Lotus F1 drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean will line up seventh and eighth for the Australian Grand Prix after a damp-but-drying Albert Park circuit made qualifying something of a lottery.
Both drivers made it comfortably through the first of two delayed sessions on Sunday morning, but the ten-man pole position decider proved to be a challenging prospect with the track conditions necessitating a well-timed switch from Pirelli's intermediate rubber to its 'supersoft' slick.
Neither driver featured at the top of the timesheets in the ten-minute shoot-out, with Raikkonen admitting to a mistake as he chased top spot on the slick tyres.
“It was an okay qualifying session, but we had just one lap on the dry tyres and I got a bit sideways at the end on a damp patch which meant I lost some time,” the Finn revealed, “That was a bit disappointing as the car seems to be working well. It had the speed but, when you have only one lap on dry tyres on a damp circuit, setting a fast lap is not the easiest thing to do.”
Team-mate Grosjean also confessed to an error in the unpredictable conditions, which ultimately restricted him to a place alongside Raikkonen on row four of the grid.
“That has to be one of the trickiest qualifying sessions I've ever had,” the Frenchman acknowledged, “The delay overnight, then really mixed weather today made it a big challenge. Unfortunately, we only got one flying lap on the dry tyres in Q3, which was a shame as it's hard to know the limit in these kind of drying conditions.
“I had a small lock up into turn three which lost me quite a bit of time, so it could have been a bit better, but the main thing is we have both cars starting in the points positions. The race is long and it looks like being dry, so let's see what we can do from here.”
While Raikkonen did not share his team-mate's optimism over the weather forecast – “the weather seems to be changing very quickly, but we've seen that before in Melbourne,” he commented, “It's the same for everybody and it will be in the race too” – technical director James Allison sees no reason why Lotus cannot have a good afternoon.
“Reading a drying track like we had today is always very difficult, [and] there was the speed in the car to do better had there been more constant conditions,” he noted, “We're more than adequately placed to put in a good showing this afternoon – we've shown well on heavy fuel in pre-season testing and the start will be interesting on the supersoft tyres. We're expecting it to be cool and dry, and the temperatures will make graining an ever-present threat, but there's nothing to suggest we shouldn't have a strong race.”