May 25th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Lotus are on the back foot ahead of Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix, after qualifying did not go according to plan. Kimi Raikkonen could do no better than fifth, behind both Mercedes and both Red Bulls. Romain Grosjean's Q2 was a disaster, with the Frenchman ending up far back in 13th place after looking very quick throughout all of the weekend's practice sessions.
Grosjean has had perhaps the most eventful Grand Prix weekend of his career so far. He crashed in FP2 on Thursday, causing significant damage to his Lotus. In FP3 this morning, he first hit the inside barrier on the way into the Nouvelle Chicane, puncturing the tyre and damaging the rim, and then later in the session crashed heavily in St Devote, bringing out the red flag and giving his team a massive job to ready his car for qualifying.
Amazingly, Lotus managed to repair Grosjean's car in time for him to get out in the second half of Q1. He was immediately on the pace and made it through to Q2 comfortably. But then it all went wrong, with Grosjean finding himself in traffic in Q2 right when he needed to deliver a quick lap. As a result, he was only able to produce the 13th fastest time of the session, and did not progress to Q3.
Grosjean was full of praise for his team after they managed to get his car ready for qualifying in time. After qualifying, Grosjean said, "The team did an unbelievable job to get the car ready for me after what happened in P3 this morning; I’m extremely grateful to all of them. I really owe them today and I think that’s more drinks I will have to buy at the end of the weekend. We had the car to do something very good in qualifying, but I caught Daniel [Ricciardo] in Q2 when the track was getting drier and faster. I had just two laps on the slicks and we weren’t able to get through to the top ten which is really frustrating. What can you say? This is Monaco. We have seen different weather conditions and it is a unique circuit. We will see what happens in the race tomorrow."
Raikkonen had a smoother qualifying session, but did not have the pace in the conditions to challenge the Mercedes and Red Bull drivers ahead. He does have the advantage of being in a car that is very kind to its tyres. He may be able to finish the race on just one pit stop, while the Mercedes drivers will possibly need two stops. It's not yet clear if Red Bull will be able to make a one-stop strategy work, but if not, Raikkonen will likely be there to pick up the pieces and has a real chance of victory.
The Finn was not particularly enthusiastic after qualifying, saying: "It was a difficult day today because of the weather, but it was the same for all of the drivers. Obviously, qualifying here is never the easiest with the traffic and the barriers and you’d always prefer it to be dry as it’s so slippery when it’s wet. I’m happy we made it through to the top ten and P5 was more or less the best we could do with seven tenths to the next fastest car. I’m not sure what we’ll do in the race; we don’t have a clear picture yet as you never know exactly what the strategies from everyone else will be, but for sure we’ll find out tomorrow."