What appeared to be a good day for Romain Grosjean and Lotus ultimately proved to be a point-less one.
After qualifying 10th for the Chinese Grand Prix, the Frenchman was in the midst of his best run of the season Sunday at Shanghai until a terminal gearbox problem forced him to abandon his battle with Kimi Raikkonen for ninth.
Grosjean lost fourth gear initially on his No. 8 Lotus-Renault E22 and then lost more gears before he bowed out of the race at Lap 29.
“It’s the first time we’ve had a problem like this so we’ll have to understand what happened,” he said on Sunday. “It had been quite nice in the race as we’d been fighting for ninth position so we were in the points, which is a good improvement from before.”
It’s a hopeful sign ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix in May, for which upgrades to the chassis and engine are expected to debut.
“We have identified some further development with the power unit here so with the three weeks between this race and Spain, we’ll work with the team to capitalize on the potential,” said Renault support leader Laurent Debout.
Another bit of progress came from Pastor Maldonado, who brought his Lotus home in 14th after having to start 22nd due to missing qualifying on Saturday with issues on his power unit.
The Venezuelan made the biggest leap of all drivers on the grid, moving up eight positions – half of those coming off of a strong start.
“My pace wasn’t fantastic but at least we moved forwards and I pushed as hard as I could,” said Maldonado, who put an embarrassing wreck with Esteban Gutierrez at Bahrain behind him. “We will look at the data as we seemed to lack pace on the straights which made it difficult to overtake and also difficult to defend.
“It will be nice to have a race weekend without any problems, and that’s what we are all working for when we head to Europe.”
Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.
Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it would seem right for Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — to spend some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.