Pastor Maldonado will incur a ten-place grid penalty this weekend at Suzuka after his Lotus F1 Team were forced to switch to their sixth Renault engine of the season.
He is the second driver this year to take this penalty, after Daniil Kvyat was forced to change the Renault engine in his Toro Rosso back at Monza.
The spate of problems earlier in the season have come to haunt the Lotus team, and if Maldonado fails to qualify inside the top twelve on Saturday, the remainder of the penalty will be carried over to next weekend’s inaugural Russian Grand Prix at Sochi.
Despite the penalty, Maldonado was happy with his day despite only finishing seventeenth in the first free practice session and sixteenth in the second.
“I’m happy with today,” insisted Maldonado. “There were no issues with the car and the only problem I had was a vibration from my hard tyres in the second session. Suzuka is a great circuit and I think we have quite good potential here.
“There’s some more pace to come and our car has looked quite reasonable. I will have a bigger challenge in the race as there will be a ten-place grid penalty as we’re now on to our sixth engine, but if we can race reliably then a good result is still possible.”
Team-mate Romain Grosjean had a better day on track, finishing fifteenth in FP1 and thirteenth in FP2, and admitted to feeling quite confident with the E22 at Suzuka, which after the hell he has been through with it this year is positive.
“The E22 feels quite good here and it’s always fantastic to be driving a Formula 1 car at Suzuka,” said Grosjean. “We spent a bit of time in the morning getting the brake feel right, but the afternoon was pretty straight-forward.
“It’s going to be very interesting to see what the weather does over the weekend as there’s been a lot of speculation about this. We were within shooting distance of the top ten today, which is always a positive with our generally better race pace. Let’s see what happens in qualifying and what challenges the weather present.”