Lotus Malaysian GP - Sepang qualifying report

Lotus F1 press release

Malaysian Grand Prix – Kimi & Romain Burn Rubber in Qualifying

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus
Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus

Photo by: xpb.cc

A strong performance in severe heat at the Sepang International Circuit saw Lotus F1 Team competing at the sharp end of the timesheets throughout each of the three sessions.

After a solid showing in Free Practice 3 earlier today, spirits were high in the Lotus F1 Team garage as the drivers rolled out of the garage to begin their first qualifying runs under the blistering Malaysian sun.

Qualifying 1 got off to the best possible start as both drivers put themselves firmly in the frame to progress to the next session with strong early laps. Despite sitting in P6 and P7 respectively with just a handful of minutes remaining, Kimi and Romain sat poised in the garage ready for another run to cement their places in the top 17. As it turned out neither required an additional stint, dropping only as far as P8 and P9 as the chequered flag was waved.

The second session followed a similar pattern for Kimi. The moment the green flag was flown he fired his E20 down the pit lane and put in a scorching lap to occupy top spot, where he would remain until the end of the session without having to set another time. Romain’s approach was more measured, waiting to see how the track evolved before completing an equally short stint (3 laps) to end the session in P6.

With both cars safely through to the pole position shootout, the excitement in the team garage was palpable as the drivers went for two runs apiece in an attempt to plant their E20s as high up the order as possible. Kimi ended the session in P5, setting an identical time to Mark Webber in P4. With his effort just 0.2s shy of the pole lap, the Finn believed he could have grabbed top spot without a small slide in turn 9. Romain adopted the same strategy as his team mate, ending the day in an impressive P7 to seal his second top 10 starting berth in as many races.

After incurring a five place grid penalty due to a gearbox change yesterday evening, Kimi will start tomorrow’s race from P10, with Romain therefore promoted to P6. Despite this, it has been an encouraging day for the team, with the Malaysian Grand Prix seemingly set for another tight battle throughout the field.

With the starting order now settled, all eyes now turn to the race on Sunday afternoon.

Kimi Räikkönen – “Today Was Definitely a Positive Day”

Despite receiving a five place grid penalty, Kimi is in good shape for the Malaysian Grand Prix after challenging at the sharp end of the field throughout qualifying at the Sepang International Circuit this afternoon.

It’s impossible to say; I’ll tell you tomorrow!

Kimi Räikkönen

Kimi, after a disappointing qualifying session in Australia you must be pleased with today’s progress?

Well it could be better of course; we could be sitting on pole! Either way, it’s better than last Saturday! Seriously though, today was definitely a positive day. Unfortunately I made a couple of mistakes on my fastest lap which probably cost a couple of tenths. Without that I think we would have had a chance to be on pole. I got a little bit sideways at the exit of turn nine and we lost some time, but that’s how it goes sometimes.

You mentioned after Free Practice on Friday that you hadn’t yet found the ideal setup. Were you happier with the car today?

The car was working well today. We had some issues with KERS yesterday, but there was no repeat today. The car worked exactly as it should and it felt good. It’s a shame we have a penalty on the grid but the car works well.

You’re starting in P10 tomorrow after that grid penalty; do you think the podium is in reach from there?

It’s impossible to say; I’ll tell you tomorrow! The cars in front of us are obviously quick but we showed good race pace in Melbourne and also in the long runs during free practice yesterday so we’ll see what happens.

In Melbourne you showed good pace once you were in clear air. Are you expecting the same here?

The car was quick in the first race so hopefully we can be at the same again. It’s been strong in Jerez, Barcelona, Melbourne, and now here which is a good sign. This track is a bit more difficult over a race distance because of the heat but I’m happy with how the car feels. It would be nice to be starting nearer the front but if we can get through the first lap without any incidents we can build from there.

The weather here is unpredictable to say the least. What will you be thinking if it rains?

Well I did an installation lap on the intermediate tyres earlier so I’m sure I’ll be fine!

Romain Grosjean – “We Still Need to Keep Pushing”

Another strong Saturday sees Romain once again at the sharp end of the grid. The Frenchman talks us through qualifying, and the key elements of tomorrow’s Malaysian Grand Prix.

Romain, another top 10 performance in qualifying, how was the session?

It’s good to reach Q3 again and being 4 tenths from pole position is not too bad, but I struggled a bit in turns 1 and 2 where I’m about two tenths from Kimi’s pace. The car feels great around the rest of the lap, so it’s just a case of working on the first sector. Having said that, the grid is very close and I think we can feel confident about challenging for good points in the race.

Romain Grosjean, Lotus F1 Team
Romain Grosjean, Lotus F1 Team

Photo by: xpb.cc

You only did one run in Q2 and of course it was enough to see you through, but how much of a risk was that decision?

It’s a bit of a gamble making just one run, as your lap can be affected by traffic and other factors. I looked at the situation with the engineers and we saw there was a good window so we went for it. I think it was the right call as we now have an extra set of tyres in our pocket for the race.

It’s been a blisteringly hot day. How did this affect the tyres?

It’s a long race and tyre degradation will be a big factor. We’ve tried to save tyres during qualifying to make sure we have some fresh sets for tomorrow. The weather can quickly change so we’ll have to wait until the first stint to see how far we can push the tyres and what strategy to take from there. I think Vettel is on the prime tyre and most of the others are on the option, so it’ll be interesting to see the comparison.

What would you say is the time difference between the two tyre compounds? Which do you think will be the more useful tomorrow?

It’s very much dependent on the team. Some experience a few tenths difference, others over a second. It depends on the car and how it makes the tyres work. There seems to be a split; some teams look to have saved option tyres, some the prime. It depends on strategy and in these changeable conditions it’s hard to predict. Between myself and Kimi we’ve done long runs on both compounds so I think we the best idea possible of what to expect.

Your consistency in long runs during winter testing was very good. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see that in Australia, but does that give you confidence for the race?

It’s a good sign for sure, but we’ll have to be careful in the long runs here because the main thing to watch is the degradation. Everyone put in a few laps during Free Practice 2 and it seems to be getting better as the weekend goes on, but I don’t think anyone will be able to push 100% through the whole race without needing five or six stops.

Last time out in Melbourne you had an issues at the start. Are you confident you can turn that around and make a few places off the grid this time?

Hopefully! Normally our starts are pretty strong and there’s a lot of track between the start line and the first corner, so if we have no problems this time I’ll be looking to make up as much ground as I can before we get there.

After the incident with Pastor (Maldonado) in Australia, will you be more conservative in your approach to this race?

To be honest I couldn’t have been more conservative in Melbourne, so no! I’m not saying I’m going to be aggressive, I’m just saying there’s no need to be more conservative…

Throughout the pre-season all the talk was of Red Bull and McLaren being a long way in front of the pack. How pleasing is it to be up there mixing it with them?

Of course we’re very happy to be near the front, and with a few upgrades coming up we’ll be looking to get more performance from the car. What’s really pleasing is that we have now shown good pace at two different tracks in different conditions which is a credit to the team. We can be very proud of what we’ve achieved so far, but we still need to keep pushing to stay near the top.

Did you lose anything in the fire last night at the team’s hospitality unit?

I lost a few things, but of course the important thing is that nobody got hurt. Our security guard did a fantastic job to get in and save most of our equipment. He managed to salvage the helmets which was obviously important for Kimi and myself, but we only have one balaclava and two sets of overalls left to use as the others smell so bad you can’t go near anyone!

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Mark Webber , Kimi Raikkonen , Romain Grosjean
Teams McLaren , Lotus F1 Team
Tags grosjean, lotus, raikkonen, renault