Romain Grosjean admits he and Lotus were “pretty much surprised” to set the fourth quickest time in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix, but adds that this highlights the thoroughbred nature of the E23 chassis.
After changing his gearbox at the end of FP2 yesterday, the Frenchman entered the Saturday afternoon session with moderate ambitions but soon realised that a strong performance was up for grabs at Spa-Francorchamps.
“It was a great quali,” said Grosjean. “Initially we thought qualifying P11 would be good, saving a set of tyres and, with the five-place grid penalty, starting P16.
“But in Q2 it went pretty well and in Q3 we just gave it everything and it worked well. I think we’re pretty much surprised to be P4 but this shows we’re working in the right direction.”
In the wake of a dismal 2014 campaign, Lotus has managed to bounce back into regular top-10 contention this year, partly thanks to its new Mercedes power unit. Grosjean also insists that the Enstone chassis has equally improved, though upgrades have been few and far between.
“I’ve said since Day 1 that the baseline of this car was really good. With some development, it could become a very good car. This shows that we know how to produce a podium finisher, or maybe a race-winning car.
“We haven’t had much development this year and if you imagine just a five-tenth development on the car, it’d be quite close to Mercedes, so that’s quite nice.”
Lotus’ strong overall form at Spa was further highlighted by team-mate Pastor Maldonado clocking the eighth fastest time in Q3, though the Venezuelan feels he could have ranked higher up the field.
“We were OK until the last lap,” said Maldonado. “In Q2, we were good. Then I made a small mistake in the last corner and I lost a tenth and a half there. The times are really close, so I lost two or three places.”
Maldonado will already recoup one spot on the grid, as he benefits from Grosjean dropping five places to start Sunday’s race from seventh.
Click here for Saturday's Belgian Grand Prix gallery at Spa-Francorchamps