Drivers Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado share their thoughts on the Shanghai International Circuit, while Deputy Team Principal Federico Gastaldi give the latest on the team and the challenge ahead.
Romain Grosjean looks to the Chinese Grand Prix hoping to celebrate his 28th birthday with an improved performance at Shanghai and a crack at the points.
What are your thoughts on the Shanghai circuit? Shanghai is not my favourite race of the year, but I will be spending my 28th birthday there so let’s make it good! 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 last year when Kimi finished second for the team. So let’s hope that’s a good omen and we can add to the good memories next weekend.
How will it suit the E22? I don’t know to be honest. It’ll be interesting and challenging for us but still the emphasis is on getting good track time so we can be as prepared as we can be for when our season really starts at Barcelona next month. There’s a very long back straight and some high-speed corners. There is a lot we need to do with the E22 and we certainly need some better power unit performance. Of course we’ll do our best to score our first points of the year. That is our goal, our target.
Do you wish there was more testing available with these new cars? Yes of course. Every time we go testing we seem to have problems and this situation hasn’t helped us. Luckily in the races it’s been better and we have gained knowledge from a performance point of view. But I do wish we had more testing as we’re currently playing catch-up. When you’re struggling a bit, all this new technology means it’s hard to get the reliability. We haven’t been very lucky with testing so far.
How is it for you as a driver this season - is it more work inside and outside the car? It’s still Formula 1 so you are prepared and focused 100% on every aspect. Driving is certainly very different to last year though. It is much slower in the race, but that doesn’t mean it’s easier. We have a lot more to change inside the cockpit and a lot more to think about with the energy recovery and the way we actually race. That is harder than last year but a great challenge. But physically it is easier because the cars are slightly slower.
What is your target for the next few races? Obviously, the target is to try to get better results. We have lots of parts for the car which should make it faster, but we need reliability to be able to test these. So far, when we’ve finished it’s been just outside the points. If we can get a little bit more performance and reliability, we’ll be finishing in the points. We can build a strong season from this point on and everyone is concentrating on this goal. We just have to push as hard as we can and stay as positive as possible even when the going gets tough. As a team we have to stay united, it will make us stronger as a unit.
After completing his first full race distance for the team in Bahrain, Pastor Maldonado is eager to continue the progress in Shanghai.
What are your thoughts on Shanghai as a circuit? Shanghai is a very technical circuit with one of the longest straights of the season. It could be a bit tricky for us as we aren’t the quickest on long straights at the moment, so we will have to see how we can work on making gains in the corners. This will be the challenge for us. There is a mix of fast and medium speed corners where we need good downforce. It is a challenging track which I like so I’m looking forward to racing there.
How was testing in Bahrain? Not so great. Power unit issues meant that we weren’t able to run the programme that we had set out to complete. This was frustrating; however we did achieve some of the aerodynamic assessment work that we wanted to achieve.
How did it feel to complete your first full race for the team in Bahrain? It was a tough weekend, especially as the pace of the car wasn’t what we hoped for, but at the same time we were able to finish all the sessions and the race without any problems. That was a big positive in terms of reliability. I also think that the collaborative work with Renault Sport F1 is helping us make steps forward. The E22 is improving, and race reliability was the first step in this process. Now we need to focus on performance. I think that the potential is there, we just need to focus and continue to push hard.
Have you spoken with Esteban or seen the footage of the incident? Yes, we have been in touch. I think it was a misunderstanding from both sides. He was out of line in the entry of the corner and I was completely committed to the corner. He said that he didn’t see me, and I didn’t expect him to turn in.
How was your race until then? The car felt much better in the race than during qualifying. The pace was quite good, the tyre management and the strategy was also promising. We were able to make up some positions and we were also consistent throughout. We still need to push harder in order to be in the top ten and I know that the team is committed to getting there as soon as possible.
What is your target for the next few races? The target is to score points and I think that it is possible to make steps forwards, especially in qualifying. The race pace is not bad but we need to start higher on the grid. If we start in the top ten it will be easier for us to fight for good points.
After both cars went the distance in Bahrain, Deputy Team Principal Federico Gastaldi wants to see the team’s efforts rewarded with points in China.
Where do you see the team at present? There has obviously been a performance improvement since the start of the season and there are good positives for the future and our development. Both cars ran without reliability issues to finish the Bahrain Grand Prix and but for an incident Pastor should have been in the points. That was a positive in relation to how we started the year. There is still a lot of work to do, however, and we have many new parts for the car and a lot of performance to be found.
How much of a comeback can the team make? We are a race team so we are here to win, but we are also realistic. It would be fantastic to think that we could make a major step forward and fight at the sharp end, but it’s too early in the season to talk about where we will be at the end of the year. Our first step is to get our cars in the points. Once we’re in the points, we’ll be hungry to make further steps quickly.
How important is it for Formula 1 to race in China? It is certainly important for us. We have tried from day one to get the attention from the Chinese audience in both a sporting and commercial way. We believe that China is both the present and the future. It is obviously a huge market to explore commercially so I think it’s very important for the business side of Formula 1. Certainly 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.
When do you expect the team to be able to make significant steps in terms of performance? We’re all pushing for good improvements at every race but it’s no secret that both us and our power unit partners - Renault Sport F1 - have a lot planned for the start of the European season in Barcelona. From our perspective we have many, many new parts to test on the car, so reliability is key to be able to test and develop these parts. No one is happy with where we are performance-wise at the moment and there’s no question of any of us accepting this status quo. We’re all pushing hard to be faster and we will do this together.
Lotus F1 Team