"We have lost him somewhere in China," a spokesman for the Lotus team grinned to SID news agency, adding that the 2007 world champion was stuck in heavy traffic and therefore could not appear for a press conference.
PROTEST TO APPEAL
Actually, Lotus was frying bigger fish, as rumors were confirmed that the Enstone based team has lodged an official protest against Mercedes' 'double-DRS' system.
"That's spiced up the weekend before we even get going," British commentator Martin Brundle wrote on Twitter.
The FIA has consistently said the controversial aerodynamic layout is fully legal, moving Germany's Auto Motor und Sport to surmise that Lotus is angling to have the case moved to the International Court of Appeal.
It was earlier rumored that Red Bull might join the Lotus protest, but the reigning champions have bigger problems.
It has emerged that, as Adrian Newey grapples to unlock the pace of his RB8, Sebastian Vettel will be driving in China with the initial pre-season specification of the car's exhaust layout.
At the final Barcelona test, Red Bull switched at the last minute to the Sauber-esque specification, which will continue to be driven in China by Mark Webber.
McLaren is expected to have the best package this weekend, but Lewis Hamilton is not smiling — a problem means his gearbox needs to be changed out of sequence, resulting in a five-grid penalty.
Clearly in the favorite’s seat now, then, is Jenson Button.
"On the one hand," he said on Thursday, "you could say my job is easier with Lewis behind, provided I'm on the front row or something.
"But there is also the uncertainty that he could go for a different strategy, which could turn out to be the right one," Auto Motor und Sport quotes the 2009 world champion as saying.