Lotus F1 Team may not have topped the time sheets during the free practice sessions here in China, but the team once again demonstrated true fighting spirit to end the day with an encouraging qualifying performance ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix tomorrow afternoon
Qualifying kicked off at 14:00 local time today at the Shanghai International circuit. Both Kimi and Romain took to the track early in the first session sporting the white marked medium tyre, and setting solid initial times during 4 and 5 lap stints respectively.
Despite posting respectable laps both drivers opted to head out for a second attempt, with Kimi remaining on the medium tyres (albeit a fresh set) and Romain opting for a set of yellow marked softs with 6 minutes of the first session remaining.
The switch paid off immediately for Romain, as he leapt to the top of the leader board with his single lap effort. Kimi took a steady approach to his second run, as the team monitored the field to assess whether the Finn would need to complete another flying lap. As it happened there was no need, and he duly cruised back to base without improving his time.
Both drivers made it comfortably through to the second part of qualifying; Romain posting a best time of 1:36.343 from 8 laps to finish the session in P3, while Kimi’s best effort of 1:36.850 from 7 laps was good enough to progress in P12 – despite not using the notably faster soft compound tyres.
As Q2 got underway Kimi was first to head out of the Lotus F1 Team garage on the soft compound tyres, briefly jumping to the top of the time sheets with the second effort of his 2 lap stint. Romain by contrast had a slightly untidy flying lap at the first attempt, subsequently deciding to pit for a fresh set of soft tyres having yet to set a time.
While Kimi remained in the garage – the team confident that his time would be good enough to progress – Romain returned to the fray with just over 2 minutes left to run. Despite the immense pressure, the Frenchman produced a fine lap to pip his team mate by less than one tenth of a second and join the Finn in the pole position shoot out.
As the final competitors crossed the line it was Romain who lead the team into the final session of the day, with his best effort of 1:35.903 from 5 laps putting him in P7. Kimi’s 3 lap run produced a time of 1:35.921 which was good enough for P8.With both the air and track temperature beginning to drop, it was anyone’s guess as to how the final grid would shape up. Kimi was the first driver out on track as the green lights were illuminated; just 10 minutes remaining for the drivers to show their hand.
Not satisfied with his initial effort, the Finn returned to the pits for a fresh set of tyres having set just one flying lap. As his team mate headed back to base, Romain fired his E20 out onto the circuit for his one and only stint. Having used his quota of fresh rubber in Q2, the Frenchman was unfortunately unable to produce his best, ultimately opting not to attempt a flying lap.
Kimi’s second run was significantly more productive, with the 2007 World Champion putting the trials and tribulations of Friday’s practice sessions well and truly to rest. When the chequered flag dropped at the end of a frantic final minute on track, the Finn found himself in an impressive P5 after setting a fastest time of 1:35.898 from 5 laps.
As mentioned Romain struggled to replicate his Q2 pace on the worn tyres, but will nonetheless start the race in a solid P10 despite not setting a time in the final part of qualifying. With Hamilton taking a 5 place grid penalty, Kimi will be promoted to P4 on the final grid for tomorrow’s Chinese Grand Prix.
Speaking of the race, the main event is next up from the Shanghai International Circuit at 15:00 local time tomorrow afternoon.