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An exciting inaugural qualifying session at the Circuit of the Americas saw Romain Grosjean set the fourth-fastest time with Kimi Raikkonen right behind him in fifth. A gearbox change for Romain will see him start from ninth on the grid for tomorrow's United States Grand Prix; with Kimi inheriting fourth position as a result of his team-mate's penalty.
Kimi Raikkonen: "I was actually expecting a more difficult qualifying session today, but the car was the best it's felt all weekend so it turned out to be quite good. The set-up is still not exactly how I want it but it's much closer. The warmer conditions make the car work much better and that certainly makes a difference. Starting on the dirty side of the grid maybe isn't the best; we'll have to hope that the circuit picks up a little more grip for the race tomorrow."
Romain Grosjean: "I will start P9, but this is racing. The guys did an awesome job to change the gearbox between FP3 and Qualifying - which was a really tight turnaround - but we're still in the top ten even with the penalty so that's a good result. Apart from the gearbox problem, it's all gone very well today. We've understood a difficult and evolving circuit and found a good set-up. I'm happy to be where I am and at least I will be on the good side of the track for the start tomorrow."
What are your thoughts on qualifying? Alan Permane, Trackside Operations Director: We're certainly happy with today. It was a good qualifying performance from both drivers and we've shown that the car has improved pace in qualifying trim with the updated exhaust configuration which is a big positive. Unfortunately for Romain, we had a gearbox issue with his car this morning which means he'll take a five place grid penalty but we know the car has good race pace; with a clean start from both drivers there's no reason we can't be up there challenging for a podium spot again.
How difficult has it been to get up to speed with this new circuit? AP: It's been a bit of a struggle for everyone I think. We've seen a very green surface, low track temperatures and tyres which are really far too hard for what's required. The circuit has started to clean up significantly which is allowing the car and tyres to behave in a much more normal fashion and it now seems to be relatively easy to run very long stints on either compound.
What are your thoughts in terms of strategy for tomorrow? AP: As per the last few weekends, it's highly likely that we're looking at another one stop race. The decision will be whether to stop early and make the jump or whether to spend the most time possible running the option tyre, so that's what we'll be analysing tonight.
Are we feeling optimistic heading into the race? AP: I think so, yes. Our race pace on Friday looked promising and - as a rule - the car has been kind on tyres so there's no reason to believe we shouldn't be aiming for another strong result.
Check out our Saturday gallery, here.
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