Romain Grosjean and Kimi Räikkönen may have finished the opening day of the European Grand Prix eighth and eleventh on the combined practice timesheets, but the Lotus team reckons that it can expect more from both cars over the rest of the weekend.
As usual, cooler than expected temperatures on Friday morning saw the two black-and-gold machine trailing the usual frontrunners, before both moved up the order during the warmer - and slightly less breezy - 90 minutes of running after lunch. After Grosjean's run to second place in Canada a fortnight ago, the Enstone team is confident that it can be competitive on raceday but, as the Frenchman alluded to between races, it needs to improve in qualifying.
“It's been a straight-forward and issue-free Friday for us," trackside operations director Alan Permane reported, "We conducted aero evaluation of a new front wing and new floor and we will be considering the data this evening.
"In the afternoon, we concentrated on race pace and tyre management so our finishing positions, as usual, don't necessarily represent where we expect to be after qualifying tomorrow. Overall, we're very happy with the way the E20 is performing here. There is some scope for improvement to get both Kimi and Romain 100 per cent happy with their cars, which we will work on tomorrow morning, but, in terms of long run pace, we think we are looking competitive.”
Grosjean was charged with evaluating the new front wing, with an updated floor, new rear suspension configuration and, notably, another revised steering set-up being run his Finnish team-mate. Both cars ran Pirelli's medium compound tyres in the morning and both the medium and soft in the afternoon.
“Today was not as hot as we expected, certainly after the weather we saw here yesterday, but the long run pace was there and the car felt good," Grosjean confirmed, "We still have a few things to try with the set-up, so there should be some more pace to come. Qualifying will be the big moment for us, as we have seen that we need to find a little bit of improvement there. It's not the end of the world, as we have seen that we can make good gains on Sunday with our race pace. The trick will be to find more speed in qualifying without disturbing this.”
While Grosjean has run more regularly, and found success, at the Valencia street circuit, Raikkonen was returning for the first time since his rally sojourn, but still managed to work down to a reasonable pace.
“The car feels okay and there were no issues," he claimed, "The wind was a bit of a factor in the morning, but it was better in the afternoon. I was stuck in traffic for quite a bit of my long run in the second session, so I wasn't able to go as fast as the car was capable of, but we don't have any issues on that front. The E20's strong point always seems to be its race pace but, of course, we are looking to make it quicker in qualifying. Let's see how it is tomorrow morning and we'll do whatever's necessary. We'll make a few changes to the car for sure, but I think we're pretty okay.”