Pastor Maldonado secured his best starting position of the season during qualifying for the United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas, finishing eleventh, although the penalty for Jenson Button sees him start inside the top ten for the first time in Lotus F1 Team colours.
Team-mate Romain Grosjean was less impressive during the qualifying session, ending up slowest of all in eighteenth, although penalties for both Daniil Kvyat and Sebastian Vettel promotes him to sixteenth.
Maldonado had by far his best qualifying session of the season, and was close to reaching the final part of qualifying for the first time in 2014 but for a mistake towards the end of his lap that ultimately saw him miss out by less than a tenth of a second.
“The car feels more solid and together than it has for the last few races which meant I was able to push more than usual,” said Maldonado. “We know we work better in the faster corners – just as we saw in Barcelona – and I think there is still more pace in the car. On my Q2 lap I made a small mistake in the second to last corner, which would have been worth another tenth, and then we’d have been in Q3.
“We’re well placed for tomorrow; we need to have a good strategy, stay relaxed and calm and then let’s fight for the points. I think we have a great chance to score and that will be the main focus.”
Grosjean was hopeful of a good qualifying after enjoying a positive final practice session on Saturday morning but was disappointed once more after struggling during the session that matters, although he remains hopeful of a better race.
“The car was good this morning, I was enjoying driving it and I even said it was the best car I’ve driven for a while,” said Grosjean. “Unfortunately, it didn’t feel the same when I went out for qualifying and it was a real struggle to find any pace – which we clearly didn’t find, given our qualifying position.
“On the plus side, my car worked well this morning, as did Pastor’s in qualifying, so there’s still potential in what will be a long race, with a few pit stops to help shake up the order.”