Lotus head into the first race of the 2014 season with a lot of expectation but many unknowns.
Gerard Lopez - Lotus F1 Team Chairman: The new wide-ranging technical challenges we face have shaken the order and as we head to the first race we have much to do as a team to ensure the excellent progress on the track over the last two seasons continues.
We will not underestimate this challenge and we know where the rapid improvements need to come from. Our technical team at Enstone has been working on the E22 for over two years and we know that the true potential of this car is yet to be seen. It is still very early days.
We have strong motivation in ourselves to attain success with the E22. All of our partners including PDVSA, Unilever, Microsoft and The Coca- Cola Company want us to do well and achieve strong performances on track. This is our target and we are ultra-focused. Everyone at Enstone is using their combined skills to strive for improvement on and off the track.
Our partners Renault Sport F1 share our motivations to deliver on track as they work with us, along with the reigning champions Red Bull, and also Toro Rosso and Caterham. The expectations of the Renault family including Nissan and Infiniti push us all on.
It is no secret that we face an extremely well-resourced rival in Mercedes who have dedicated considerable efforts to their power units for the 2014 season. We are doing everything we can to enable Renault Sport F1 to respond to this strong rival and our resources are at their disposal. The bar has been raised and we all need to react. Our hopes and aspirations for the season rest on how quickly we can make our car competitive after a tough start. The potential is there and we know what has to be done. 2014 sees a very different eras for F1, but one in which we relish the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead.
Romain Grosjean – I Imagine There Will Be A Few Surprises!
After a frustrating pre-season, Frenchman Romain Grosjean contemplates the challenge ahead, explaining how he is expecting plenty of surprises and drama at the first race of the season…
How well prepared do you feel heading in to the start of this season? Probably not as well prepared as last year, that is for sure! We’ve taken everything we can from the limited running we did in Bahrain and we’re working with that to ensure we can make the best start to the season given the circumstances we face. In Bahrain, every time we ran we improved and there are certainly areas where we are heading in the right direction. These cars are even more complicated than people first thought. With the new power unit there is a lot of work still to be done, both on our side and also on Renault Sport F1’s side. We need to get things together and achieve what we know we are capable of when we have a reliable package.
Will Melbourne effectively become another test session? No, the aim is to finish the race and maybe score points. We’re not yet in the place we want to be competitively, but we will be there to compete and you never know what could happen with everyone else too. I don’t think any team can say that they are where they want to be heading to the start of the season. Yes, we’re not in a nice situation but it doesn’t mean that it’s game over. We’ll try to score as many points at every opportunity during the season.
With all the new buttons on the steering wheel and new technical challenges to consider, how well prepared for Australia do you feel from a driving perspective? It’s a little bit challenging at the moment to be honest! We’re changing settings sometimes four or five times a lap which is a little bit too much. However, it was the same first time out with KERS back in 2009 (at Monza). It was a disaster – I remember we had to change the maps around five times in at least five corners. It’s just part of adapting to the new technology; it’s hard to get everything working together immediately. But it makes it more rewarding when we do get everything working as we want.
How do you keep that smile? Ah, well I think that it’s natural for me! No, it’s useless to run away or get upset. It’s better to sit down together, go through everything we have done, find the positives, and then trust in the people who have to do the work that they do. The best I can do is to drive the car as quickly as I can.
Tell us a little about Albert Park itself – why is it such a cool place? Albert Park is still one of my favourite Grand Prix circuits, so it will be good to get there and get the season started and there’s always a great atmosphere. It’s a fantastic track and the changing scenery as you drive through the park is incredible. Of course it’s a great country and I always enjoy visiting Australia. We know it can be a tricky circuit and the weather can make things pretty difficult too – two years ago we had lots of rain and even had to finish qualifying on Sunday morning! Hopefully the weather will be good this year – it’s been looking pretty hot recently. I guess you can say that everyone will be in the same position of not knowing what to expect, and with all the car changes I imagine there will be a few surprises! For us the weekend will be maximising the time on track, aiming to finish the race and getting the best result possible.
Pastor Maldonado – Everything Is Possible
Enstone debuntant Pastor Madonado is focused and determined to extract the very best possible in his first race for Lotus F1 Team.
How’s the relationship evolving at your new home in Formula 1? Everything feels good and it’s going in the right direction. Even though there are a lot of resources and people, it feels so close knit and efficient. I like the team and I already have a good relationship with everyone I am working with. Hopefully it will get better and better during the year. For sure we are in a difficult moment because we didn’t run enough with the car in pre-season testing, but you can feel that the team are fully focussed on working hard to solve problems quickly. I’m looking forward to attacking and being competitive as soon as possible and right through to the end of the season.
What are your thoughts after pre-season testing? Obviously I would have like to have had more laps! These are very complicated cars and Formula 1 should be about pushing the boundaries and developing new technology so it is very exciting. Maybe we have lost a bit of the great noises from the engine, but still they are powerful cars and a challenge to drive. It’s certainly going to be a spectacle, just as we had last year or maybe even better. For sure we need to keep running and keep adapting ourselves to the new rules, which are extremely different but this is something that just needs time.
What about the E22 and its potential? I think the potential of the E22 is huge. We just need to work harder than the other teams, even though time is against us. I think the car is good and it will only get better. We need to put everything together and try to get 100 percent from the team, car and me from a driving point of view. All is possible at the moment and we are very optimistic to progress and get back to the top.
What are the challenges of Albert Park? To be honest I love the track. The main challenges are that the track surface changes a lot over the weekend, especially from free practice to qualifying. The drivers and engineers need to try to predict how the track is going to evolve, especially for qualifying as this is crucial for the final position on Sunday.
How difficult is it going into the first race with so much that is unknown? It is exciting. It will be especially demanding for the team. I think all the drivers will have to work more closely with their teams than in previous years on every aspect inside and outside the car. We have been working a lot in the simulator, and even though it is just a simulation we learn a lot from this. Communication will be essential to have a good race - managing the fuel, the tyres, the settings on the steering wheel, the engine, power recovery, power delivery and so on. It will be very demanding to concentrate and focus on the many different aspects in the car, as well as the actual driving of these new generation Formula 1 cars.
What could be possible in Albert Park? Everything is possible. Especially because there are so many variables this season, particularly in the early races. We just need to stay calm and keep focused. It is not an ideal situation for many of the teams, but we just need to work together to improve. I have a lot of confidence in everyone at Enstone and everyone from Renault Sport F1 involved with the power unit too. Everyone has solved problems in the past so helpfully we can have quick answers that solve the issues we face now. This will be very important in terms of our performance and showing our potential. I’m feeling optimistic for our new challenge in 2014.
Nick Chester – Meeting The Challenge Head On
With just days to go until the first Grand Prix of the 2014 season, and following some of the greatest technical changes in the era of the sport, Technical Director Nick Chester gives a frank appraisal of where the team stands heading in to the new season.
How do you feel heading into the start of this season? There is a degree of frustration coming away from winter testing. Clearly, we would have liked to have done more mileage and had an opportunity to run our race preparation programme as planned. On the positive side we can see plenty of potential in the chassis. However, as was evident in Bahrain, we have much more work to do with the power unit itself to ensure that it is working correctly with the chassis.
How have the frustrations of pre-season testing affected the short and medium-terms plans for the year ahead? To be blunt, we are starting further back than we would like to be. I think that the first two races of this season will be very challenging for us, however it also depends on the solutions that Renault Sport F1 will be able to bring to the table too. Overall, and for all teams, we will see much more reliance on the power units than we have seen in the past. Despite this initial challenge, I think that over time those gaps will get smaller and the chassis differences will start to come through, and I believe that the E22 will be a very strong proposition. The start of the season will certainly be interesting for everyone!
How long is it taking on the chassis side to find solutions necessary to fix issues? The solutions to the problems we have encountered to date are fairly obvious and that means that we should be able to make positive steps in terms of reliability quite quickly. Because of the low mileage runs thus far, the reality is that there might be issues that we have yet to discover, and which might crop up further down the line and compromise reliability in the first few races. There are aspects we have improved on the car at the factory since testing so we’re eager to see the progress once we get to Melbourne.
How have Romain and Pastor adapted to the challenge in consideration of the regulation changes and relative lack of track time? There is a lot to take on board for the drivers with the new car and they have both done pretty well so far. For both of them to give us rapid and precise feedback is vital for us to be able to find quick solutions to the issues we face.
What are the realistic targets for the E22 in Melbourne? Our target is to finish the race. As we have done so little mileage it is difficult to estimate where we will be at in terms of performance.
When do you see the team being in a position to fight for podiums again? I think that we might see a bit of a change in the pecking order as teams get more used to running under the new regulations. It is difficult to predict precisely when this will happen. We anticipate a tough start in the first couple of races but we will see how quickly the improvements come though after that. I am sure that most of the other teams are in a similar position of finding it difficult to forecast anything in too much detail just yet.
How much of a challenge is this for the team at Enstone and what’s the feeling back at base? As a team we are always hungry for a challenge and we have a strong workforce at Enstone. We are looking at all the areas of the chassis and working closely with Renault Sport F1 to develop the car towards where we want to be. We started preliminary work on the E22 very early and we are quite pleased with the overall chassis package and vehicle dynamics. We have plenty more to do in order to integrate the power unit successfully and achieve the best out of the car as a whole. We will do everything we can to make the E22 as quick as it can be and to realise all of its potential.
An Engineers’ View – Albert Park
This is one of those circuits where there is a reasonable amount of track evolution. Between first practice and qualifying, with a similar fuel load, the track can be up to three seconds per lap quicker.
This affects not just engine temperatures and so on but also how you use the tyres. If there’s a chance that the temperature may significantly rise or fall, you have to have a compromise between qualifying and race setup. With the new regulations we have a significantly different car layout to previous years, although our work during the winter has shown that our engine, gearbox and turbo systems can all work well within their temperature envelope.
Engine Set Up
Melbourne is a very tough circuit on the car, but particularly for the new Power Units. The short bursts of power between corners put the internal combustion engine under intense pressure, while greatly increasing fuel consumption: in fact, the fuel consumption per 100km for the V8s was the second highest of the year, and it remains as such for the V6. Ideally teams will want to start the race with as little fuel as possible to minimise weight but to minimize laptime we will need the 100kg allowed allocation; the focus will therefore be on maximising the amount of energy recovered under braking via the MGU-K and via the exhaust and the MGU-H to keep the battery topped up and then deployed in the most efficient way possible.
E22 Set Up
FRONT WING Proportionally more front wing is used as a counter to the low-grip nature of the track which can provoke understeer.
REAR WING Relatively high levels of downforce are required for Albert Park so the car runs with a lot of rear wing. Not to Monaco levels, but comparable amounts to Barcelona and Silverstone.
SUSPENSION A reasonably soft car is required to maximise the grip potential from the slippery Albert Park surface. Set-up evolves over the weekend to match the improving track surface, as the park roads grow into a race track. As a counterpoint to the requirement for a soft car, there are sufficient change of direction requirements to need a stiffer set-up to aid responsiveness. It’s important to have a strong front end, as understeer is potentially the main factor. Although there are some sections where good traction is important, the priority is to have good turn in and change of direction through the chicanes.
BRAKES It’s a circuit that is medium to high in terms of brake wear. Certainly nowhere near as fierce as Canada, but it won’t be a track where we have our smallest brake ducts on. Another aspect of the new regulations means that the rear braking system is 100% new for 2014 and is now what we call a “brake by wire” system. This allows for the more complex demands of the energy recovery system of the new hybrid powertrain.
TYRES The medium and soft Pirelli tyres have been nominated this year and with new tyre compounds and constructions, allied to the different demands of the latest cars it will be interesting to see how they fair. The track itself is not very hard on tyres. The 2014 range of tyres from Pirelli are all a step harder than the 2013 versions. In theory this should lead to less degradation and fewer pitstops. Good homework on Friday will be essential, especially in the early races.
Lotus F1 Team