Romain Grosjean reckons Red Bulls rivals will have to rely on rain to outqualify them

World Champions have a definite edge, says Lotus driver

By Mike Wise in Melbourne.   Last Updated: 15/03/13 11:50am

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Romain Grosjean has predicted a Red Bull lockout of the front row in qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix after the ominous pace they showed in opening practice on Friday.

World Champion Sebastian Vettel was fastest in both sessions at Albert Park, with team-mate Mark Webber second in the late afternoon outing. Grosjean, meanwhile, ended the day fifth, one place behind Lotus team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.

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Speaking afterwards, Grosjean, who qualified third on the grid when making his 'second' F1 debut in Melbourne 12 months ago, reckoned the forecast of rain represents the best chance Red Bull's rivals have of bettering them.

"It's going to be difficult to be better than third!" said the Frenchman. "The front row will be all Red Bull, but you never know. We have some rain coming tomorrow as well.

"They were the strongest cars at the end of last year. There's no change in the regulations that would mean they wouldn't be the strongest today. We have to work to try to catch them."

Grosjean ran Pirelli's supersoft tyre for the first time on his E21 during the afternoon and said the high rate of degradation was as he had expected.

The 26-year-old added that how hard a driver pushes in Q3 - assuming the session takes place in dry conditions - will have an effect on tyre life at the start of the race.

"The grip level was pretty good compared to the medium, so it's hard to jump from one tyre to the other and find the limit straight away. And then on the long run they degrade....a little bit," Grosjean said of the red-walled tyre.

"I think it's going to be between five and 15 for the one that takes the most care and the one that destroys them. The medium is more like 20 but it's difficult to predict - we've just finished the first meeting."

Much as was the case last season, Grosjean said that Lotus's strong suit remains their race pace.

"On race pace we know we are strong. The car is feeling more or less the same as last year, which is a good point," he added.

"It's good to have good race pace but we still need to improve a little bit for qualy."

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