Moving On Up
The 2015 season got off to a flying start with a return to Q3 for both Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado as they qualified ninth and ten respectively for the Australian Grand Prix.
The top ten places were secured with a 1min 28.560secs lap for Romain, and Pastor was close behind with his lap of 1min 29.480secs.
The rapidly cooling track proved a challenge across all three qualifying sessions, but it didn’t prevent the E23 Hybrid from continuing strong form in its first race weekend.
Regularly running in the top ten, both drivers cruised into Q2, with Romain particularly impressing in sixth place, come the end of Q1 as Pastor eased through the first stage in twelfth.
The Venezuelan hit his stride in Q2, topping the speed trap with 327.1km/h on his way to seventh before a hectic rush of cars across the line with seconds remaining saw him take tenth. His team-mate sat ahead in seventh with consistent pace reaping the rewards.
In an increasingly competitive Q3, the duo were quick out of the traps and briefly sat in the top five places before another late flurry of laps saw the two take ninth and tenth to secure two top ten grid slots.
With a step towards improving on 2014 completed, Romain was quick to praise the team at Enstone and their work in the off-season.
“I’m really happy to be back in Q3, and especially happy for our guys who have been working so hard over the last twelve months,” he said. “We knew we had a good car from winter testing and today we are more or less where we thought we could be.”
“It’s a tight field and if I had sneaked another two tenths from my lap, I would have been seventh on the grid. I think we can generally be very happy with what we’ve been doing. Our long runs have looked good so far so let’s see what we can do during the race tomorrow.”
Pastor felt there could have been more in Q3, with the changing conditions affecting performance, but admitted signs looked promising for tomorrow’s race.
“Q3 was the target and it’s important we got to reach it,” he said. “For sure you always want more, we want to be at the top, but we realise that we have to go step by step. This is a huge step forward.”
“The performance is much better than last year and it’s a good starting point. It’s encouraging as we’ve worked hard in the right direction over the winter. The gaps are getting closer, excluding Mercedes, we’re in that group and we need to get closer. It’s not a progression of the car, it’s new and we need to make progress on our potential.”
With both drivers content and two strong starting positions secured, Trackside Operations Director Alan Permane believes the E23 can challenge some of the leading cars in the race.
“Our plan was to get both of our cars into Q3 and we achieved it,” he said. “Our race looks to be against the Toro Rossos and the Red Bulls and the race pace simulations we ran on Friday seem to suggest we could be in for a good fight with them tomorrow. It could well be an interesting race.”