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Lotus content to make it through to Sunday Q2

16 March 2013

It was the type of terrible conditions when even the biggest names in F1 could get caught out and find themselves relegated to the back row of the grid for the race, so Lotus drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean were happy simply to survive the first qualifying elimination round on Saturday.

"It wasn't easy with the traffic, people going off and the yellow flags but we went through to the second qualifying session tomorrow so it's not all bad," said Raikkonen, who finished Q1 safely in 11th place with a best time of 1:45.545s some 2.2s off the fastest lap of the session posted by Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes.

"Today the challenge was finding some clear space on track," continued the Finn. "The car doesn't feel too bad in the wet, it's an improvement on where we were last year for sure."

His team mate Romain Grosjean has started the day particularly well, with the fastest time in a rain-hit final free practice session on Saturday morning. (See separate story.)

"The day started pretty well," agreed the French driver. "It's the first time I've topped an official practice session and I have to say a big thank you to the team for their hard work since yesterday."

Grosjean carried that wet weather form into Q1, and finished the session with the third fastest time behind Rosberg and Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari, albeit a second off the pacesetter.

" It's no secret that wet conditions did not favour our car last year, but from what we saw today there have definitely been some improvements," said a happy Grosjean. "I have to say a big thank you to the team for their hard work since yesterday. We took a different direction with the setup and it's clear we made the right decision."

Grosjean will be hoping that this bounce in pace continues overnight and in drier conditions on Sunday, as qualifying was suspended at the end of Q1 and now the remaining 16 drivers - including Raikkonen and Grosjean - will have to battle it out for grid position on Sunday morning from 11am local time (midnight GMT).

"The session being delayed until tomorrow was a shame, but it's the same for everyone," shrugged Raikkonen.

"It's frustrating to delay the rest of qualifying," agreed Grosjean. "I'm sorry for the fans as they have been fantastic all week and stuck around despite the weather. We have a big day tomorrow and it looks like staying dry, so hopefully we can put on a good show for them."

The team's trackside operations director, Alan Permane, actually seemed completely energised by the cold, wet and difficult conditions that Lotus had experienced on Saturday.

"It's been fun today reacting to the different weather conditions," he said. "We're in good shape. We've made some improvements to our wet setup following lessons learnt in pre-season testing which have certainly worked."

Even so, Pername wasn't disputing the FIA's decision to delay the remainder of qualifying overnight.

"It's a shame that we can't finish qualifying today, but it's absolutely the correct decision," he said. "It was too wet."

Pername said that the team wasn't too worried about the rollover of qualifying to race day, pointing out that "we've looked good come both wet and dry so far". The only issue could be if one or both of the team's drivers have any serious issues in Q2 and Q3 that end up with damage on their cars that needs fixing.

"It doesn't change things too much if everything goes well in qualifying, but if there is a lot of work to do on the car between qualifying and the race then it's going to be a busy day!" he admitted.

"In terms of the weather it looks like tomorrow should be dry, in which case the supersoft is the faster qualifying tyre," he added, moving on to tyre strategies for the race. "That means the top ten starting on the supersoft and working to maximise its potential at the start of the race on high fuel and a newly washed track surface. The medium compound will be the preferred race tyre."


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