Chinese Grand Prix Preview – Lotus Renault GP
LRGP prepares for round three of the season in Shanghai.
To view our preview magazine, packed full of exciting content, including interviews with all key players at LRGP, simply click here.
Nick: “Our top speed should pay off”
Following his first podium for two years, Nick can’t wait to get back in the R31 in Shanghai.
Nick, sum up your feelings after a great race to the podium last weekend in Sepang?
It’s a super result for me and the team. After two races, we have had two cars on the podium, which shows how much progress the team has made over the winter. My hope is that we can keep up in the development race and have many more results like this during the year.
We saw some good racing in Sepang last weekend and lots of use of the DRS – what was your experience of it?
There was a lot of action in the race and it’s clear the DRS is helping with overtaking. Of course, if you use the wing to overtake somebody, you like it, and if you are overtaken, you don’t like it. I’ve always said that I don’t like the idea of artificially improving the racing, but now that we have this rule we just have to make the best of it.
Looking ahead to China, can you continue to fight for podiums?
It’s too early to say. It really depends on the upgrade packages the other teams bring to China, which might change the pecking order a little bit. We had a good upgrade in Sepang, and our package this weekend in Shanghai is not as big. But I think it’s a circuit where our car will go well because we have good top speed, which should pay off down the long back straight.
Vitaly: “We still need to keep working hard”
Following his eventful race in Sepang, Vitaly looks ahead to racing in Shanghai.
Vitaly, a difficult end to a promising race in Sepang. What happened exactly?
I still don’t really know, but the car just started to understeer and I ran wider and wider on the exit of turn eight. Maybe my tyres were dirty or I picked up some rubber offline. Then there was a big jump, which ended my race.
Despite the disappointment, you delivered another strong performance across the weekend. That must give you confidence for this weekend’s race in Shanghai…
Yes, I think we can have another good weekend. I feel very happy with the balance of the car at the moment. It’s easy to drive and I believe we will be competitive. Of course, there is still a lot of work to do and we must keep improving if we want to fight with the big teams.
Do you enjoy the challenge of racing in Shanghai?
It’s not my favourite track, but I obviously have some good memories because I scored my first points there last year. As we saw in Malaysia, you really don’t know what to expect from the tyres and you also have to remember that the DRS will probably have a big impact there, as it did in Sepang.
Vitaly and Nick’s Guide to China
Describe China in three words?
Vitaly: Enormous, interesting and different.
Nick: Traffic, big and Shanghai
What do you think of the track?
Vitaly: It’s quite interesting, but it’s not easy. The first corner is different because it goes on forever.
Nick: It’s a nice circuit because it’s not like the others – there are some unusual corners and a long straight, which is good for overtaking.
Best memory from Shanghai?
Vitaly: I had a great race there last year and scored my first points in Formula 1.
Nick: It’s not a circuit where I’ve had great memories. Hopefully that will change this year.
What do you think of the Chinese fans?
Vitaly: They are very enthusiastic. When you come back to the hotel there are always lots of people waiting for you.
Nick: Fans in Asia always show great support. I think they also like seeing people with blond hair – that seems to be special for them so I think they like me!
A word with the Boss
After back-to-back podiums, Eric looks forward to another strong showing in Shanghai
Eric, a second podium for LRGP in Sepang – what a great way to start the season…
Yes, it’s very rewarding for all of us in the team and shows once again that all the effort and hard work over the winter has paid off.
How pleased are you to see Nick bounce back after his troubles in Melbourne?
I’m delighted with Nick’s result in Sepang, which is the perfect way to put the difficult race in Melbourne behind him. We never doubted his speed, but he just needed to have a normal weekend where he could realise his potential.
Although it’s early days, the R31 has sown a lot of promise already this season…
It’s true. Two races, two podiums! But what is more important is that these podiums came on two very different tracks with two different drivers. It shows that we have a car that is quite adaptable. It also confirms that we can count on both our drivers to race hard and fight for podiums.
Can the team keep up the momentum in China this weekend?
I think so. If we can have a clean weekend with both cars then hopefully we can be pushing for good points or even another podium – why not?
What have you made of the racing so far this year under the new regulations?
I think the new rules have really added some spice to the strategy. In fact, it’s much tougher to plan the strategy from the pit wall and keep track of what everybody is doing in terms of tyres. Also the rear wing means that if you can get close enough, overtaking is now possible. I expect we will see a lot more overtaking using the DRS in China.
Tech Talk with James Allison
The Technical Director reflects on another strong showing from the R31.
Two podiums in a row for LRGP – you must be a happy man?
I’m happy for the entire team. It’s been a mega effort and I feel we’ve really got the most out of the car in the last two races. Also, the car has scored podiums on two very different tracks and has performed well in the temperate conditions of Melbourne and the heat of Sepang. It all bodes well for the season ahead.
We saw the R31 demonstrate good race pace in Sepang – arguably stronger than its qualifying pace – what is you verdict?
We’ve seen that twice now. It was a characteristic of last year’s car that it performed well on high fuel and the same seems to be true of the R31. But we still have work to do on both qualifying and race pace before we can call ourselves properly competitive.
The race in Sepang was full of action, largely due to the tyres and the impact of the DRS. How was it from the pit wall?
Calling a race like that is a very difficult job for our Strategist and Chief Engineer. To get all the major decisions right is really challenging, and I’m glad that I don’t have to do it! It was good to see lots of overtaking and I think the FIA got the DRS settings just about right in Sepang. For China, they will need to choose the DRS activation point carefully because the DRS straight is around three hundred metres longer compared to Sepang.
What are your expectations for China? Will be LRGP fighting at the front once again?
I certainly hope so and it’s a circuit that should suit our car. We brought a reasonable upgrade package to Malaysia and will have some more aero tweaks for China.
Did You Know
The Shanghai International Circuit design was inspired from the Chinese character ‘shang’ – the first character in the name of the host city, which means “above” or “ascend”.