Heikki Kovalainen: “All we need is a better Sunday”
Our Finnish Enstone returnee is determined to harness the positives from his E21 debut and strike back with a strong performance at the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix
What do you think of Interlagos?
It’s a great circuit and certainly different from Austin. There are some really nice corners, some more ups and downs and it runs anti-clockwise. The weather can be interesting when there’s potential for rain as it can make for some really challenging conditions. It’s a good place for us to end the season as it's one of those tracks where anything can happen. The track itself is quite tricky. It's pretty narrow in parts and you need to make sure you get your lines right or it's very easy to make a mistake. It's also fair to say that it has one of the best atmospheres of the whole season. The fans are incredibly passionate about Formula 1. They're very knowledgeable and they turn the whole weekend into a giant party in the stands. It's pretty cool on Sunday when you're on the gird and all the stands are bouncing. It really is a cool place to race Formula 1 cars.
The race didn’t go the way we wanted and I’m not sure if it was the car or if the driver was just a little rusty! We had a problem with the front wing losing downforce which meant we lost pace, but this improved later on when we changed the front wing. There was a KERS issue too about halfway through the race, though not enough to account for my lack of race pace! We’ll have a good look at the data and hopefully be on top of things far better for the race in Brazil.
Are there plenty of positives heading to Brazil?
Apart from the race it was an encouraging weekend in Austin, so I feel well prepared. The car is quick for sure. It’s fantastic to drive when things are going the right way, so if we can get on top of the issues we had in Austin then the potential is certainly there for a good result. I don’t think we could start the weekend much better than we did last time out, but we can sure finish it better! Let’s see what happens; my goal is to help the team achieve their target in the Constructors’ Championship, so I’ll be pushing right to the end.
What do you think of the E21 now you have a weekend’s experience of it?
The E21 feels good and it gives you the confidence to attack straight away as you can lean on it pretty comfortably without it snapping away from you; it’s really a stable car. This was certainly one of the reasons why I was able to get up to speed pretty quickly. It’s really kind on tyres too and you really notice this on the longer stints. Overall, it’s a great car.
Has it been good to work with the Enstone crew again?
It’s been very straight-forward with no issues at all which has really allowed me to concentrate on the car and the racing. There are some familiar faces around the garage from my time here in the past, which always help you to settle in too.
What do you want to achieve in the final race of 2013?
We’ll try to have a stronger Sunday and get a better result. It was quite a smooth weekend up until the race in Austin, but in Brazil it could be a different story so let’s see how it goes. The main thing is to try and get a good result. The car is right up there – we saw that with Romain’s performance in Austin – and it’s really good to drive so the potential is there. Certainly, I don’t want to make any predictions. It could be a difficult weekend or it could be a great weekend; who knows? We just need to work well with the car like we did in Austin, get up to speed quickly so we’re in good shape going into qualifying, and try to avoid any issues in the race. A better start with a stronger first lap will help too of course; if we put all these things together we should have a strong race.
Romain Grosjean: “I love going Brazilian”
After a standout performance in Austin, Romain Grosjean looks ahead to the season finale at Interlagos hoping to end the year on a high
Tell us about Interlagos; is it a track you like?
It’s a fantastic track; there’s really no part of it that isn’t great. It suits my driving style so I’m really looking forward to it. The E21 has been performing really well this year and there’s no reason to think it won’t be a great car once again in Brazil.
Is there a specific part of the track you like the most?
Everything! It’s a fantastically challenging track which never seems to let you relax. Even the main start-finish ‘straight’ isn’t boring as it starts uphill with some interesting camber, then gradually turns before finishing at the downhill turn one where it’s so easy to out-brake yourself. If I had to pick favourite parts of Interlagos, I would say the first and last corners. The first corner is really technical and punishes you if you get it wrong, while the last corner is so fast and really puts quite a strain on your body. As a driver I really enjoy these corners. It’s one of the real classic old-style tracks so it’s very hard to pick out a single element; I love it!
How difficult has it been taking the fight to the Red Bulls over the last few races?
They have a very fast car, of that there is no doubt! Sometimes we get a sniff of being able to chase Seb [Vettel], but now he’s got the championship in the bag he’s got some additional confidence and speed which makes it all the more difficult! Being able to chase and lead just one of the Red Bulls is really quite some achievement for the team and I’m so grateful to everyone at Enstone for all their hard work throughout the season.
Why do you think the team is performing so well at the moment?
The whole team at the track and back at Enstone are doing an amazing job. The spirit of these guys is awesome; I really can't say enough about them. They come to the track or the factory having had just a few hours’ sleep after the late night’s work the previous day, but they’re always happy to do anything they can to get the best from a weekend. We drivers are always wanting more from a car, and they never stop trying to make that happen.
You had quite a fight with Mark Webber in Austin?
You know that Mark is very experienced and he’s never going to give up, so that certainly puts the pressure on. Equally, it gives you very good motivation as you know there is no option to make a mistake as he will just take the place. It’s really satisfying racing with such a good competitor, and also very satisfying when you’re the one who crosses the finish line ahead.
Weather is usually quite a talking point in Brazil, with the altitude playing a factor. How will you approach the
To be honest the weather and altitude is not something we can change and therefore we just have to deal with it. We will plan our strategy well and just aim to be in a position to fit the right tyres at the right time. The good news is that Brazil is closer to our normal time zone, so jet lag will be less hard to cure when we go back home!
What do you think of São Paulo and Brazil in general?
It’s a great place to end the season and I know the crew like visiting there. It’s been a long year, so I think everyone is really looking forward to the end of season party which our sponsor burn is going to hold; that should be a great night! Brazilian people are very friendly and there are some great places to eat. We’ll have a team meal with everyone before the track action gets underway and that’s a pretty good way to say thank you for everyone’s efforts throughout the year.
How would you like to end the 2013 season?
Well it’s always fantastic to be on the podium and of course the top step is always our target. We won’t know how well we and our opposition will perform until we’re out on track, but we’re certainly pushing to do the very best we can.
Eric Boullier: “It’s our last chance for points and we want every single one we can get”
After quite some season for the Enstone outfit, Lotus F1 Team Principal Eric Boullier looks forward to the final race of 2013
It’s been quite some year; how are you approaching the final race of 2013?
It’s the ‘Last Chance Saloon’ to score points and we want every single one we can get. We head to the race in fourth position in the Constructors’ Championship but with third still mathematically possible. You never know what can happen in this sport, so we’re going all out to score everything we can.
What do you think of Interlagos?
If you look back over the years we have seen some fantastic races at Interlagos and the fans are always very enthusiastic. The circuit is unique and it seems to always deliver something special. We hope we can offer something to all the teams’ fans to end the season on a high.
What was the Team Principal’s opinion of the weekend in Austin?
Well, we were certainly kept busy! Even though it’s only the second time we have visited the venue it was a really popular event. From a team perspective, we had to get everything ready for Heikki to join us at short notice and to ensure that we gave him the best opportunity possible to perform. He did a great job over the weekend and kept focused even when there were problems in the race. Over on the other side of the garage, Romain delivered one of his best Grand Prix performances to beat one of the Red Bulls on track and take second position. We really couldn’t have asked more of him.
What have been the highlights of the year?
There have been many highlights. Winning the opening race of the season was a fantastic accomplishment; especially compared to the previous season where we’d looked close to victory but kept having it slip out of our fingers until we finally nailed it in Abu Dhabi. This year the E21 has been such a superb car and a testament to the hard work of everyone at Enstone. We’ve been able to sustain our pace and development and were also able to adapt well to the mid-season tyre changes; allowing us to keep punching above our weight relative to the opposition, which has been exceptionally satisfying. Our recent run of podium finishes really shows what a fantastic group of people exist at Enstone. To have been able to produce and develop such a car under conditions that are not always perfect is a great achievement. Finally, one of the definite highlights has been how Romain has matured as a Formula 1 driver. He keeps delivering exactly what we want from him and is really a force to be reckoned with against anyone on the grid.
What’s the latest news about Kimi?
We know he’s had his operation and that it went successfully, so that’s great to hear. He now has a process of recovery; for which everyone at Enstone wishes him well.
What happens next for the team?
After Brazil there will be a little bit of time to celebrate our performance this season and to thank everyone in the team – both on track and back at Enstone – for putting in such dedicated efforts this year. Then of course our focus will be fully turned to 2014. Our car for this monumental change to the regulations has been something we’ve been working on for around two years now. So much of our recent investment at Enstone – our improved CFD facility, our 60% wind tunnel, our gearbox dyno and our simulator – have been commissioned with the knowledge that there is the immense challenge of building the 2014 car. We hope to be able to be fighting at the front again once the new season gets underway.
Lotus F1 Team