Lotus F1 Team experienced both ends of the emotional spectrum this afternoon in Melbourne, as Romain made a big impression on his Albert Park debut while Kimi suffered an unexpected blow on his return to the sport
The ideal conditions from Free Practice 3 earlier in the day remained faithful to the Formula 1 circus this afternoon, as the sun-drenched paddock filled with a distinctive air of anticipation at the prospect of one of the most unpredictable opening race weekends in recent memory.
Q1 got underway at 17:00 local time, with both Kimi and Romain heading out early in the session on the medium compound tyre and completing a total of 9 laps apiece. After a solid first stint, Romain returned to the track on a fresh set of tyres and sailed comfortably into Q2 with a time of 1:26.498.
Unfortunately for Kimi, his session was not to run as planned. Having set an almost identical time to Romain in his first stint the Finn made a late appearance for his final run, again opting to stay out on the medium compound tyre. A couple of small mistakes followed by a communication issue were to prove costly, as Kimi ran out of time to complete another flying lap, ruling him out of qualifying at the first hurdle and consigning him to an unexpected 18th place on the grid.
With the entire field now utilising the soft compound tyre, Q2 would prove to be the first real comparison between the teams. Despite having no prior experience of the Albert Park circuit before Free Practice 1 on Friday, Romain looked assured and confident at the wheel of the E20, progressing to the final knockout stage in 5th place with a time of 1:25.845.
Q3 proved to be a classic Formula 1 showdown, with the majority of drivers opting to complete a short run early in the session before heading out for a last-gasp run at the very end. Romain was among those to adopt this tactic and the Frenchman did not disappoint, crossing the line in a time of 1:26.498 to clinch 3rd position on the grid for his first Australian Grand Prix.
The start lights will go out at 17:00 local time tomorrow afternoon for the opening race of the season in Melbourne, with an intriguing plot line in store for the team as Kimi and Romain face very different challenges.