It was a mixed qualifying session at the Sochi Autodrom for the Russian Grand Prix, as Romain easily secured a top ten start with eighth place and Pastor missed out on Q3 in fourteenth.
As has been the pattern of the weekend, the morning’s practice session was curtailed after Carlos Sainz Jr’s red flag incident ended the session twenty minutes earlier.
“I was glad to hear that Carlos had the thumbs-up after his accident,” said Romain. Pastor agreed and added: “The main thing is that Carlos is okay after his incident earlier.”
After repairs to the barriers following Sainz’s impact, qualifying got underway as expected and both drivers comfortably made the cut for Q2, with Romain showing impressive pace and Pastor recovering from a spin.
“It was slippery on the track and it caught me out and I had a spin,” he said. “It’s not an easy track and the mistakes drivers are making here is because the last sector is tough and you really heat up the tyres there and it’s easy to make an error.”
While Q2 proved easy to get into, it was difficult to escape for Pastor who narrowly missed out on the cut for Q3 after good lap times in the earlier part of the session.
It was a disappointing result after both drivers felt the top ten positions were achievable, but there was some solace for Pastor who was happy with the car’s feel.
“This morning we had a good feeling with the car,” he said. “We need to test different things, I was expecting more to be honest. The car felt good we just didn’t get all the performance out of the tyres.”
The lack of clear running across Friday and Saturday played a part, with Pastor unable to work on soft tyre performance before qualifying.
“I expected to be competitive here and we didn’t get time to try the super softs and maybe that’s what we need to investigate. It’ll be a tough long race and it’s tough to overtake here but we’ll do our best to score points.”
One way that could help his points charge is the strategy, with Pastor expecting to be able to have a one stop race.
“One stop is possible for the race tomorrow and I expect it to be that way because the degradation here is not so big compared to other circuits.”
Meanwhile, Romain continued to find consistently quick times in the final qualifying, opting for two quick laps and securing eighth for tomorrow’s Grand Prix.
“It wasn’t easy to get the right strategy for Q3, some went slow and then fast laps,” said Romain. “We went for two fast laps and it may not have been the best choice but it’s hard to know beforehand. One fast lap with lower fuel might have been the best way.“
“The car was really consistent here and we had a good baseline which is testament to the team as we’ve improved a lot on last year’s Grand Prix here.
Turning his attention to tomorrow and Romain is aiming to consolidate a points return, and targets Force India as the team continue to fight for fifth in the constructors’ championship.
“I think in the race there’s always potential to move ahead and I got a chance in Japan to make up places at the start so it can happen,” he said. “We’re looking to score more points than Force India which is our goal but we will see.”
Trackside Operations Director Alan Permane is keen for the team to be alert and ready to react to the effects of limited running.
“For a number of reasons we’ve seen pretty limited running in the build-up to the race so we don’t have the same breadth of data that we usually would have relating to tyre performance,” he said. “This means there are rather more unknowns than usual so we’ll all be very alert to how the race unfolds.”