Drivers Kimi Räikkönen and Romain Grosjean share their thoughts on the Buddh International Circuit, Team Principal Eric Boullier lays out the challenge for the final four races and Technical Director James Allison discusses the intricacies of balancing three development projects simultaneously.
Having clinched p5 on his first visit to Korea, Kimi Räikkönen now has another new country and track to contend with as we head to India and the Buddh International Circuit
You gained another solid haul of points last time out; are you satisfied with the result in Korea? "I think fifth was about where we should have been.
There were a couple of times where we were in a position to make up some places and – for different reasons – were not able to, but even so we didn’t quite have the speed to match the Red Bulls and Ferraris.
I was pretty much on my own at the end of the race but we had to keep pushing to maintain position and it wasn’t so easy. I wouldn’t say it was a fantastic race but at the end of the day we still picked up points for the championship so it wasn’t too bad."
Just four races to go now; what can you hope to achieve before the end of the season? "There’s no point setting targets; we just need to keep working as hard as we can to score strong points and see what happens from there.
In terms of the championship, the gap to Sebastian [Vettel] is quite big now so it will be very difficult to catch him, but we’ll keep pushing all the way."
How is your motivation as the goal of the Championship becomes harder to attain? "We have to keep working hard and keep a high level of motivation. Personally I feel my own motivation is very high – like it has always been.
I’m keen to get the best results I can. Of course, in 2007 the championship wasn’t decided until the last race so anything is possible. Let’s see what happens."
What have you heard about India as a formula 1 destination? "India is a brand new place for me. Like with Korea, I’ve never been to the country before which means I’ve never seen the circuit properly.
I’m not like other drivers, so I haven’t driven the simulator to learn it, but all in all it’s not that much of a tricky situation. I like to go to different places and the challenge of driving a new circuit is always interesting.
So far I’ve learnt tracks after a few laps in FP1 on Fridays. I didn’t have any problems learning the Yeongam circuit that way, and I don’t expect to have any issues here either.
As for India, I have never visited the count before… I have certainly enjoyed Indian restaurants in almost every country I’ve been to though!"
Any special considerations for the weekend? "We know this circuit is likely to be very dusty at the start of the weekend so that will make things interesting for the first practice sessions.
We’ll have some new things on the car and it will be our second time with the new exhaust system so hopefully we can make more gains with our pace. India should also be pretty hot which should suit us. I’m looking forward to it.
After a relatively uneventful Korean Grand Prix, Romain Grosjean looks forward to India targeting another solid points finish.
You’ve been to the Buddh International Circuit before but not yet driven it; what are your thoughts on the track? "I was at the circuit with the team last year in my role as third driver and it was fascinating to see Formula 1 come to a new venue like India.
The track is very impressive, in the middle of what will be a massive facility. The layout looks very interesting, with some slow corners and high speed sections as well.
I’m sure it will be a great track to drive and I’m looking forward to unlocking its secrets so it can go into my portfolio!"
You seem to learn circuits pretty quickly; how do you achieve this? "There have been quite a few new tracks for me to learn this year and I am lucky as I usually pick them up very quickly.
Hopefully it’ll be the case again in India so we’ll have time early in the weekend to work on the set up for qualifying and the race.
With all the data we have today we know more about what we need to do in the corners; things like what brake pressure to use on approach, how much throttle to use on exit, how much speed you can carry through the mid-phase of the corner… all this can be looked at with your engineer in advance.
In a way it’s easy when you know to use exactly 80 bar of pressure on the brakes or 80% of lift on the throttle for example. You take this information with you on a lap and you know how the car should behave.
Of course you find the limit as you push more and more – there are always one or two corners that are more tricky – but normally the majority of the track is actually quite easy."
How difficult is it translating the telemetry and feedback into quicker lap times? "When you’re experienced with your engineer then you know what to do if they tell you 2kph quicker or a little less lift in this corner for example.
From there feeling takes over the rest so you have to sense where to go a little quicker."
Inevitably there were a lot of eyes on you in Korea and you were put under pressure a few times on track; how was it from your perspective? "For sure I was a bit nervous starting the race as there was quite a lot of pressure.
Myself and the team did a lot of work trying to understand a few things and it’s certainly helped.
It wasn’t the easiest start; there was contact behind me at turn three and I took evasive action but after that it was quite a straight forward race and I could push how I wanted.
I’ve been my own worst enemy at times this season, but hopefully now we can put it behind us and move forwards."
You finished the race where you started in Korea, but do you think more was possible? "Maybe we could have achieved one place better.
It was frustrating being stuck behind Nico [Hulkenberg] for so long as we were clearly faster, but when I finally got the chance to pass I ended up losing two places as Lewis [Hamilton] joined the battle.
We lacked a little bit of power exiting the corners compared with them so there was not a lot I could do. I think I now know every detail of Force India’s car after spending so much time fighting with it!
Even so, I was happy to make it to the chequered flag after a good, clean race."
With the team’s pre-season ambitions of fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship all but secured, Team Principle Eric Boullier is readying the troops for an assault on breaching the top three as the final push for success continues…
How is the team looking as we enter the final phase of the season? "I think if we look at the last two or three races objectively then we’ve had our difficulties, but we’ve also seen a clear step forward in terms of performance with the new exhaust system in Korea.
The team did a brilliant job to bring such a significant upgrade to the race and make it work first time and there is still a lot more to come from this concept once we have had some more time to work with it.
I think we should now be looking to push both cars into the top five during qualifying which will give us a much better chance of bringing home some good points in the fight for third place in the Constructors’ Championship."
With just four races to go and a rapidly diminishing number of points available, how difficult will it be to target that third spot? There’s no denying it will be difficult. Having said that there are still four races left and four good opportunities to score points.
The key will be to make sure we have good reliability from the E20 and our drivers, with both cars finishing solidly in the points every weekend.
There was a lot of attention on Romain in Korea; are you satisfied after his performance that we can draw a line under his recent troubles? "It’s definitely time for us to draw the line and move on, but more importantly it’s also time for Romain to put it in the past for himself.
Despite a lot of pressure, he drove a good clean race in Korea and I fully believe he now understands what he needs to do to avoid these things in the future.
Romain’s target for the rest of the season is clear; to build on the platform he created in the last race and help the team push for maximum points in the last four races."
The sport made its first trip to India last year; what are your thoughts on this recent addition to the calendar? "India is a huge country with an economy which is going from strength to strength, so it’s an important and exciting new market for the sport.
It’s also a welcome opportunity to learn more about the culture and tradition of a nation which is quite different to most places we visit in the season."
The team is currently in the unusual position of working on three cars simultaneously; what are the main challenges associated with this? "Obviously, our resources are not infinite so the biggest challenge is deciding how to split them in the best way.
Any extra effort you put in to one project means there is less for another, so the task is to make sure we don’t hurt our chances in the last four races, but are also in a strong position for next year and 2014, which is not an easy balance to find.
This will be discussed a lot in the coming weeks and months as things can change very quickly, but so far the management team have done a very good job in keeping things under control."
With three sets of back to back races bringing this long season to an end, how difficult is it to keep the troops focused and motivated? "This is a challenging time of year for everyone, as with six Grands Prix in nine weeks the logistics of getting developments finished and fitted to the cars between races take a huge effort.
Luckily, I can be completely honest when I say that our race team motivation is never a problem. The people we have at Enstone are not just highly professional, but also dedicated to what we all love to do; and that is to go racing!"
Charged with marshalling resources at Enstone, Technical Director James Allison discusses the race in Korea, prospects for India, and looks at what’s keeping him busy with four races of the 2012 season yet to go.
What are your conclusions after Korea?: "We finished the race in our starting positions, which was solid if ultimately unspectacular. Kimi added more points to his tally and Romain achieved what we had asked of him by keeping his nose clean and bringing the car home to score valuable points for the team.
We didn’t set the world alight, but we got both cars home in the points and were notably more competitive than in recent races in terms of the gap to pole position.
Furthermore, over the course of the weekend we managed a successful implementation of our Coandă exhaust system as well as reacting to a front tyre graining issue that is a feature of the Korean circuit.
What’s our assessment of the Coandă system and will we see it in action again in India? It was a solid debut for the Coandă system and we will see both Kimi and Romain using it in India. We were reasonably pleased with how it performed on its first outing.
We knew that our first implementation would be a little power hungry, but we hoped for – and were delighted to register on the track – a good downforce boost.
Our initial design was already a step forward relative to the previous system, but we expect more from this package as we modify the exhaust to recover much of the lost power.
What else can we expect to see on the car in India? "Romain used a new front wing in Korea which has proved to be a mild step forward and will be available to both drivers in India.
We’ve only been to India once before; how confident are we returning to the circuit? Last year it was the track with the most important racing line in the world, with any deviation from that line punished pretty severely as the surface was very dirty.
This year the circuit organisers have invested in impressive track cleaning equipment the likes of which we see in Bahrain, so matters should be somewhat different.
We’ve learnt that it’s a pretty challenging circuit and a good test for both the car and driver with a bunch of nice corners. It’s a typical modern Formula 1 track and an interesting place to go racing.
Will development continue with the E20 and when does the focus move fully to next year’s car? "This question comes up a lot at the tail end of the season.
In a normal year, the answer would be that the focus has pretty much shifted to next year’s car already. This is not a normal year though. Every team on the grid is facing the unprecedented challenge of working simultaneously on three cars.
There are two principal reasons for this: Firstly, the rules for 2013 are relatively unchanged which – combined with the quite tight grid – means that there is still merit in developing the 2012 car even this late in the season.
Secondly, the looming shadow of the 2014 regulations demands our attention.
Anyone who followed the sport in 2009 will know that a large shake up in the regulations presents both opportunity and hazard which can significantly re-jig the traditional pecking order of the teams.
The regulatory revolution for 2014 makes the 2009 changes look trivial by comparison.
Choices have to be made with three babies competing for development food; do you put resources into the E20 and get as much out of it as possible or is it more prudent to make the most of what will be ‘the last hurrah’ for this generation of rules in 2013?"
Alternatively, is it right to focus more on the longer term future with the 2014 rules that will form the basis of the next generation of F1 cars? It’s a very finely balanced judgement and one that is a fascinating challenge.
By the end of the 2014 season we should know if we made the correct decisions.
Source: Lotus F1 Team