Romain Grosjean managed to complete a race distance in the 2014 Lotus-Renault E22 in Malaysia, bringing the #8 machine home in eleventh place, just a few seconds shy of a point. Unfortunately for the second race in a row, team-mate Pastor Maldonado failed to finish due to mechanical issues.
Grosjean admitted he was pleased to have seen the chequered flag in Malaysia after a problematic pre-season and first race in Australia. He was also happy to have defended his eleventh from Ferrari driver and former team-mate Kimi Raikkonen at the end of the race.
“Finishing the race was our first objective and then we wanted to see where we were with our car,” said Grosjean. “It’s not perfect yet but it’s good to be where we are at this stage. I had a big loss of downforce around eight laps from the end, which made things difficult, especially when I had to defend. Without that issue, I’m sure we could have finished higher. It was a good battle with Kimi. I kept remembering our past battles to make sure he couldn’t go through!
“To make major progress we need more days like Saturday and Sunday in Malaysia, where we learned a lot about the car. There are some encouraging signs. We know we have a lot of work ahead, but we also know which areas to work on. We will try new things in Bahrain and I’m confident the car will be better.
“I’m especially looking forward to the first night race at a circuit I like. Twice I’ve raced there [in Bahrain] in Formula 1 and twice I’ve been on the podium. So that’s a good record!
“I don’t know if being at night will make much difference to the results, but it will certainly be an exciting event visually. It is also the tenth anniversary of the race so I’m sure they will put on a good show.
“We were not very successful in the pre-season tests, but hopefully there will be some more updates and performance from our side. I’m sure everyone is going to work hard even though there are just a few days before Bahrain. The race finish at Sepang is a big encouragement. No matter what the challenge, we are aiming for podiums and strong performances wherever we go.”
While Grosjean was busy defending from Raikkonen in Malaysia, team-mate Pastor Maldonado had long since departed the race with another mechanical issue sidelining him before the end of the seventh lap.
“I’m here to race so you never want to be sat in the garage when the car should be out on track,” said Maldonado. “I had more than my fair share of unreliability in Malaysia, but every time we expose a problem it means we have something to fix and we take a step forwards. There were good positives in Sepang.
“I did get some good laps and I can feel that the E22 is a proper race car. A race car that still needs quite a lot of work, but still a race car with great potential. We saw that Romain completed a race distance, which is a great positive. We also saw our rivals having problems, showing that we are not alone with the challenges of these very different new cars.
“From the start [in Malaysia] we were losing a lot of power which meant I had to retire in order to protect the engine. Despite that, the weekend was clearly a step forwards.
“More mileage with the car means the engineers can increasingly focus on performance. Clearly reliability is still not 100 percent, partly because of our late testing debut with the car, but we have fixed many problems and that enables us to turn more attention to performance.
“Good reliable laps in the car [in Bahrain] would be the starting point. This will allow us to understand the car’s performance and where we can improve it. It will allow me to give feedback to my engineers and understand the challenges of driving the latest generation car. We can also work on understanding the tyres better as they are different this year, and the tyres are always an area where performance gains can be made.
“We will probably need to approach Bahrain a little differently technically now, in terms of tyre pressures and set-up. Otherwise we will treat it much like any other race and obviously we have experience from night events in Singapore and Abu Dhabi. I’m definitely looking forward to it though.
It’s the first time at night in Bahrain so something new for us all to discover.”