Kimi Räikkönen: “Singapore should suit us better and I have unfinished business there...”
It’s now been announced where you will drive next year; how does that affect the rest of your season? Hopefully it means I won’t be asked so much where I’m driving next year, but maybe it means more questions. For my racing this season it doesn’t make any difference. I’ll keep pushing at every race to get the best result I can.
Are you looking forward to the Singapore Grand Prix? I really like going to Singapore. It’s a great place to be, I love the local food, and I don’t mind the unusual times we run in the car as it means I don’t have to get up so early. I have some unfinished business after my three Grands Prix there so far, as I enjoy the circuit but have not yet had a podium. That doesn’t mean I’m not quick there as I’ve been told I still hold the lap record from 2008. I crashed while fighting for fifth place that year, finished down in tenth in 2009, and took sixth last season, so I want more this time.
What difference does it make racing at night? In the first years of the race being held I was a little bit surprised by how people were talking so much about the different timing. Obviously when they switched on the lights it was exactly the same as racing in the day time. I think everybody in Formula 1 enjoys the night race. It’s worked out really well as Singapore is a buzzing city and lots of people turn up. Apart from one or two dark spots in the run-off areas the circuit is very well lit, so there is not a big difference to racing in the day.
Regardless of being at night, it’s a street race; what effect does this have? Monaco was not that good for us but there is no reason why Singapore should be difficult. Like at every street circuit it’s very difficult to pass other cars there, so starting the race as high as possible on the grid is very an important factor in getting a good result on Sunday. How do you think the circuit will suit the E21? Everybody will bring updates to this race so we’ll have to see what difference that makes. It’s a case of trying to get the maximum from our package and working on achieving the best balance. If we get everything right we should do okay.
Any worries about the weather? We saw rain last year in Singapore and it’s no secret that our car sometimes struggles in wet conditions. It’s something we’ll deal with if it happens, and as always the weather is the same for everyone.
Is it good to be back to a higher downforce layout? After these two weekends with zero points it’s nice to get back to a circuit we expect to be more suited to our car. We seem to go better at high downforce circuits that’s for sure. The car actually worked surprisingly well at Monza during the race so it was a shame we lost so much time at the start. After getting the new nose, our race pace was not too bad.
What’s your target in Singapore? Obviously, the podium is a target again. We’ve had two races without scoring any points so we need to score as many as we can in the remaining races this season.
How are you feeling about your Championship charge? You don’t win Championships by not scoring points. We’ve had two races where we haven’t scored which is not ideal. We’re here to race and score as many points as we can. Of course, that’s what everyone is trying to do so we just have to keep pushing and hope that we have some pretty good races for the rest of the year, then we’ll see where we end up in the standings.
Romain Grosjean: “I love street races”
After a solid if unspectacular end to the European season, our man Romain is relishing the challenge of the Marina Bay Street Circuit as he aims to get right back in the podium mix... What are your thoughts heading to Singapore? Singapore is a pretty fantastic place and the race is always a challenge. I love street races; there’s something about racing in the middle of a city. We race at night which means it looks amazing for the fans, but in the car there’s not so much of a difference for us as drivers as the lights make it seem like it’s daylight on track. Another thing I look forward to when visiting Singapore is the noodles!
What are the differences for you as a driver for this event? The difference for us is our schedule over the weekend, as we stay on European time and try not to adjust to the local time zone. To do this we arrive in Singapore a bit later than we would for other flyaway races, where we would normally arrive early in order to get our bodies working on the local time and avoid jetlag.
This means we can get a good amount of sleep, including sleeping in late relative to the local time.
The race usually has the longest duration of the year; are there any particular preparations you have to make for this? Our regular fitness programme means that the race lasting longer than others should not be a problem, but something you have to prepare for in Singapore is ensuring you always keep well hydrated as the heat and humidity can easily dehydrate you.
How challenging is the circuit? It’s a fun layout to drive, with the last section being my favourite part of the track. It’s certainly a physical race, with lots of kerbs, some bumps on the track and frequent use of the brakes. It’s certainly not a circuit with a long straight where you can take a rest! The layout and the fact it’s a street course don’t make it easy for a driver or the engineers. It can be difficult to find the amount of grip you want so we have to work hard to get the setup working well. There isn’t much margin for mistakes as the walls are very close, but this does mean that there’s a great feeling when you get a good lap as it’s very special to be driving at the limit around a street course.
Do you think this is a track that should suit both yourself and the car? I think so, yes. It’s a very high downforce track and that seems to suit us best as we saw in Budapest. In terms of the tyres I think we should be looking good too. Certainly, we should be able to perform stronger than at the last two races which haven’t always suited our car.
There’s a lot of talk and movement in the driver market at the moment; how does this affect you? I am keeping focused on this season by doing the best job I can for the team and showing my value on track.
Singapore marks the first of seven flyaway races to end the season; how do you want to end your year? We have some fantastic races ahead and it’s going to be a busy couple of months. I’ll be pushing to do the very best job I can and I know the race team and everyone at Enstone wants to finish this season with the strongest results possible, so naturally we want to get back on the podium as much as possible.
Eric Boullier: “Our focus is this season and scoring as many points as possible”
It’s been difficult few weeks for the team, with performance falling short of expectations at the final two European races of the season followed by the announcement that Kimi will be moving to pastures new in 2014, but there’s still plenty to be positive about for Team Principal Eric Boullier.
Kimi has been announced as driving elsewhere next season; how does this affect the team? Obviously, it was no secret we wanted to keep him, so it’s a disappointment that he won’t be driving with us in 2014.
Despite this, we know Kimi will be pushing hard for the remainder of this season to secure the very best results he can for himself and the team, and his fighting drive in Monza shows just how well he can push. In the same breath, Enstone has once again proven its pedigree; providing Kimi with two great cars and making his return to Formula 1 a success. It’s been a win-win situation right from the beginning.
Naturally, we have made preparations in case he decided not to continue driving with the team that brought him back to Formula 1, and I’m confident that we will have a very strong driver line-up next year. We've had Schumacher, Alonso, Räikkönen; new champions will join the list here soon I'm sure.
Monza wasn’t our best weekend in terms of results; how does this change the approach to Singapore? If you want to be competitive in both Championships, you need to be able to fight at the front every weekend; on Saturday as well as on Sunday. The positive from Monza is that we showed fantastic race pace and both drivers drove exceptionally well. The negative was that we couldn’t qualify where we needed to be. The results at the end of the last two races weren’t a just reward for the team’s efforts, but there are plenty of positives to take from Monza; most notably the superb race pace from Kimi as he fought his way back through the field. We head to the final flyaway races with plenty of fight left in us.
Will the team be able to return to the podium in Singapore? There's no reason to think that a podium will be out of reach. We've been quite competitive on twisty circuits this year and Singapore shares a lot of Monaco's characteristics. Romain loves that type of circuit, while Kimi has always been quick in Singapore. It will be an interesting weekend. What opportunities does a street course offer the team? It’s probably best we don’t mention the wall, but it’s true that we probably have a better car on high downforce circuits like Singapore than medium downforce tracks like Spa where we struggled a bit. We have a good reliability record, a durable car, and the Singapore Grand Prix is likely to be one of the longest of the year in terms of running time.
The team has not scored well in the Championships over the last two races; how does this affect preparations? Obviously we want to get back to scoring as many points as we can, and it is only three races ago in Budapest that we scored the most points of any team. We are comfortably ahead of McLaren in the Constructors’ Championship; in fact we have almost three times the amount of points they do with 191 points to their 66. This team has bounced back before and we are focused on achieving the very best results we can over the remaining seven races of this season.
There was a new deal sealed with Emaar Properties over the weekend of the Italian Grand Prix; what does this mean for the team? We are always looking to expand our portfolio of partners with brands of the right calibre for the team, so we are delighted about this new relationship with the developer of such iconic projects as Burj Khalifa and The Dubai Mall as it positions us very strongly moving forwards.
Alan Permane: “Singapore is one of the highlights of the year”
After a trying return from the summer break thus far, Trackside Operations Director Alan Permane is eagerly anticipating the next phase of the season as the team targets a podium return in Singapore What is the main challenge of Singapore? It’s the longest race of the year in terms of running time thanks to the low-speed nature of the circuit. Unlike Monaco, it still reaches the full 300km race distance which makes it quite tough for the drivers physically. Being a street circuit, there’s also a reasonable amount of track evolution as the weekend progresses; again not to Monaco levels, but enough to be a consideration. Does a night race throw a different dimension into the mix? Racing at night is of course a change from the norm, but it’s one that the teams and drivers really enjoy and it certainly doesn’t cause any problems. Track temperature will remain constant at around thirty degrees once darkness has fallen, so while it’s not excessively hot it will equally never get too cold during t he sessions that count; i.e. qualifying and the race.
What’s required from the car here? We run maximum downforce here to cater for the stop-start nature of the track layout, with a good all-round package required. Traction is important, as are good change of direction and agility. You also need a car which is good over the kerbs, although turn ten – where the most severe kerbs have traditionally been located – has been changed for this year, meaning that this may not be such an important consideration given the relatively smooth nature of the remaining kerbs.
Brakes have traditionally been a hot topic here, so to speak...? Singapore is not actually particularly tough in terms of brake wear, but more so in terms of managing temperatures. There aren’t many heavy braking zones around the track, but the frequency with which the brakes are required combined with a lack of straights to aid cooling means that the system inevitably runs quite hot. It’s something every team needs to pay attention to, but it doesn’t give us any particular cause for concern.
Overtaking has always been a challenge at Singapore, but this season sees the introduction of a second DRS zone; what impact will this have? The additional DRS zone along the pit straight is very short so we wouldn’t expect that to have much of a bearing on overtaking. It may help a driver close up to the car in front through the opening sequence of corners, but even the original section from turn five to seven is quite a tricky place to make a move so it’s unlikely to have a major influence.
How much emphasis does this therefore place on qualifying? As with places like Monaco or Hungary, there’s no doubt that this is a circuit where qualifying is of higher importance than at most other venues. The allocation of super soft and medium compound tyres will potentially add to this too. We’ll likely use the supersoft for qualifying and the medium for the race, but with the stiffness of this year’s medium tyre being relatively similar to last year’s soft, plus the additional knowledge the teams now have in terms of managing degradation, we would expect overtaking to be difficult at best.
Will we be seeing anything different on the car this weekend? We return to a high downforce configuration, with some of the front wing developments brought to the car for the recent low downforce races being carried over. Aside from that it’s business as usual with a package which we know works well from our performances in Germany and Hungary. We didn’t have the greatest of weekends in Spa or Monza, so we’re looking forward to a return to the higher downforce tracks that arise in the next few races where the aim is to get back on the podium.
With the European season done and dusted it’s a busy schedule of back-to-back flyaway races between now and the end of the season; how does this affect the team?
I think it depends on the individual. Personally I very much enjoy the flyaway races and the back-to-back element which comes with them, but some might prefer the short-haul events. Everyone is looking forward to Singapore that’s for sure; it’s one of the highlights of the year and we have a few races in Asia soon afterwards which are always interesting too. It’s quite a long season, and by mid-November we’ll all be looking forward to a break I’m sure, but for the moment we’ve had a couple of well-spaced races off the back of a decent break in August and are raring to go in Singapore.