t help us as we’d just gone out on the new tyres, but that’s Monaco. You can have thousands of misfortunes in the race, but still be in the points at the end!”

By failing to start, Maldonado’s record of never finishing the Monaco Grand Prix has been extended, but he will know that the inherent pace of the Lotus E22 should put him in the running to score some points in Canada.

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.