Improvements before challenging qualifying
Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado saw improvements in the E23 Hybrid, but fell short of a hotly contested battle for Q3 ahead of the British Grand Prix.
Neither driver looked in any danger of missing Q2 in the first qualifying stage, and they both comfortably made the second session. Romain took tenth while Pastor grabbed thirteenth.
In Q2, Romain came closest to sneaking into the top ten, taking twelfth late on in the session with a best time of 1m 34.430secs.
The result leaves him on the fringes of the top ten and, while the result wasn’t reflective of the E23’s progress this year, the Frenchman was content with his qualifying.
“I think that we had a decent enough qualifying session today and did a very good job with the car as it works here,” he said. “It felt okay in Q1 on the option tyres but we seemed to a get a lot of understeer for Q2 which didn’t help.”
Pastor also battled the understeer issue, but believed that the team’s penchant for better performances in race trim means there’s further ground to be made.
“Of course, I’m not happy with my position on the grid but we’ve seen before that we are better in races than qualifying, so we hope that is the case for Silverstone,” he said. “The race is long as we’re working on getting the best pace possible.”
The final practice session of the morning will help the pair in the race, as they reported improvements on the difficulties posed by set-up and balance yesterday and Pastor was able to take tenth in the session, while Romain was fourteenth.
However with Silverstone’s famously challenging layout for overtaking, Romain believes that the small aspects can add up to be a big gain.
“It’s difficult to find a balance here and small improvments mean huge gains here at Silverstone,” he said. “We had to change the setup a lot for the option tyres, we miss some downforce on the harder tyres and that’s where it costs us a little bit.”
“It’s a track where a small mistake can cost you, so that could create some opportunities for us in the race.”
Pastor believed that the team’s starting position wasn’t surprising, but that there was more to come from the two cars.
“We expected to fight for the top ten but we knew teams like Red Bull had the extra downforce so we expected this,” he said. “But we are more competitive than we’ve shown and we could have been 11th and 12th today. We just lacked something extra.”
“The race is long and we’re working on getting the best pace possible.”
Trackside Operations Director Alan Permane believes that finding extra positions will be challenging, but not impossible.
“The weather looks to be good and the tyres are pretty durable so there don’t appear to be too many strategic variations at our disposal,” he said. “Starting outside the top ten means that the starting tyre for both drivers is open.”
“We’ll be looking for any opportunity to leap those ahead of us on the grid tomorrow, but any positions gained are likely to be hard won.”