Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado had a challenging qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix, qualifying tenth and eleventh respectively.
The pair will however move into the top ten and start ninth and tenth respectively, because of a penalty for Red Bull Racing’s Daniil Kvyat, handing a boost to the duo’s point scoring ambitions.
While it was an unsatisfactory end to the day’s running, the E23 Hybrid in the hands of both drivers found itself to be challenging at the upper reaches of the top ten before Romain took ninth ahead of Pastor in tenth.
Those times were set in the first half of the session as rain sprinkled the circuit restricting running for most of the field and created an unpredictable qualifying session.
A dry line appeared by the time the two drivers hit the track for Q1, but wet patches were to catch out several drivers on the Spielberg circuit.
On the intermediate tyres, Romain and Pastor avoided the treacherous areas of the track and both lapped in and around the top five, never in danger of missing Q2.
As Q2 approached the track dried further and made the session all the more unpredictable and challenging.
Late laps were required to make Q3, and Romain put together a strong lap to move 9th and make Q3, while Pastor agonisingly fell short in 11th.
Pastor rued the inability to put together the lap required, but feels tyres will boost his aim to climb the order.
“We were competitive and I lost time in the second to last corner and that was enough to cost me a chance at Q3 and we could have got that easily with my time up until that corner,” he said. “We were possibly able to get a top five time but we need to move focus tomorrow and use the tyres to our advantage as I have an extra set.”
“With our pace we can recover as we’re stronger than some of the cars ahead. Points are important for both cars and we can do that.”
That pace was also apparent with Romain’s E23, he was unable to demonstrate it a final time in Q3 as a hydraulic leak prevented him setting a time.
It meant Romain was to finish with the tenth best time and felt the result wasn’t reflective of the team’s potential.
“That was frustrating as we should be starting higher than P9,” he said. “I went out for Q3 but it was immediately apparent that there was an issue and the team called me back in.”
“It was a hydraulic leak which we thought we could fix, but sadly we just missed out on going out again. It’s a shame as we’ve been competitive all weekend. Starting from P9 is not the end of the world and it could be an interesting race tomorrow; I’ll be pushing all the way to make up as many places as possible. It’s a tough race on brakes and fuel but if we perform like we did in Canada we can do well.”
Trackside Operations Director Alan Permane shared Romain’s confidence in moving up the order, believing there’s scope for a split strategy.
“Our primary consideration is how to work our way up the order,” he said. “Romain will start with his qualifying tyres whilst Pastor has free choice so there’s potential for different strategies.”
“As we’ve seen this weekend, the weather’s variable so we’ll be looking at a variety of permutations. Friday’s running highlighted that we can show good pace here so we’re looking for a strong race.”