A new tomorrow...
Lotus F1 Team Deputy Team Principal Federico Gastaldi explains the team’s resilient focus for fight back to where it belongs.
How do you view completing the season under the lights at Abu Dhabi?
I think it is a great place to sign off. Obviously with the Drivers’ title still up for grabs it will be exciting at the very front to see who can win what has been a great battle. The ambience of the track and the surrounding area is excellent and it is a venue which is now well established on the calendar. The track is interesting with lots of different challenges. With the race going in to the evening, the lights and atmosphere make it a very distinctive event and a good one commercially for the sport with lots of celebrities and partner guests enjoying the weekend.
A long season comes to an end at Yas Marina. How do you look back over the last eight months?
We could write a book on it all! There is no point glossing over the truth. It has been very challenging and tough for everyone in the team. We started several steps behind where we should have been and it’s remained a battle to get back to where we should be. We saw some glimpses of potential like Barcelona, Monaco and Austin but ultimately this team needs much more. Ultimately, what the season has done is galvanise our ambition and determination to succeed in 2015. We have modified several key aspects in the technical package to make sure we are in the best position to return to the sharp end of the grid. We know we have the people and the desire. Therefore, we go in to the winter with real determination to be a force once again.
There was more action off the track in Brazil with regard to the structure of the sport. Is Lotus F1 Team playing a pivotal role in discussions?
I would say that the discussions we had at Interlagos were an extension of what we talked about in Austin. Everyone knows that the situation is not good for the sport and that the fans, TV companies, and commercial partners need a strong and healthy grid of participants for the future. It is of course a complex subject, but ultimately any business, whether it be sporting or not, needs to have stability within its members. Gerard (Lopez) got some very supportive comments from the fans and media for what he said after Austin. I had discussions with many parties at Interlagos and some were positive and constructive. But what we need to see is progressive action.
It is the end of a long, hard season but the factory is still buzzing. What can we look forward to over the winter?
A lot of hard work that is for sure. We will leave no stone unturned going in to 2015. The pain of 2014 will only inspire us to make sure it does not happen again. For the race teams there will of course be some time to refresh, but straight away we will all be back at the factory and pushing the limit for 2015. There will be a lot of work packaging the new Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrain unit as well as the other production, build and then testing and development phases. It will be an exciting time and a genuine fresh page in the history of the team.
This will be the final race with Renault power. How will you remember the partnership with Enstone which stretches back nearly twenty years?
I think that everyone associated with the team will recall the great days of 1995 and then again in 2005 and 2006 when the titles were won with Michael (Schumacher) and Fernando (Alonso). Renault Sport has been valued partners and we shared an intricate and evolving partnership. All good things come to an end, as they say, and for 2015 we go our separate ways. As with any long-term partnership there were good and bad times. We have many friends at Renault Sport for we genuinely thank them for their expertise during a very long association.
Romain Grosjean Race Driver #8
With double points on offer, Romain is hoping to put a difficult year behind him and head into the 2015 season off the back of a strong points finish.
Are you looking forward to tackling the Yas Marina circuit again?
Definitely, I think it’s a good track with very nice paddock facilities which in my opinion are amongst the best on the calendar. It’s also a very special Grand Prix given that it starts in the day and finishes under lights, which makes it incredible for the fans as they can see through our visors and watch how hard we are concentrating. However, it is very difficult to work on car set-up in FP1 and FP3 as conditions are not representative of those you’ll find in qualifying and the race. Therefore, FP2 becomes even more important for both the engineers and myself, which makes it a rather pressurized session. It’s a circuit with low-speed corners - so it’s one we may have a few problems with - but I’m confident we can dial-in the car to achieve the maximum result possible. Pastor and I will be doing everything we can.
What difference do you think the soft and super soft tyres will make in Abu Dhabi?
It could make quite a bit of difference. It’s quite a nice feeling to attack different races with different tyre strategies. When tyres play a bigger part in the race, it gives us a chance to get up amongst it, even if it is for limited periods. Perhaps we can use a different strategy that plays into our hands. The last time we used super soft tyres was in Singapore and I was really happy with the car then, so I’m hoping I’ll get a similar feeling from the car at Yas Marina. If you get that good feeling, it makes you so much more confident.
You ran a different strategy to most people at Interlagos and it seemed to be paying off until the engine problem; How was it from your point of view?
Brazil was a tricky race weekend overall because the track temperature changed a lot throughout the event. On Friday it was very hot, on Saturday it was cool and Sunday was expected to be similar so that was how we planned our strategy. In the race we found it extremely hard to get heat into the tyres and get them working as we wanted. In the end, that meant we had to change to a three-stop race and that cost us. In general though, we’ll explore all strategy options because we currently don’t have the pace to fight it out at the sharp end. We need to be smarter in our approach.
How are you approaching the last race of the season?
We’ve got a few upgrades coming which should give us a bit more power and with double points on offer, you never know! We are going to try our hardest to get the best result we can and create a positive mood over the winter for the team back in the factory. When things aren’t going right for you, it’s difficult on everyone so a bit of positivity will help the whole team. Pastor and I will be trying our upmost to bring back some strong points. Sometimes a bit of luck and some clever decisions is all you need to achieve great results, and that’s what we’ll be aiming for on Sunday.
What do you have planned after the season ends?
For me, I’m looking forward to spending more time with my family and there will definitely be a holiday involved! I also have a little bit of fun planned at the Race of Champions which is in Barbados this year; it will be interesting to see if I can retain my crown! At the end of a season, wherever you finish in the standings you certainly need to get some rest and relaxation to recharge the batteries and help you focus on the following season. The F1 year starts in early February with winter testing and finishes in late November so you don’t get much rest mid-season. On top of that there is a lot of traveling which saps the energy even more. Even if you’re having a great season you still need some down time. The team back at the factory have been working really hard without getting the results they deserve, so they need a break too. Then we all can come back refreshed and raring to attack the new season. We’re all looking forward to that.
Pastor Maldonado - Race Driver #13
After an encouraging result around the streets of Interlagos, Pastor is determined to end the season on a high...
Tell us about the Yas Marina Circuit; is it a track you enjoy driving?
It’s always a special event and with it being the final race on the calendar this year, it’s going to be even more exciting. Away from the track, the people are always really welcoming, the weather is great and the place is spectacular. The pit and paddock complex is also amongst the best there is with excellent facilities.
What about the circuit layout?
The first sector at the circuit stands out with Turns 2, 3 and 4 being particularly enjoyable and the final sector is incredibly picturesque. Although it is a reasonably new track on the calendar, the team has built up a lot of data from the five previous races there and various post-season testing sessions, so we’re used to the challenging set-up dilemma it poses. It’s a twilight race so it’s all about finding a balance between the hot daytime conditions and cooler temperatures when the sun sets. I’m sure it’s going to be one of the best races of the year. It’s been fun driving there in the past so I’m hoping to have another good race at Yas Marina.
What is going to be the biggest challenge given the initial fast straight and slow-speed corners later in the lap?
I think it’s going to be tough for us in general to be honest but it shouldn’t be too bad. I think it’s crucial that we try and improve our qualifying pace because as soon as we are in the top twelve, things should be on the up and we’ll be in a good position to fight for points. We’ve seen that our race pace is quite competitive so it’s all about starting from the highest grid position possible. We know this is an area we need to make big strides forwards and Romain and I are working closely with the engineers to improve our qualifying results.
Pirelli are bringing the soft and super soft tyre allocation to Abu Dhabi for the first time. Could that help?
We’ll have to wait and see but I certainly hope so. We struggled a lot at the last race in Brazil with the soft compound but Interlagos is a short track and the weather conditions were pretty variable, whereas Abu Dhabi should be consistently hot. It’s difficult for me to say beforehand because there’s still a lot to discover with the car, so we’ll just have to hope for the best. Tyre wear is incredibly difficult to predict because it often relies heavily on the situation and how the car is handling. What is certain is that we will be aiming to score points, which would be great given that they will be doubled at this event. To round off a difficult year with a solid haul of points would provide that extra motivation for everyone back at Enstone.
Brazil was an entertaining race with plenty of action and stops. What did you make of it?
It was a great race with plenty of action for the fans, who are so knowledgeable in Brazil. It wasn’t the best for us as we were expecting to be in the points, but we gave our maximum and came out with a result which wasn’t too bad. I think we got the best out of the car although it might have been possible to get P10 given a bit of luck. It was just those couple of mistakes which we ended up paying for. We’ll be aiming to learn from them and avoid repeating them here to maximise our results. It’s the last race of the season so we have nothing to lose and we’ll just be focusing hard on ironing out any issues with next year in mind.
Lotus F1 Team