Two strong practice sessions for the Chinese Grand Prix saw Romain Grosjean go fastest of the Lotus F1 Team drivers, returning to the car after reserve driver Jolyon Palmer drove in his first Formula 1 race weekend.
Pastor Maldonado ran in both sessions at the Shanghai International circuit and managed a total of 53 laps across two sessions that saw him eleventh in each, with a best time of 1min 39.444secs.
Jolyon was more than capable in his first outing for the team, finishing four places down on Pastor with a best lap of 1min 41.967secs and clocking up 25 laps in a productive morning.
The duo were part of a morning programme that included aero and set-up evaluations, starting the day with aero rakes attached to the E23 Hybrid for data collection.
Clocking up valuable data for the team, Jolyon was proud to have had his first taste of a Grand Prix weekend.
“I've been waiting to get my hands on the E23 during a Grand Prix weekend and the experience didn't disappoint,” he said. “There was a lot to learn as I haven’t driven for two months.”
“I had to build from scratch today and there was a lot to take in but I managed to get a lot of laps in and showed pace. It was a good session overall, I'm happy with P15.”
“I was able to test the limits of grip on a couple of occasions on the fresh track. It was great to be out on track and mixing it on a Grand Prix weekend."
While Jolyon was thrilled with his experience, Pastor focussed on the optimal setup for the weekend and felt work was needed ahead of tomorrow’s sessions.
“I didn’t feel 100% happy with the car for all of today, but we made good progress on getting the set-up where I want it so it’s been a good day,” he said. “The weather’s been pretty good here and certainly better than some of the forecasts we saw earlier in the week.”
“It’s a fun circuit to drive with some good challenges and I think we should have a strong car for tomorrow’s qualifying.”
Romain may have only ran in one session, but the Frenchman did have the benefit of watching from the pit-lane and learning from a distance before returning to the E23 Hybrid in the afternoon.
It was like he’d never been away, running in the top five early on in the session before a focus on longer runs meant he finished ninth overall.
“Obviously I’d have preferred to be in the car for both sessions but we had a good afternoon and we’re always happy to see a top ten lap time,” he said. “The base line is there. It’s a difficult track for the tyres, but we’re looking pretty good.”
“There’s more potential in me and the car than ninth and that’s what we’re working on right now. We’re in the top branch in terms of speed, but it’s the design of the car that’s so much better.”
With points the aim for the Chinese Grand Prix, both cars running in and around the top ten is an encouraging start ahead of tomorrow’s qualifying according to Trackside Operations Director Alan Permane.
“Both Pastor and Romain made good progress with their set-ups and there’s further time to be found,” he said. “We’re looking forward to seeing what’s possible tomorrow.”