Romain Grosjean: "I love Budapest and I love the Hungaroring."
Federico Gastaldi - Half time
Lotus F1 Team Deputy Team Principal Federico Gastaldi focuses on what the team wants ahead of the summer shutdown.
What are your thoughts heading to Budapest?
Myself and the team are all looking forward to what is sure to be a fantastic event. Every year Budapest and Hungary deliver and that’s thanks to some great forward thinking from Bernie Ecclestone many years ago, the enthusiasm of our much-missed friend Thomas Frank and now the drive of my good friend Tamas Rohonyi. Budapest is such a beautiful city and the event is a mainstay on the calendar.
What makes the Hungarian Grand Prix such a popular event?
It’s a great race in a great place. The circuit offers drivers its own distinct challenge with the twisty Hungaroring and the races that result are usually some of the better ones during the course of any given season. We’ve seen drivers like Ayrton Senna, Thierry Boutsen, Michael Schumacher, Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill and Fernando Alonso thrill and excite the emotions of the thousands of spectators over the years, bringing real magic to Budapest and to Formula 1. The fans are all very enthusiastic and the city itself is wonderful with many treasures.
What are your reflections on the British Grand Prix?
The race for us was unfortunate as both our cars were eliminated very early. Looking at the weekend as a whole, we weren’t able to show the pace we’ve seen at most venues this season. Budapest should highlight if this was just a characteristic of the Silverstone circuit or if our rivals have stolen a march on us. As an event, Silverstone was fantastic and we must praise the organisers and thank all the fans for their support and enthusiasm. It was certainly a good riposte to all the harbingers of doom for our sport.
What more can the F1 teams do to help the Grand Prix promoters?
I think the sport is going through something of a re-evaluation at the moment and this can be seen as a good thing as it stops us from becoming settled in our ways. Speaking as someone who has been a Grand Prix promoter as well as someone who is now intimately involved with a team I have a good grasp on the two different perspectives. I think as a sport we should always be working to promote ourselves as best we can and this should mean closer working between the teams and events to ensure we are dancing to the same tune. There are more things we can do to help promote events and I would say to all the promoters ‘don’t be afraid to ask!’. We will do whatever we can to help make all events a fantastic success.
What do you have to say to Emerson Fittipaldi’s comments that drivers are being turned into robots by teams?
I understand what Emerson’s saying but I know that we as a team don’t do anything proactive to stop our drivers from saying what they think. The drivers themselves are free to decide to say what they think, but they are talking in a very different world from when Emerson was a driver. Now if you say anything even slightly out of the normal it’s repeated, misreported, analysed and regurgitated across all forms of media and I think many drivers have taken a wise approach to this; the less controversial you say, the less time you have to spend answering questions about it! This is part of the reason why drivers have evolved into sounding like politicians when asked many questions. They want to drive, not spend hours discussing their opinions on whether Kim Kardashian should appear on the front of Rolling Stone magazine.
At the halfway mark in the season, where do you think the team has done well, and where is there room for improvement?
In terms of performance, when you look at where we were last year it’s clear we’ve taken a big step forward. When you look at where we were two or three years ago, it’s clear we have potential for further improvement. With the car we can make some progress in the areas of speed and reliability, but that is always the case; you always want the car to be faster and to never break down or have any issue. In the commercial domain we’ve been developing our relationship with Microsoft and this is highlighted by how we’re promoting their Lumia brand. There’s more to come too.
You were recently in Mexico for the third annual FIA Sport Conference, FIA MotorEx Mexico, what did you learn?
It was a great event and it was refreshing to hear so many proactive ideas and discussions for motorsport. It was also great to experience some of the enthusiasm and expectation in Mexico for this year’s Grand Prix; it’s going to be a fantastic event.
Romain Grosjean - Looking for juicy points in Budapest
At a circuit where he’s been on the podium before, Romain Grosjean reckons that points at the Hungaroring should be ripe for the picking.
What are your thoughts on Budapest?
I love Budapest and I love the Hungaroring. It’s a place where I really look forward to visiting every year. It is usually sunny and hot and is just before the summer break so you give all the energy you have before you go on holiday. It is an exciting Grand Prix every year.
What is it about the Hungaroring that you particularly like?
It’s a great track and one that’s suited us in the past. It was great to be on the podium there in 2012. I can remember feeling frustrated that year as we did have a chance to be fighting for the win, but that didn’t work out because of traffic. I like the circuit and its style of up and downs and twisty corners. I like the feeling you get when driving on the track and the grip you get from it. I’ve been very quick in qualifying pretty much every time there. It’s also the venue of one of my best overtaking ever in my Formula 1 career in 2013, even though I was penalised for being a few small centimetres over the line, which was tough at the time… Nevertheless, it is hard to overtake at the Hungaroring making qualifying very, very important and equally so the race strategy.
What’s the key to a good result in Budapest?
Qualifying, pure and simple. It’s a tight and twisty track so you really do need a good qualifying result. We showed in 2012 that being on the front row certainly helps and 2013’s P3 wasn’t too bad either.
What other memories do you have of the track?
I scored my first GP2 Series pole position there in 2008. In 2011 I won and finished third, which was a pretty strong weekend. In terms of driving, it’s not the most physically challenging in terms of high speed corners, but the heat you experience in the cockpit can be quite an issue. It can also be a difficult circuit early in the weekend as the track is not used very much, meaning it’s quite slippery when you first go out.
Your British Grand Prix was rather short; talk us through it.
It certainly was a rather short race for me! Basically the start was okay and it was the usual crowded circuit coming into the corner and Daniel Riccardo had been, shall we say, a little optimistic with his car’s braking ability on cold tyres. I was able to avoid him with the front of my car, but he hit the rear of my car which tipped me into a spin. Unfortunately this collected Pastor and the team’s race was over there and then. There’s not much you can do when that happens, but you feel a lot of disappointment as there’s your race gone, and for the team to have both cars out before the end of the first lap is gutting.
Do you think Budapest offers a good opportunity for you and the team?
We’ve gone well there in the past and it’s a track I like. The E23 works well and we seem to be able to extract pretty good performance from it at most tracks we visit. The Hungaroring is not a high speed circuit so it won’t play to the strength of our car through the speed traps, but we’ve worked pretty well in the low speed stuff. The tyre allocation of the soft and medium compound Pirelli is certainly quite a conservative one, but we should be able to go quite well. I think if we start the weekend well we could have quite a strong race and bag some more juicy points ahead of the summer break.
Pastor Maldonado - Best friends
Pastor Maldonado looks forward to one of his favourite races of the year in Hungary.
Are you looking forward to Budapest?
The Hungarian Grand Prix is one of the best of the season. We are very close to the city of Budapest which is a place that I like very much. There is a big community of fans at the race weekend and the people are very friendly. On track it can be very challenging. The weather is usually very hot there meaning that it is very demanding from a physical point of view. It is one of the races that I enjoy best because of these demands and I really like the challenge that it presents.
What are your thoughts on the Hungaroring?
It is a very demanding circuit for drivers as it is often very hot and there are limited overtaking opportunities. It has quite a slow speed layout and we’ve looked quite good with the E23 in low speed corners so it will be interesting to see how quick we are here. Qualifying is so important at this track because of the small number of overtaking opportunities, but I’ve qualified well there in the past so hopefully I can deliver a strong performance. I have won in Budapest in other categories so the track has good memories for me. The fans create a good atmosphere and it’s always nice to race at a track where there is a good feeling like this. I am looking forward to the weekend.
Your Silverstone race was rather short…
It was a great race at Silverstone; I know this as I was sat in the motorhome watching it! For sure, this was not how I wanted to spend my race; I wanted to be sat in my car racing. It’s such a satisfying feeling when you’re racing in mixed conditions like we saw for the British Grand Prix. It’s also such an unsatisfying feeling when you realise your race is over so early.
My car was hit by Romain’s as he had been tipped into a spin by Daniel Riccardo. I actually thought my car was okay except for a puncture so I tried to get back to the pits to change tyres. Unfortunately, what I could feel from the back of my car was not a puncture, it was oil leaking and making the tyre lose traction. As soon as Mark, my engineer, come over the radio to tell me to switch the car off I knew it was game over.
What do you do after a short race like that?
Your first thought once you’ve seen that everyone is okay and you realise your race is over is ‘how do I get back to the garage?’ I spoke to the guys in the garage when I did get back, then there wasn’t really much you can say in the debrief. After that I watched the race with guests and personnel in our motorhome. As a racer you never want to be watching the race live on TV as you should be in it, but it was a good race to watch nevertheless!
The Hungarian Grand Prix represents the halfway mark in the season and it’s the final race before the summer break; what would your half term report card say and what are your targets for the second half of the season?
My target is the same as for all the races at the start of the year; to score as many points as possible and finish the race in the best position I can. I think my first half report card would say good things for effort, but the results didn’t come. Certainly I believe we’ll get better finishes in the second half of the season.
Nickchester - Hungary for laps
Technical Director Nick Chester looks to the challenge of the short and sweet Hungaroring.
What are the challenges of the Hungaroring?
It’s an interesting circuit with predominantly low and medium speed corners meaning we need a good front-end from the car with strong turn-in. Traction is another area we look to maximise from the set-up. Talking of set-up, it is another venue which can present a challenge. You need high downforce and we’re using the medium and soft tyres at what is likely to a hot track which means our engineers will be kept busy getting the car fine-tuned to exploit its performance potential.
Silverstone was something of a short race; what did the team learn?
Our race was very short with both our drivers retiring on the first lap. Silverstone can be quite a windy track and this makes it difficult to set-up the car, which was something we suffered from this year. We also struggled a bit with both compounds of tyres to get a good balance. This meant we didn’t qualify where we wanted to be, however we weren’t a million miles away and there was still good potential for the race itself. Unfortunately, we never had the chance to show what we were capable of in the race as both drivers were blameless victims in the first lap incident. Certainly points for both cars were in the offing.
What’s the emotion in the garage when you see both cars eliminated so early in the race?
It’s gutting. So much work goes into the preparation for a Grand Prix; getting the cars ready, building the garages, travelling to the event so to see that all evaporate within 30 seconds of the race start is very disheartening. But that’s racing; you get on with it.
What’s the current activity at Enstone?
We had a reasonable amount of remedial work for both cars following the British Grand Prix. The damage was confined to bodywork, floor, front wing and also an oil line on Pastor’s car. The cars looked worse than they actually were, but nevertheless it’s been quite a busy time at the factory. We’ve got a number of developments for this year’scar to come along as well as having peopleworking on concepts for 2016.
What differences are there likely to be at the race starts?
It will be interesting to see if there is much difference from Belgium onwards. Until now the team has been able to advise the drivers as to start procedures related to the clutch bite point, but that won’t be allowed from Spa onwards so there’s some scope for a bit more variance at the starts of races than we see currently.
Looking to 2016, what difference does a 21 race calendar make?
Next year’s calendar has a reasonable shaking-up of the schedule; not only is it a 21-race calendar, but also the season doesn’t start until April and there are a number of other differences too. Certainly, it represents the biggest change to the schedule that we’ve seen for a while, with the Malaysian race now scheduled for after Singapore, and Russia taking place in May. Add to that the addition of Baku and that makes plenty to consider in terms of logistics, especially with the seven back-to-back races.
What does the summer shutdown mean for the team?
After Budapest we do have the two-week shutdown at the factory, when no work can occur. This means a break and recharge of the batteries of all the people who work at Enstone, which is well needed at this time of the year. It also highlights that the season has passed the halfway mark with only two European races left so it’s time for a strong push to collect as many points possible in the second half of the year to secure the best championship position possible.
Lotus F1 Team