Lotus drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean think there is more to come this weekend
Duo finish fifth and sixth respectively after opening day's practice
By Mike Wise at Yas Marina Circuit. Last Updated: 02/11/12 8:02pm
Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean are both optimistic that Lotus can improve further after a positive start to their weekend in Abu Dhabi.
The pair were respectively 10th and 14th in Friday's first session but improved later on under floodlights, with Grosjean leading his team-mate in fifth place.
Raikkonen spent the day evaluating a new iteration of the team's Coanda exhaust which they hope will claw back a loss of power the system, which improves grip, has brought.
With track temperatures changing considerably both between and during the sessions, the Finn said he found the going tricky at times but is nonetheless hopeful of improvement.
"We tried the new exhaust and we spent most of the time in the practice on that and we really changed the car a lot apart from those new parts," Raikkonen said.
"It didn't feel nice, the car, but the lap time seems to be pretty okay.
"Hopefully we should improve and it should mean that we should get a bit more closer than we were today."
Grosjean, too, sounded optimistic that Lotus might close the gap to Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren this weekend despite the extreme conditions.
The track temperature reached 47 degrees Celsius in P1 but was a good 16 degrees cooler by the time the sun had set during session two.
"Different sessions. The first one was very difficult but we knew the conditions were going to be different from what we get in qualy and the race," the Frenchman said.
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"The second session was much better. The car is okay, I think we still can find some performance with it. We'll try to find what we need to find to improve the car.
"The car is quite good on the long run and the short run was not too bad as well compared to where we normally are on Friday."
Although Raikkonen could not say whether the new exhaust had given a definite improvement in straightline speed, he did reckon he could find another four tenths of a second in lap time.
Last weekend in India, Raikkonen struggled for straightline speed and also said he took a wrong turn in set-up ahead of qualifying.
"There would be probably four tenths I would say, if we get things right. But it's not often that you get things right. It's usually a big compromise here and there," he said.
"At the last race weekend we had a very nice car until we changed it a bit and it wasn't exactly like we wanted it. But if we get a similar feeling with the car then it should be good."
Of the modified exhaust, Raikkonen hoped that Lotus could in time recover the power deficit - something he also reckoned will stand them in good stead next year.
Earlier this week, the 33-year-old confirmed that he would remain with the team next season.
"You gain some downforce and give away some horsepower. We try to get them back but it's not a very easy thing, so with time we'll come back with more normal horsepower and still have the downforce," Raikkonen.
"It's a good thing that we at least try to put the new parts on the car this year and we learn a lot of things. So we are much smarter for the new car in testing.
"We improve but I think everybody's improving. It's not just us but we are closer than we were, let's say, in Monza and Spa for the lap time."
Meanwhile, with Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton about half a second clear of the pack at the end of session two, Grosjean pondered whether Lotus might even place themselves amongst the pacesetters during qualifying.
"Looking at the team-mates' times (Jenson Button and Mark Webber finished third and fourth respectively) it's going to be difficult. Looking at today's times, it's possible as I didn't drive the best lap of my life with the option tyres but it's the first set of options I put on and I had to go for it," he added.
"I can still improve a little bit but they improve and move closer to their team-mates then it's going to be difficult. If they stay where they are then why not?"