Melbourne, March 17, 2012 (AFP) - A delighted Romain Grosjean said he hoped his third-place qualification on Saturday for the Australian Grand Prix signalled a strong season ahead for the Lotus team.
Grosjean was within four-tenths of a second of Briton Lewis Hamilton's pole position time for McLaren after Lotus team-mate, Finn former champion Kimi Raikkonen, had been dumped out of qualifying in Q1.
"It is fantastic for everybody (in the team)," said the Frenchman. "It is really nice to be back in F1 and I'm enjoying it.
"For me, winter testing went pretty well and I am proud to be part of this experience with Lotus. I have a few people who believe in me and I am back almost at the top. I hope we can keep going all season long and in the end it will be a nice story."
While he beamed with pleasure, the 2007 champion Raikkonen, back after two years in rallying, qualified down in 18th place.
Yet Grosjean, who won the GP2 Series title last year, explained that he also was a driver making a return, three years after being dropped by Renault following just seven races in 2009.
"Today I am very happy to be here, proud to be here," he said. "They gave me the toughest time.
"I am proud to be part of Lotus team and the atmosphere and experience can be very good, we have been working well during winter to do our best to make best of everything we can.
"It is not a dream, we did it, and tomorrow we can work to get the best in the race and the next races as well."
He said he was proud to have bounced back after his earlier disappointment in Formula One -- and added that his experience was an example to others. "It is a lesson," he said. "Don't give up."
Born in Geneva, the 25-year-old spared some thoughts for Raikkonen. "You know, it's not easy," he said.
The Finn said: "I slowed down because we were supposed to have time for one more lap and I guessed we didn't.
"Nobody told me when I slowed down that I had to hurry up. There's no point to blame anybody and everyone is as disappointed as me. It's a bad start."