Thomas Couyotopoulo: "The rhythm is quite intense at Hungaroring" With the Hungarian round of the 2010 GP2 Series taking place just one week after the races held at the German track of Hockenheimring, the GP2 teams are facing an intense week of...
Thomas Couyotopoulo: "The rhythm is quite intense at Hungaroring"
With the Hungarian round of the 2010 GP2 Series taking place just one week after the races held at the German track of Hockenheimring, the GP2 teams are facing an intense week of work where they additionally travel from Germany directly to Budapest. Racing Engineering can look back at some great results achieved at the Hungaroring in the past. It was only one year ago when Lucas di Grassi claimed a pole position for the Spanish team. Thomas Couyotopoulo, Racing Engineering's Sports Director, explains why there is no guarantee for success and why he thinks the team's 2010 drivers, Dani Clos and Christian Vietoris, are so special.
Thomas, it seems that one of the most crucial elements, from a strategic point of view, especially for the feature races, are the tyres. Could you explain to us the compounds available in GP2 and what to look for when it comes to administering them?
Apart from the wet tyres, there are in total 4 types of Bridgestone compounds available, from "super soft" to "hard".
Bridgestone is selecting together with GP2 the compound that will be used at each event and the teams then have to work with it. In general, this decision is taken while keeping in mind safety issues, but also trying to create an interesting race for the drivers, teams and public. Tyre management is important throughout the entire event. The driver has to manage the tyre wear during the race, but the team has a big influence due to the set-up of the car, the strategy during the feature race, the tyre pressures…etc. In most cases, there little a team can do about when to use which set, as they are limited to four sets of slick tyres per weekend. But under wet conditions this can change as it happened last weekend in Hockenheim. There are also two external parameters affecting the tyre degradation and performance: track temperature and track condition (amount and type of rubber already on track, i.e. F1, GP2 or other categories) and these parameters are sometimes difficult to predict and change during the events.
Dani Clos is in his second season with the team and he is challenging for the drivers' title. What can you tell us about his technical abilities and how they affect his driving style?
Without entering into too many details, I would say that Dani was quick at learning how to drive a GP2 car correctly during testing last season, but the big improvement that everyone can see this season lies in Dani's performance. There was a big step in his maturity as a driver. Technically he improved on specific topics and is able to quickly be on the pace thanks to his knowledge of the circuits and his concentration. His overall approach and preparation at the events is more complete and professional than before and I'm really pleased that his efforts are paying off and bringing good results.
The evolution of his driving style is more visible during the races than in practices. We could simplify it by saying that he is more precise and "sharp" on his overtaking manoeuvres, without taking unnecessary risks. He showed that he is capable of maintaining a strong and stable pace throughout a complete race.
Christian Vietoris is a rookie this year. How has he adapted to GP2 and what is his technical input with the team?
Since the first tests, Christian has nicely surprised the team with his "natural speed" and talent. On many occasions he has shown that he is quick enough to run in the top 3. He knows how to drive the GP2 car, but due to some bad luck, is continuously learning new aspects of racing in GP2 which include many parameters that drivers sometimes underestimate. To achieve a good result in a feature race, many points need to be successfully fulfilled by the driver and the team, starting from free practice, a good qualifying, the laps through the pits to prepare the race, the start procedure and then the management of all kind of situations during the race, i.e. safety cars, yellow sectors, overtaking, tyre degradation, fuel load. Technically, he brings his experience from Euro F3. It's a smaller car, but which allows to carry a lot of speed into the corners which is a positive point to be taken over to a GP2 car.
Chris has experienced various technical problems which were out of the team's hands, but conversely, other technical aspects seem to run very smoothly. What is the key to this technical reliability that is becoming so characteristic for Racing Engineering?
No one can guarantee 100% reliability, but it is the goal we are aiming for. At Racing Engineering we have a work system in place where every team member is collaborating in the analysis and choice during the operation of maintenance of the cars. Basically we life all important parts through a mileage system that helps to anticipate and avoid the mechanical failures. But the entire system applied is too complicated to be explained here. Unfortunately, sometimes this is not enough because some parts can fail due to a manufacturing problem or external factors. On top of this, we conduct visual inspections on a permanent basis to detect any abnormal mechanical wear. The engine is the only area we cannot check ourselves and electrical issues are usually the hardest ones to find and difficult to anticipate.
After Hockenheim, Dani lost a position in the drivers' classification, whilst Christian, having driven a fantastic race on Sunday, wasn't able to obtain any points. The team is now heading for the Hungaroring, a track unknown to Christian, but where Dani has got some experience. What are your thoughts regarding targets and strategy for the forthcoming weekend, especially in context with the championships' standings?
Hungaroring is quite different compared to the last track we raced. The rhythm is quite intense throughout the lap as there are a lot of corners without real straights in between. This makes it hard for the driver, but also puts extra stress on some parts of the car. This layout doesn't really allow much overtaking so the qualifying session is very important at the Hungaroring to achieve a good result.
In 2009, Lucas Di Grassi got his first pole position ever in GP2 there, so we can be quite optimistic concerning the car's set-up. Nevertheless, it will be hard for Christian because he doesn't know the track, although he already proved this year that he can learn very quickly. Dani showed a very strong pace in the feature race at Hockenheim and we are obviously aiming for the podium and regaining the second position in the drivers' standings.