“A miracle!” is how Romain Grosjean described his top ten appearance in qualifying after a severely disrupted weekend for him and his Lotus team.
For the sixth time this year Grosjean was forced to abdicate his seat for free practice one to Lotus reserve driver Jolyon Palmer, but a financial dispute with tyre supplier Pirelli left the team essentially without tyres for most of the session anyway, erasing valuable set-up time.
“We were clearly not expecting to go to Q3!” exclaimed Grosjean. “The first mission was to go into Q2, which didn’t seem that easy initially.
“We did that, and then the lap in Q2 was absolutely beautiful, and then in Q3 we struggled a little bit with the out lap. We were last in the queue and it was a very slow out lap, so we didn’t get the grip in the tyres.”
“If everything was going perfectly, it would have been P9; if things were not going well, it was P10.
“In the end I don’t think we would have bet anything on going to Q3.”
More concerning for Grosjean, however, is that the limited practice time was enough to realise that the Lotus’ long-run pace was severely lacking but not sufficient to make wholesale changes to the car.
“Shit!” is how the Frenchman bluntly described it. “It’s that bad!
“Yesterday I really struggled. I completely cooked by rear tyres from the third lap onwards — probably we need to drive a little bit different than we have in the previous races.
“Normally our qualifying pace is good and our race pace is all right, but yesterday our race pace was not good at all.”
With teammate Pastor Maldonado qualifying P14, behind both Force India cars and Carlos Sainz’s Toro Rosso, Grosjean will be Lotus’ best hope for points at the end of one the team’s more difficult weekends.
“We need a good start,” he said. “P10 is the worst place — P11 has new tyres and is on the clean side of the grid.
“But on the other hand there’s a Toro Rosso in front of me, and we normally have a better start.
“Tomorrow is going to be some work in the car, but I think we went in the right direction with the setup, so it should be better.”