Lotus admits ‘we made the wrong call’
26 October 2013
Lotus has conceded that its gameplan for the opening phase of qualifying at the Indian Grand Prix was a little off, as Romain Grosjean missed the cut and will start only 17th.
Although the Frenchman achieved the expected cut-off time, a single stint on the medium compound tyres proved to be a gamble that narrowly failed to pay off as he found himself just the wrong side of the break and eliminated at the first hurdle.
Grosjean's best lap was just a second away from the fastest mark set by Jenson Button – around the anticipated difference between the soft and medium compounds on the Buddh International Circuit – but in such a tightly-contested session, the Frenchman – who has stood on the podium at the last two rounds – came up a few tenths shy with his 1min 26.577secs effort.
“In hindsight, we made the wrong call with Romain,” trackside operations director Alan Permane admitted, “We expected him to progress quite comfortably through Q1 on the medium tyre and, unfortunately, this wasn't the case.
“Clearly, he's starting a long way out of position and will need a strong charge through the field to make it into the top ten, but we're extremely confident that he'll be able to do so. How far into the points he can progress will depend on the start and our management of the tyres….”
Grosjean, for his part, refused to heap the blame solely onto the tacticians, having been happy to again try a ploy that had worked out in the past.
“We took a gamble once again to try just one run on the prime tyres in Q1 and, although it's been a successful tactic for us recently, it didn't pay off this time,” he noted, “The times were much tighter than expected and, ultimately, we made a miscalculation with the cut-off time.
“It's easy to look back and think what might have been, but we made the decision together and unfortunately, in the end, it was the wrong one. It's tough to overtake here, so it's going to be a long race from 17th on the grid. We'll have to pull off something quite special with the strategy to take anything from there but, of course, we'll analyse the options overnight to see what's possible. For sure, we won't be leading after the first corner this time, but we'll do our best.”
Team-mate Kimi Raikkonen fared better, but was still not happy with his car after struggling to nail the perfect set-up through three practice sessions. The Finn eventually qualified sixth after the poor visibility that had hampered FP3 earlier in the day cleared sufficiently to allow uninterrupted running during the timed session.
Raikkonen made two runs in Q1 – one on each tyre compound – to eventually progress in P6 using the soft rubber. Q2 was more straightforward, Raikkonen progressing comfortably to the top ten shoot-out in fourth with a strong pair of single lap runs on the medium tyres, before the final session saw the Finn use a single run on soft rubber to claim the outside of row three.
The strategy will oblige Raikkonen to start Sunday's race on the softer Pirelli, and most likely force him into an early stop, despite the E21's acknowledged kindness to its rubber, before he can take on the more durable medium compound.
“It wasn't an ideal qualifying session and I'm still having some problems with understeer, but the car did feel better overall than yesterday,” the Finn reported, “The tyres have to be managed over a full lap for qualifying, so we are where we are on the grid.
“We'll see what happens tomorrow and I'll try to do as well as I can. Overall, the car feels slightly better than in the last few races; still not where we want it to be, but slightly better.”
“It was a reasonably straightforward session for Kimi, with no real dramas,” Permane confirmed, “He'll be the first to admit that qualifying hasn't been going to plan for him recently, and he's about where we expected him to be after free practice this morning. As always, we're confident that his race pace will be exemplary, so we're anticipating a very strong race from him starting from sixth on the grid.
“Kimi's car is certainly more biased towards race pace than single lap performance, but we'll be looking at ways to help Romain carve his way up the order too. Our race pace on the medium tyre looked strong during practice, so we're hopeful of making progress.”