That form carried through to the opening day of the season with Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado only able to complete a combined 14 laps in Melbourne. The duo were plagued by technical problems with Grosjean missing the first session with a gearbox problem and Maldonado missing the second due to a wiring loom issue. While it had been expected that the team would struggle this weekend their problems on Friday highlighted just how difficult a season is in store for the Enstone squad.
Speaking after completing 12 laps in FP2 Grosjean tried to find positives after such a difficult day:
“If we take the positives we can say that we’ve completed a few practice starts, and we’ve proven that Renault have done a good job from the laps we completed,” said the Frenchman. “It’s certain that we have a lot of work ahead and we still need to learn the tyres, the brakes and find a good setup. We’re taking a few steps every time we go out in the car and for sure we’ll get where we want to be.”
With new regulations in place getting track time is the most important element for teams struggling as the new cars are much more difficult to drive with the balance shifting from understeer under braking to oversteer on corner exits. Finding a decent setup will take time and experience.
For Maldonado the day was a disaster with the new signing only able to complete two laps in FP1 before his wiring problem saw puffs of smoke appear within the cockpit and signal the end of his running:
“I’m feeling really ready for tomorrow,” said Maldonado. “I spent a lot of today waiting to get in the car as we had some problems, which I think are still normal to have so early in the season with these new cars. It was clear that we’re not the only ones to suffer on track and we have to work very hard, and maybe harder than the others, to try to catch up and be ready for tomorrow. We need to sit down with the engineers and re-plan our strategy for free practice.”