Kimi Raikkonen was pleasantly surprised on two fronts in the first-ever qualifying session at the Circuit of the Americas, ahead of the 2012 United States Grand prix in Austin, Texas.
One was the warmer weather that they encountered after a chilly Friday; and the other was the pace of the Lotus in qualifying trim. Raikkonen felt that the two were not unrelated.
"I was actually expecting a more difficult qualifying session today, but the car was the best it's felt all weekend so it turned out to be quite good," said the Finn, who posted the fifth fastest time in the last part of qualifying on Saturday. "The warmer conditions make the car work much better and that certainly makes a difference."
Raikkonen was out-qualified by his team mate Romain Grosjean who set the fourth fastest time in Q3, but the Frenchman has a five-place grid penalty that will drop him down to ninth on the grid and raise Raikkonen up to fourth - which was not great news as far as the former world champion was concerned.
"Starting on the dirty side of the grid maybe isn't the best," he admitted, concurring with speculation from some teams that starting on the 'even-numbered' side of the grid could cost a driver one or even two positions off the grid in the run up to turn 1.
"It's been very slippery anyhow, the circuit, and then the racing line goes more or less over the right-hand side so we expect it's going to be very slippery on the left.
"We'll have to wait and see tomorrow what happens," he continued. "We'll have to hope that the circuit picks up a little more grip for the race tomorrow," he said. "The set-up is still not exactly how I want it but it's much closer," he added.
But he denied that set-up changes had been primarily responsible for the big leap in the Lotus' level of grip on Saturday, after he'd described Friday's outings as simply ""sliding around" the track.
"I don't think the circuit has improved for us, it's just the tyres - if you get them switched on then everything changes. It's not like the circuit suddenly changes for us, it's just the tyres," he insisted. "It doesn't matter how much we change the car. We know where we should be. It's just the weather and certain things. But there's not very much we can suddenly do: if it gets warmer like it is now then it helps us. In the mornings it's been 10 degrees, which is not ideal for us."