Following the intensive restrictions Pirelli placed upon the race drivers at last weeks Young Drivers Test, the majority of teams opted to allow their young stars all important track time. Lotus were one of these teams, with Nicolas Prost running two of the three test days, with GP2 reigning champion Davide Valsecchi putting the car through its paces on Thursday. Neither Kimi Raikkonen or Romain Grosjean received track time; A decision which has left the latter disgruntled.
The use of race drivers at the test has been a topic which has divided the paddock. Once the YDT had been transformed in part, into a Pirelli tyre test, it was announced that teams were permitted to complete a full day of testing with their usual race drivers behind the wheel. While teams like Red Bull and Ferrari relished the opportunity, others including Lotus and McLaren declined the offer.
Lotus’ lack of race drivers at the test was particularly poignant, considering that initial schedules had Kimi Raikkonen set to test the E21 throughout Friday. However, a late change of heart prompted a Wednesday morning announcement from Alan Permane; Kimi would not run and would be replaced by Nicolas Prost, allowing the Frenchman to build upon his work completed during the first day of the test. Meanwhile, Romain was never factored into Lotus’ YDT plans.
When asked whether he was frustrated by the decision, Grosjean said: “As a driver, you always want to be in the car getting as much experience as possible; especially when there’s something new like different tyres. The tyres we used at the Nürburgring suited us pretty well, so let’s hope the latest version will also suit us at the Hungaroring.”
Grosjean explains a well-reasoned argument. While the likes of Sebastian Vettel and Felipe Massa have explored Pirelli’s prototypes, Lotus have not had the luxury. This fact alone will surly place the Enstone team on the back foot, while diminishing the disadvantage faced by Mercedes as a result of their test embargo. Irrespective of the Pirelli and FIA restriction on race drivers, the benefits are still worthy of recognition. In a sport which is decided by fractions of a second, any time behind the wheel is valuable time.