Racing Engineering interview with Thomas Couyotopulo

Thomas Couyotopulo: "There's only one winner. The rest need to improve." Thomas Couyotopoulo, Racing Engineering's Sporting Director, has been with the Spanish squad since its inception. Having such a profound knowledge and understanding of the...

Thomas Couyotopulo: "There's only one winner. The rest need to improve."

Thomas Couyotopoulo, Racing Engineering's Sporting Director, has been with the Spanish squad since its inception. Having such a profound knowledge and understanding of the team based in Southern Spain, he analyzes the pre-season preparation and talks about his expectations for the upcoming 2010 season. With the first race event of the 2010 GP2 Series being only a fortnight away, everyone at Racing Engineering is busy with the preparation of the last details and eagerly looking forward to the season's opening round at Barcelona taking place from the 7th until the 9th of May.

With pre-season testing finished, have you been able to complete the planned test program and are you satisfied with the results?

The technical and sportive results achieved during these six days of pre-season testing have been very positive. Both drivers have obtained good results and the team in general has worked on the technical aspects that were planned and improved. The only limitation we found was due to the low temperatures at Paul Ricard and Barcelona. We have only been able to test in "warm conditions" during the last afternoon in Barcelona, but this is not a parameter within our control. We can just do our best and adapt to it.

The first race event of the season will take place in Barcelona with weather conditions different to those during the test. Which aspects of the car set-up are likely to be affected by this?

Obviously the main aspects of the set-up are the "peak-performance" in qualifying and tyre degradation during the races. We have good experience based on the previous years' results, but the tyre compound allocation is different for the 2010 season. An additional factor affecting the behavior of the car and tyre degradation during a race could come from the driving aspects, especially when fighting "in traffic". Following a car sometimes affects tyre degradation negatively and overtaking is then not always easy. But that's what racing is about, isn't it? This is one of those parameters difficult to reproduce during winter testing. The "drivers' aggressiveness" and special maneuvers like late braking for overtaking, defending positions, balance changes due to aero situations while following a car, etc, are aspects that we need to have in our minds, but cannot really test. All other technical points have been checked during these tests and should allow us to fight for the top positions.

With GP2 being a single-make series with everyone running the same Dallara chassis, Renault engines, Bridgestone tyres, etc. What is making the difference? How is it possible to find the best solutions for all the different race tracks?

It's important to find a good base set-up and then work around it to adapt it to each circuit, driver and condition. Nowadays, there are technical tools, such as simulation, 7 Post-Rig, etc., allowing to find a good theoretical set-up direction, but it is nothing without the right people to interpret the results and make the decisions. In GP2, the reliability topic is very important so as to get good results throughout the season, especially since we have double race weekends. A failure during the Saturday race makes it difficult to get any points in Sunday's sprint race. The same applies to the drivers and this is why there is often more strategy seen during Race 1 and more risks are taken in Race 2. The drivers' feedback is our second "data analysis system" and needs to be right, precise and quickly transmitted to our engineers. What makes the difference is probably getting all these factors to work together correctly at the same time, and it's not easy! There's only one winner per race and the rest need to improve.

Which 2010 GP2 venues do you think are more favorable for the Racing Engineering package?

Well, that's hard to say. We have been successful on all the tracks during the last few years. Only Monaco has not been very positive for us so far, and it's the only one! But I would say that Monaco is not to be compared with a normal racetrack anyway. Monaco has it's own rules and the most important factor, like in the casinos it has, is luck.

It will be Dani Clos' second year with Racing Engineering. From a sportive and technical point of view, how would you describe Dani and what can we expect from him this season?

The main point about Dani is that he has lived a complete GP2 season with us in 2009 and therefore knows what to expect and has learned from the mistakes. GP2 is sometimes underestimated by young drivers who perform well during one day of winter testing. Being successful over a season is not easy! Dani has shown a good performance progression during the second part of the 2009 season and we will work together to make sure that he continues in this direction. It's only natural that he is maturing with time. He has already shown a good pace during pre-season testing and will have to confirm it during the race weekends. He is perfectly capable of scoring and making it onto the podium quite often, but our goal is for him to win.

Rookie Christian Vietoris joined Racing Engineering this year, but has already impressed during the pre-season testing. What are his characteristics as a driver and where do you think we will find him on the overall standings at the end of the season?

Starting with the first test Christian did with us, he appeared as a calm, concentrated, polite, and more than anything, fast driver. He has so much natural speed and some good technical knowledge learned from the F3 Euroseries. He needs to learn some tracks now and make his way in GP2. Having seen the very good results he achieved during pre-season testing, we can expect podiums and fighting for victories. But let's not forget that he is a rookie and still has to learn quite a bit. Very good and successful drivers like Rosberg and Hulkenberg have suffered during the first part of their GP2 seasons before getting their first wins. So what Chris needs right now is running time in the car.

There are a number of experienced drivers in the field this year. From a sportive point of view, which drivers/teams do you think will be Racing Engineering's main rivals?

Maldonado is the most experienced driver we need to keep an eye on. Then there are d'Ambrosio, Turvey, van der Garde, Valsecchi and Perez. But ART's rookies Bianchi and Bird will surely fight for top positions as well. Pic has been surprisingly good during testing and some Asian races. It will definitely be a tough, but I also hope interesting, 2010 season.

Three weeks before the beginning of the season the team has finished pre-season testing and is back at its workshop. What kind of tasks are still to be finished shortly before the season starts?

The testing has gone well which also means that both cars have done quite a lot of mileage. To put it differently, we have done more miles during these test days than one third of the mileage we do during the whole season, so many parts need to be checked, serviced or changed. The engineers are looking at the data obtained and the team in general is preparing the technical and logistical points that need to be ready for the first three events for the season which will take place "back to back". Even if the pre-season has been positive, we can't relax and need to continue to take care of every detail.

-source: racing engineering

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About this article
Series FIA F2
Drivers Christian Vietoris , Dani Clos
Teams Racing Engineering