After showing promising pace in practice, Lotus failed to quite live up to paddock expectations in a tight qualifying session for the Monaco Grand Prix, as they appeared to struggle on the super-soft tyre.
Romain Grosjean and in particular Kimi Raikkonen failed to produce the form many observers felt them capable of, qualifying with the fifth and eighth fastest times respectively, though Grosjean will move up to fourth following a penalty for Michael Schumacher. Nevertheless, with Monaco being such a difficult circuit on which to overtake, at least the team avoided some of the strategic errors that have cost them grid places earlier in F1 2012.
This weekend has marked Grosjean's first visit to Monaco in an F1 car, and he seems to have adapted well to the unique atmosphere of the Principality, however he was disappointed with his final position following a strong first run in the shootout.
“We are not as high on the grid as we wanted to be, but things were very tight today. I did a very good lap in the first part of Q3 but then I couldn't improve on my second set of tyres. This was a shame because our strategy was perfect for the last part of qualifying. I think pole position was within reach,” he commented.
“P4 is not exactly where we wanted to be but the race will be long. It's Monaco, it will be difficult; nonetheless we know that the car is quite good on high fuel and with the tyres, so let's see what we can do and put the best strategy into place.”
Raikkonen meanwhile appeared to struggle the most out of the pair, having to use the super-soft tyres to ensure progress from Q1, and admitted to not having quite got the best out of his Lotus.
“We're not very happy after that session. Since the first practice we've been a little bit behind where we should have been and we've been trying to catch-up. The car is fine, the biggest problem today was trying to get the tyres working as it seemed to be a bit tricky to get them up to temperature,” he explained.
A former winner at this circuit, the Finn though is clearly capable of a strong performance tomorrow, and refused to rule himself out of the running.
“I could have been a bit faster on my best lap, but I went a little bit too deep in the swimming pool section. It's a bit disappointing but you can't get it right every time,” he continued. “At a normal race track you would be able to gain positions through overtaking, but in Monaco this is difficult. That said, anything can happen here so hopefully we can achieve something good tomorrow.”
With five different winners already this year, there were high hopes among Lotus personnel that they could make it six this weekend. Director of trackside operations Alan Permane accepts that this will be exceptionally difficult from these grid positions, but nevertheless feels optimistic that his team can add to the three podiums they've already collected in F1 2012.
“Overtaking is notoriously difficult here due to the narrow and twisty confines of the track. No matter what the tyre performance or the presence of DRS, KERS or any other factor, a slower car can hold up a faster car for a long time here. We will of course spend a long time looking at what we can do strategically as the E20 is generally easy on it's tyres. Monaco can often throw up many surprises, so the podium is by no means out of reach,” he concluded.
by Philip Barclay