Pastor Maldonado takes blame for mistakes after crash follows earlier spin in China

But Lotus driver takes heart from E22's improvements

By James Galloway in Shanghai.   Last Updated: 18/04/14 4:57pm

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Pastor Maldonado held his hands up to a pair of mistakes after a troubled day of practice in China - but the Venezuelan believes Lotus's improvements still mean he can go on to enjoy his strongest race of his season.

Maldonado, who carries a five-place grid penalty into this Sunday's grand prix for flipping Esteban Gutierrez's Sauber in Bahrain, did little to dispel his reputation as one of the grid's more erratic drivers on Friday via incidents in each of the two practice sessions.

The most damaging to both his session, and his Lotus car, occurred in Practice Two when Maldonado crashed as he was entering the pitlane. Approaching the left-hand kink in the entry road, the former Williams driver carried too much speed and slid wide through the gravel trap - the same one made infamous by Lewis Hamilton in 2007 - and into the outside barrier, causing damage to the E22's nose and suspension.

Asked afterwards if the crash had come about by pushing hard in preparation for his pitstops in Sunday's race, Maldonado confessed it had, but shrugged off the crash by pointing out practice is "a test".

Earlier in Practice One Maldonado had been involved in arguably an even more bizarre incident when on a slow installation lap he suddenly lost control of his car and slewed across the run-off area.

Maldonado confirmed he had been looking down at the steering wheel at the time and simply took a wrong turn: "I was on the steering wheel. Too much to do in the out laps. After out laps it's okay."

The damage to the E22's front suspension

The further bad news for Maldonado was the fact that his afternoon crash occurred before he had commenced his planned longer race simulation running. However, the 29-year-old said: "We've not been able to manage to put all the plan together, but I think we got data.

"We split the cars today trying to learn a bit more, they are quite different [in set-up], just to give more information about the car and learn more. There is clear there is an improvement, not only from our side by the engine and power unit side, so a good step."

With Lotus yet to score a point in three races in 2014 - the Enstone outfit's worst start to a season in any guise - the problematic E22 appeared more competitive in Romain Grosjean's hands on Friday as, aided by software upgrades from engine suppliers Renault, the Frenchman finished inside the top ten on the afternoon timesheet.

"The car is better to be honest than the previous race. I hope to have a better qualy. In qualy I think it will be slightly better - I don't know how much, we will see tomorrow," predicted Maldonado.

"It all starts to go more together. It's very easy to improve when you put things together. That means that our guys understand more or less having had a total weekend and total race normal without any big problems we start to put the things together. Renault is improving a lot as well, so it's positive. Hopefully [Lotus can be] more close to the top ten."

Maldonado himself has yet to progress from Q1 this season but Friday's form leaves him optimistic that the hurdle can finally be cleared for the first time in his Lotus career on Saturday.

"I think it's going to be easier than before, but we don't know - everything can happen," he warned.

"But looking to what I felt today, and even Romain, it seems like there is a clear improvement, especially in Romain's car."

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