Romain repeats Q3 berth for eighth, Pastor starts 12th
Romain Grosjean qualified eighth for the Japanese Grand Prix, while team-mate Pastor Maldonado will start from 12th after Nico Hulkenberg was handed a penalty.
Both drivers expected a step up in pace at Suzuka after difficulties in Singapore and those expectations proved true after Romain secured a place in the top ten shootout on one fast lap.
The Frenchman’s second run was aborted after Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat’s incident drew a red flag.
“I didn’t expect to go into Q3, we thought we were half a second off so this was a great job from everyone! I had a really good lap for Q3,” said Romain. I didn’t get to do my second run, but the main thing is that Daniil is okay and out of the car.”
“It’s good to be in P8 and to have some good fast laps around here, it’s a track where you have to be brave and it’s good fun to drive. We did an amazing job to get eighth and we’re happy with the car.”
Pastor meanwhile was less content, believing that his E23 Hybrid’s struggles in two corners prevented him joining his team-mate in Q3.
“I was hoping to get into Q3 and although things were quite close, we didn’t make it,” he said. “We struggled in two corners so that compromised me a little, and that’s where I need to get the improvement. We’re much closer to the top ten here than in Singapore.”
The Suzuka circuit proves challenging for overtakes but, with both cars in and around the top ten, Romain and Pastor believe points are on the cards.
“It’s difficult to overtake here so we need a good start and see what we can do here, and we’ll need to find more in the tyres and manage them,” said Romain.
Pastor will need to make up more places than Romain, and agrees that tyres will be an important factor in Japan.
“We saved a set of option tyres for the race which may be key to fighting for points, we saw that degradation was big here so hopefully we can recover places and we’re usually quicker in the races,” he said. “It’ll be two or three stops and it’ll be tyre management that will be key to a good race.”
Trackside Operations Director Alan Permane was content with qualifying and believed today’s hectic FP3, after yesterday’s curtailed running, means a varied strategy could play a role in race considerations.
“It looks like there could be some rain overnight but not for the race so it means pretty normal strategy considerations,” he said. “That said, we had limited running on Friday so all teams are quite restricted in their long-run data which gives us more to think about.”