Team Principal Eric Boullier and Trackside Operations Director Alan Permane analyse the battle for Constructors’ Championship honours.
After a busy weekend in Abu Dhabi, Lotus F1 Team Principal Eric Boullier is focused on the strongest results possible from the two remaining races of 2013...
Aside from everything behind the scenes, the main positive is that we continue to have a strong car on track and we aim to make the most of that in the remaining races of 2013.
How is the relationship with Kimi? He is completely on side. We all spoke in Abu Dhabi to make sure we know where we’re going – and how we’re getting there – for the final races of the year. Our focus is first on a good performance in Austin, and then the focus becomes getting a good result in Brazil.
Is it a challenge to have a different wheelbase car for each driver? It’s a matter of setup and getting the car exactly as the driver wants it. Romain prefers and gets more out of the longer wheelbase, while Kimi prefers and gets more out of the shorter wheelbase. We are able to run with both configurations without issue so this is what we’re doing. If either drive r wants to change configuration again then of course we can do this , but it’s not a quick job.
How important is it for Formula 1 to succeed in the US? It’s a market where Formula 1 should be. We already have some American partners, including two brands from very strong American - based international companies in the form of Microsoft Dynamics and burn from The Coca Cola Company. It’s good to be racing in their home country; it’s a land of tremendous opportunity for Formula 1 and we hope to build on this opportunity in the future.
What’s the aim for Austin? We missed out on a podium in Abu Dhabi, but it’s clear that the car had the pace to be there. That’s where we want to be as that’s where you get the most points. It would obviously be fantastic if we could get both of our drivers back on the podium before the end of the season, and if they could both be there in Austin I’d be a very happy man. Second place in the Constructors’ Championship is looking to be an increasingly tall order... There are two races left and 86 points available, so mathematically it’s still possible and we’re not going to stop pushing in any regard. Of course, to score maximum points you need to occupy the top steps of the podium and there’s a Red Bull plus Sebastian Vettel shaped problem there. Certainly for us, it would be good if Seb took an early winter holiday! Looking at the standings and how the teams have been scoring in the last few races, you would have to say that third certainly looks to be a little more within reach, but our approach is the same; to keep pushing all the way.
A firm favourite amongst the teams during its inaugural appearance on last year’s calendar, a return to Austin is one to be relished amongst the paddock fraternity. Trackside Operations Director Alan Permane gives us the lowdown on the Circuit of the Americas...
How do we expect the E21 to fare in Austin? There are certainly no particular features of the circuit that give us cause for concern. The layout has a similar feel to Korea in many aspects, with high speed change of direction in the opening sector, a long straight in the middle sector, and low speed traction events combined with a long continuous curve in the final sector. It’s a circuit we should be comfortable with by all accounts.
We visited the circuit for the first time last year; talk us through the significant aspects of a lap... It’s an impressive facility. There’s a steep uphill section into turn one, then turns two, three and four are flat out in seventh gear; taken at around 280kph before dropping down to fifth gear for turns five and six at around 220kph. Combined, these make for a fast opening sector after the tight opening turn. Turns seven to ten don’t present any particular challenge to the drivers, while turn eleven not only provides a good overtaking opportunity, but is also crucial for a decent run down the long back straight. We expect to see the cars reach around 315kph here, with heavy braking into turn twelve at the end. Turns thirteen to fifteen are all low - speed, second gear corners, with sixteen to eighteen forming a long right - hand curve that by nature induces a fair amount of understeer.
The lap concludes with two relatively straightforward left - handers at nineteen and twenty, before heading down the pit straight. One difference for this year sees the inclusion of a second DRS zone down the pit straight between turn twenty and the first corner; a relatively short run of 580m compared to the regular 700m along the back straight, but one that may well increase overtaking opportunities into the opening turn.
Finding grip was the challenge for setup and performance last year, do you expect this to be the challenge once more? As per the previous season, Pirelli have been very conservative in their allocation of the hard and medium compound for this race. On our first visit to the circuit last year, the tarmac was extremely smooth as you would expect from a newly laid surface, which naturally presented a bit of an unknown quantity in terms of tyre performance; the particular challenge being in generating tyre temperature.
The uncertainty this time around lies in how much the tarmac will have matured over the past twelve months. In principal, with some of the bitumen having now worn away we should be left with a rougher surface which will allow more energy to be put through the tyres, thereby alleviating the aforementioned warm - up issues. Given the early running times and also the seasonal aspect of when we visit Austin, track temperatures can be relatively low during the morning practice sessions but rise significantly during the afternoons; an additional consideration to factor in when preparing practice strategies. We’re hopeful of a slightly warmer welcome this year, and the forecast seems to be in our favour.
Are there any particular challenges with both drivers using different specification chassis? Certainly if we’d started the season trying to learn the car and the latest specification of tyres with different configuration chassis it would have been more of a challenge, but this late in the year we are far more able to accommodate this approach to give both of our drivers what they want from their cars in qualifying on Saturday and in the race on Sunday.
What’s possible in Austin? Given what we’ve seen recently and after analysing all the data from Abu Dhabi, there’s no reason to say we shouldn’t be right in the hunt to take the challenge to Red Bull.
Lotus F1 Team