Romain Grosjean foresees a four-way scrap for F1 points between his Lotus team and the likes of Ferrari, Red Bull and Force India after another good day for the embattled Enstone operation.
Fresh from a podium appearance at Spa-Francorchamps, Lotus shrugged off a legal threat from former reserve Charles Pic that saw bailiffs impound its cars in Belgium, to put both drivers in the top ten on day one of the Italian Grand Prix. While he had previously spoken of his high hopes for Monza, Grosjean admitted that he was pleasantly surprised by the performance of the E23.
“It was okay and it was good to be straight on the pace, especially here as it is a different track to normal, but the car felt quite nice,” he reported, “The tyre pressure limitations changed a little the work we were doing, but we are pretty pleased with the car, how it worked and our pace.
“It will be exciting with Ferrari, Williams, Force India and ourselves, then I think there is a bit of a gap. It is quite an exciting battle and I think, as was the case in Spa, they were a bit ahead of us and then we caught up in qualifying.”
Confirming that his car adapted well to the higher tyre pressures mandated by Pirelli in the wake of two notable incidents in Belgium, Grosjean admitted that there was still some evaluation to do but remained confident for the rest of the weekend.
“I think we have some work to do around it, but I am sure we will find a solution to make it more efficient,” he confirmed, “[The E23] is less kind to its tyres than the previous car - I think James Allison has a special touch, but we probably have less downforce than the top teams, and the more downforce [you have], the easier you are on your tyres.
“You can feel that [the higher pressure] is harder to manage and some cars will struggle more than others. I am sure we are going to speak about it in the drivers' briefing - we would like the freedom to set up our cars, but we must put safety first and, if they believe it is the safest way to do it, then it is fine.
“They may review it after today if there is a concern, but it is the same for everyone. The [Pirelli] guy with us is trying to give us as much information [as possible] and they have some strict rules in place, but safety first.”
Grosjean admitted that the biggest hindrance to progress was having to sit out the opening practice session in favour of current reserve driver Jolyon Palmer.
“We are doing a f*cking good job to set up the car just for P2,” the Frenchman grinned, “I like to come onto the race track without a fixed goal and then see where it goes through the weekend. In Spa, the car improved session after session and today was a good day. We didn't miss much, but it is never ideal as you would like to test more things.
“We had a new front wing we wanted to test - driver feedback is very important and Jolyon is doing his best, but he hasn't been in the car as much as I have been, so it is hard for him. All the guys on my side, if we know where we go, it is straight to the point.”