Lotus looks to the Chinese GP with a yearning to score its first points of the season

Lotus team’s hopes for something satisfying to take away from the Chinese Grand Prix.

Federico Gastaldi - The Great Mall of China

Lotus F1 Team Deputy Principal Federico Gastaldi looks to China and the economic and sporting potential it has for Formula 1, as well as the state of play for Lotus F1 Team and as the sport after the first two races of 2015.

How much does the team look forward to racing in China?

The Chinese Grand Prix is an exciting event in a country which holds tremendous potential now and for the future. Looking at the automotive manufacture, China leads the way in terms of volume by a considerable degree so it’s reasonable to expect that interest will continue to grow in the world’s premier racing series. Certainly as a team we are receiving increased interest from China. We have a new development driver, Adderly Fong, who has Chinese heritage and we are also involved with a number of other initiatives with Chinese companies. China is obviously a huge market to explore commercially so it’s very important for the business side of Formula 1 to be there. We’ve seen a growing fan base in China over the years and we have a lot of younger fans there which illustrates a great future for the sport.

What can you tell us about Adderly Fong’s role with the team?

Adderly joins us as a Development Driver and has a structured programme with the team over the course of the season. His programme is slightly different to that we’re running with Carmen to reflect that Adderly will also be racing over the course of the year in the GP3 Series and GT Asia. We’ll see Adderly at some Grands Prix and in Enstone where he will undertake simulator work to help him progress his racing as well as us develop the E23.

In China we will see Jolyon Palmer take to the wheel of the E23 in FP1, how important is this for the team?

Jolyon is a crucial part of the team for this season so it was important for us to see him in the car over the course of a Grand Prix early in the season. For the first two races, it made sense for our race drivers to get as much time as possible in the car, but now we can start exercising some of Jolyon’s talents in the FP1 session and we’ll see him out in action quite a few times over the course of the year.

How do you feel about the competitive nature of Formula 1 in 2015?

The Malaysian Grand Prix was a great race in terms of the spectacle on track and if we have races like that for the rest of the season we’re in for a pretty good time! Just like any year, we’re sure to have some races which have people on the edges of their seats as well as some which are far more tactical and appeal more to the connoisseur. That’s the nature of Formula 1. And, just as we see a variety of different natured racing over the course of a season, it’s also often the case that we hear lots of opinions about the sport as we have done already this year. No matter what people’s opinion, it’s great that people are talking about Formula 1.

What are your feelings on the calls to influence the competitive performance of teams such as pegging back performance?

We heard these calls after the first race of the season which was maybe a little early to be making such noise. Now after two races there have been two different teams who have taken race wins, so the idea that Mercedes will have it all their own way this year was a little premature. Formula 1 is always very competitive and it doesn’t matter which year you’re in or the circumstances of a team in any given year: we all want to win and will do everything we can to become as competitive as possible. Of course, we have a promoter and a regulatory body which are both very attuned to the various needs of the sport, so every aspect is always very closely scrutinised.

What’s the wish list for the team from the next races?

At the top of the list is, of course, points. We have the pace so we just need to be there in the correct position when the chequered flag falls. Both Pastor and Romain are operating at the top of their games so it’s just a question of having a race without any issues or contact from other cars. We’ve had a couple of reliability issues which we’re addressing so we expect to be out there and scoring very soon.

Romain Grosjean - China in his hands

Romain Grosjean looks to the Chinese Grand Prix with a yearning to score his first points of the season.

What are your thoughts on the Shanghai circuit?

It’s quite a particular circuit where it is not always easy to find the right setup and the temperature can also be cold. You never know what to expect, except that there will be a monster traffic jam to get to the circuit! I scored my first Formula 1 points at Shanghai in 2012 and scored points again in 2013 so let’s hope that’s a good omen. Certainly, we’re better placed than when we last visited the track.

Looking back over Malaysia how was the weekend overall?

It was hot and humid, especially in the qualifying session. Generally it was a good weekend with strong performance through the qualifying session, however in the race things didn’t quite work out the way we wanted. There are still a lot of good positives we take to the next races and when it all comes together it’s going to be very nice.

How thirsty were you after the race because of your drinks system not working properly?

My drinks system wasn’t working from lap 20 onwards so I was certainly pretty thirsty by the time I got to the end of the race! I soon rehydrated and it wasn’t so much of a problem when I got back to the cold of Europe.

What did you need to be able to pass Hulkenberg?

I could have passed him, not in the first few laps of the race when his tyres were as new as mine, but later on – as we did after the first pit stop – but we didn’t have 100% performance from the engine which made it difficult to make the overtaking manoeuvre.

How did it feel and what were you thinking during the 360° spin in Sepang?

I had a few choice expressions as it was quite a high speed 360 and not quite in the place where you want it to happen. I thought it looked pretty good when I saw it afterwards – perhaps my ice racing in the winter helped me here!

Do you think the car has good potential for China?

Shanghai is always quite a particular race track so it’s quite difficult to predict. It’s often pretty cold and the front is the limitation of the car as you look to avoid understeer. I think we have a lot of tools at our disposal to try to make our car work well and I’m sure we’ll have a good race.

You’ll go from probably one of the hottest races to likely one of the coldest – does this affect you as a driver?

It’s not so much the change in temperature than the jet lag you get in the early part of the season from flying to different countries. We’ve seen that China can be pretty cold and drizzly in the past and you don’t get to see the sun there too many times. The weather’s the same for everyone and you’re not thinking about it too much when you’re in the car; you’re just thinking about how to go faster.

Do you think there’s potential to have a number of different race winners in 2015, now we’ve seen two different drivers win the first two races?

It was good to see Ferrari win in Malaysia and I think it was good for Formula 1. They worked well in Malaysia and I think they’ll be a force in the hot races. I think China should play more to the Mercedes but we’ll be fighting to do our best and present a challenge too.

China’s a back-to-back race with Bahrain – is this a tiring format / are there any special considerations with a back-to-back race combo?

With my experience, I’ve got a good flight strategy between the two events. It’s actually going to be my birthday in Bahrain; I’m getting older but I should be in a good mood!

Pastor Maldonado - Planning a Shanghai surprise

Pastor Maldonado looks ahead to the third race of the season at China’s challenging Shanghai International Circuit where he hopes to be able to cause a surprise or two.

Looking back over Malaysia how was the weekend overall?

It was very good for the team that we are in a position to fight for points on a different track. It was very hot and in those conditions the car didn’t look bad. During the race, even with the damage we had from the floor after the contact from Valtteri Bottas in the first corner, our pace was very consistent. We had a couple of small reliability issues but the team’s working very hard on this, and we expect to have these resolved by China. I’m looking forward to getting out in action in Shanghai and hoping for a clean weekend when we should be able to get some points.

How frustrating was the race for you last time out after that first corner puncture?

It was frustrating, especially as by the time I’d caught up with the cars ahead we’d developed an issue with the brakes so it was difficult to attack! It’s racing. I’ve been a bit unlucky, especially in the first corners of the first two races but on the other hand we have a car which is more competitive and this says that we can fight for points through the season. The potential of the car is there, we just need to put everything together and the results will come soon.

What do you need to do to emerge through the first corner in Shanghai?

The first corner of a Grand Prix is always thrilling as you have to balance the opportunities to make up places with the risk of losing them. Certainly in the first two races this season I’ve been the victim of other drivers’ incidents and that’s racing sometimes. The first corners in Shanghai are quite interesting as you’ve got a decent run down to the right-hander that is turn one, but that flows straight into the tightening turn two so it can get pretty busy!

What are your thoughts on Shanghai as a circuit?

Shanghai is a very technical circuit with one of the longest straights of the season so it will be good to see how high a top speed we can get as we’ve been pretty strong through the speed traps so far this season. There is a mix of fast and medium speed corners where we need good downforce and overall it is a challenging track which I like, so I’m looking forward to racing there.

Do you think the car has good potential for China?

I think we should be in a similar position to that we’ve been in for the first and second race, so fighting for the top ten in qualifying and then in the race. Let’s see what the track conditions are like, the weather, how the car feels and how good a set-up we can get. I’m confident we should be fighting for good places.

You’ll go from probably one of the hottest races to likely one of the coldest – does this affect you as a driver?

It doesn’t affect you so much as a driver as you train to be fit and race ready no matter what the conditions. It has more of an effect on the car, especially if it’s cold as making the tyres work and getting them into their operating window can be a challenge. It’s true that we’ve struggled in this area in the past, but it’s something that the team have been focusing on so let’s see how we are when we get out on track.

China’s a back-to-back race with Bahrain – is this a tiring format and are there any special considerations with a back-to-back race combo?

Honestly, I prefer it when we have races like this as you are focused as it actually cuts down on the overall amount of travelling you have to do as you go straight from one destination to the next rather than flying home and then back out like we saw with Australia and Malaysia having a week between them. After Bahrain we get a bit of a break to recover, get some training and spend some time with the family before the European season begins.

Nick Chester - Cracking the fortune cookie

Technical Director Nick Chester dissects the sweet and sour from the season so far and outlines the team’s hopes for something satisfying to take away from the Chinese Grand Prix.

What are the primary performance considerations for the Shanghai International Circuit?

It’s an interesting venue. The circuit has a mix of sectors: a very long straight in the final sector and some high speed corners in the second sector. It’s a balance between setting the downforce level so that you can be fast through the turns without compromising your pace on the huge back straight. It is a technical track for the drivers and hard work physically for them, particularly in turn one as it is is very fast before it tightens up in turns two and three.

What upgrades are planned for Shanghai?

We have bodywork upgrades at the front and rear of the car. In combination, we have a reasonable upgrade package for Shanghai which mainly focusses on improving our downforce.

It could be quite a relatively chilly weekend – does this hold any fears?

The range of ambient temperatures can vary significantly in Shanghai from around 10 to 30 degrees Celsius so that’s quite significant. We can’t know for sure in advance what the weather will be like but yes it will certainly be cooler than the last race! We will put emphasis towards generating the right tyre temperatures. And we’ll certainly pack our fleeces.

Jolyon Palmer will drive in FP1 – what type of to-do list will he have for that session?

It will be good to have Jolyon out in action in FP1. His to-do list will be the same as the race drivers’, so aero evaluation work, some set-up runs and then longer runs towards the end of the session. It will help with our weekend preparations as we always look at FP1 as being the development session.

How would you evaluate the E23 Hybrid’s performance in Malaysia?

We were quite pleased with the pace of the E23 in Malaysia. The car ran well on the Friday with Romain being well up on the timesheets and our qualifying performance was pretty reasonable on Saturday. Looking at the tyre performance, I think that it was tricky for everybody in Kuala Lumpur: we had never seen track temperatures that high as they were over 60°C! This meant that it was difficult to keep the tyre surface temperatures under control however we did a reasonable job of this. In the race, balance and the handling of the car were promising and already a step forward from the first race of the season. We were compromised by traffic but that’s the nature of racing as it’s seldom you have a clear track in front of you. The E23 coped well in the extreme heat and it was the first time that it ran in the wet. Again, the handling was pretty decent in those conditions so we continue to see the potential of this package.

It wasn’t perfect running in Sepang, what’s been done to put the early-season niggles to bed?

Pastor had a puncture right at the start of the race after contact with Valtteri Bottas and then later an issue with his brakes. We are still thoroughly investigating the matter and a solution will be in place by the time the car runs in FP1 in China. There was also a quite minor issue with Romain’s car which unfortunately affected the power unit. It was a small bit of sensor mis-information which meant Romain wasn’t getting absolute maximum power. Not a big issue, but it was something which meant Romain had to fight a little harder for his overtaking moves.

Does a win from a team other than Mercedes give faith to all the other teams that they can be beaten again?

It’s a long season ahead and we’re all trying to do exactly that. We’ve seen in this year that Ferrari have improved significantly over the winter months and it seemed that the hot track in Sepang suited them well. They had an improving car, a good strategy and they put it all together to take the win. It shows that with enough development Mercedes can indeed be beaten which is good for the sport. Rest assured, we’re doing everything we can at Lotus F1 Team to challenge Mercedes, Ferrari and every other team as best we can over the course of the year. 

Lotus F1 Team

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Formula 1
Event Chinese GP
Track Shanghai International Circuit
Drivers Pastor Maldonado , Romain Grosjean , Valtteri Bottas , Adderly Fong , Jolyon Palmer
Article type Preview
Tags lotus