Lotus Renault GP prepares for round nineteen of the season in Brazil.
Bruno Senna – “I’m very excited about racing in my homeland”
A home race is an exciting time for any driver, but particularly if your name is Senna and you come from Brazil.
How have you recovered from the disappointing weekend in Abu Dhabi?
Well, you just have to put it behind you and concede that it really was a very poor weekend. In one sense we knew we would be up against it; the Yas Marina Circuit was always going to be a circuit that the R31 would struggle to with. In the race, we struggled with a KERS failure, drive through penalty and generally a car that was not on the money. Strategically we took a gamble that didn’t pay off. I certainly think that overall in Abu Dhabi my pace was as good as it could have been. For Brazil we will need to have an improved baseline to ensure a better race weekend.
It’s all eyes to Brazil now – not only the last race of the season but your home race…
I am very excited about racing in my homeland. I did, in fact, travel straight to Brazil from Abu Dhabi to prepare for everything. It’s going to be another difficult race because of the type of circuit we are facing. It’s a classic track, and it’s my home race which will make it extra special but there are also some long, slow corners in the mid-section of the track. We will have to prepare fully to give ourselves the best chance of success there. One thing is for sure – people will remember the last race of the season and how we perform in that. That will be the lingering thought for many as we enter 2012, so we want to end the season on a positive note.
You say you went straight to Brazil – how much extra is there to contend with at your home race?
I headed straight to Brazil from the Middle East. There will be a lot going on during race week. I have a number of PR and sponsor commitments leading into the race weekend; these are additional things to my normal race weekend, but I’m doing most of this ahead of the Thursday so I can begin my race preparations as I would do at any other track. Certainly, there will be the fan presence too. I’m well aware that I’m going to have a great level of support and that will undoubtedly help me as I look to secure a good result for the team.
Talk a bit more about the fans – you have a very special relationship with F1 fans in general, not to mention Brazilian F1 fans…
Yes, I know the fans will be great there. I learnt last year that they gave me a lot of care, a lot of passion and I would love to reciprocate that by putting in a result to be proud of in the black and gold livery. The flags will be waving for us Brazilian drivers on the grid, and that will be an extremely nice feeling.
Looking at your season as a whole – it must have been a good step forward for you…
It has. I’ve been learning, I’ve been improving and working with the engineers to get the most out of the car. We have been working on some different strategies, and some haven’t paid off. Other teams have taken strides forward that we have not, and we have paid for that in terms of results. This is all part of the learning curve I’ve been on, and I’m sure we can use what we have learnt to take ourselves forward.
Vitaly Petrov – “Brazil will be a very special race”
Vitaly reflects on a season of mixed fortunes, and looks forward to the season finale at Interlagos.
What conclusions can you draw from Abu Dhabi?
I did like the track but the trend of slower tracks not clicking with the R31 has repeated itself. To qualify P12 was almost the maximum we could have done and we were satisfied with that result. We also tried out a number of things in preparation for next year, so this should be taken into consideration as well. The race was quite difficult for us because from the beginning my DRS failed; it was quite a frustrating race because the pace was just not good enough to be able to overtake other cars and to score points. We knew that the Yas Marina circuit may not favour our car but still, that was not what we were looking for.
You seemed very upset after the race in Abu Dhabi…
Let’s just say that I acted a bit stupidly. I was very disappointed, very tired, I had to answer a lot of questions and somehow I didn’t handle it correctly. But I had a chat with the team later on and everything is now OK.
This is the last race of your second season with LRGP – what are your assessments of the year?
It started very positively for me. Finishing third in Australia was a big boost for both me and the team. After that I was fighting high up the grid in pretty much every race and we scored a lot of points – not nearly enough though. Next year I want to achieve a lot more, and we are already working hard to take another step forward. We have all been disappointed with our performance this year but we understood the tyres and tactics, and I believe we will be much more confident going into the next campaign.
What are your thoughts for Brazil?
It is not easy to set up the car for Interlagos. When you think you are on the limit you try to push a little further, especially at turns six and seven which are very, very special. The challenge here is to set up the car well and to have the car fully prepared for Saturday and Sunday. Sometimes it rains, like it did last year when the visibility and aquaplaning were incredible, but the track is still safe enough to drive well on. People just love coming here. Interlagos is a very lively track due to the nature of the straight with the tiny bends which givee you a chance to find the slipstream. Brazil will be a very special race.
What are your plans for 2012?
I am here to achieve and to reach my targets. Generally, I feel good. Throughout my first two years, I have always felt I’ve been improving but maybe less so than at the very beginning. I am still learning how to work with the team and how to get the car to work for me. I am still not yet at 100 percent, but it is difficult to ever be. First things first, I must give Brazil my best shot. Then, I will look at next year.
Eric Boullier – “I would love nothing more than a strong performance at Interlagos to round things off”
Race number 19 for Eric’s troops, and where has the time gone. The LRGP Team Principal & MD gives his assessment on 2011.
Firstly, Abu Dhabi – what went wrong for the team in the desert?
The result was not what we were looking for. We knew that the weekend would not be our finest of the season; the trend of slower tracks not suiting the R31 well repeated itself over the three days. For the race, we adopted differing strategies but neither one paid off. Our reliability problems did not help, either. The boys put in a big effort to try and give us something to smile about at the fantastic Yas Marina Circuit but unfortunately it was not to be. All eyes now to Brazil and what we hope will be a decent end to the season.
Vitaly had some strong words after the race in Abu Dhabi…
Well, the interview you mention was made minutes after Vitaly jumped out of the car last Sunday. The race was tough, he was upset not to have scored points, he was exhausted. Drivers are not robots, they’re human beings. Also, like every driver, Vitaly is a competitor. Had he been on the podium in Abu Dhabi, he would have complained about not winning the race. We take this incident as exactly this – an incident. Vitaly has apologised to the team and sent an email to all the staff at Enstone. As far as we are concerned, the matter is closed.
From one fantastic venue, Yas Marina, to another in Interlagos – what are your hopes and expectations?
Well, my hopes are for a fine end to the season. The boys in the team have worked hard and relentlessly to get the best from this season, and it would be nice to be rewarded with a good result. Expectations, well we did not perform at the Yas Marina Circuit. Interlagos is going to be another tricky venue, but it’s a classic place to race and I’m looking forward to taking the team there and giving it our best shot.
It’s the nineteenth and final race of the season – how much does a season take out of a team?
Yes, it’s a long and draining season. When you score points and achieve positive results, it helps a team’s motivation and keeps people upbeat. Contrarily, when a team is suffering from lack of form and other adversity it becomes challenging to keep the spirits of the troops high. During a long, hard season that challenge becomes more prevalent, and hopefully we have managed to keep morale at a reasonable level during the hard times we have faced in recent weeks. India and Abu Dhabi were poor races from our perspective, but it’s important that we maintain our focus and enjoy the last race of the season.
How would you summarise the season? What were the highlights?
It has certainly been a season of contrasting fortunes. The highlights, naturally, remain the podiums that Vitaly and Nick secured us in Australia and Malaysia. That was an amazing way to start the season and it was always going to be difficult to preserve that level of performance as the other teams found their feet. As it happened, we did continue to score a healthy number of points at some of the other races in the first half of the season – Canada was a particularly good race for Vitaly – but that petered out as our level of development failed to advance at the same rate as that of our competitors. Bruno did well to get his name on the points board for the first time when we raced in Monza but, as of late, there has not been the consistency required to do well. Of course, the positives of the season were lessened by Robert’s pre-season incident, which was a big setback for the team. As for the here and now, I would love nothing more than a strong performance at Interlagos to round things off.
James Allison – “We look forward to moving on in 2012”
Ahead of the final race of the year, James looks back at the R31’s exploits throughout the year and plots brighter times ahead in 2012
What are your musings on the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix?
A tough weekend for us, but given the nature of the track, we had expected these difficulties. A host of second gear corners and traction issues exposed the worst aspects of the R31.
Interlagos is quite a rollercoaster of a circuit – what are its biggest technical challenges?
The run up the hill to turn 1 is quite long, and there is an opportunity for overtaking here, so it is important not to set the straight-line speed of the car too low. However, the corners in the middle section of the track are all quite long and slow, demanding higher downforce. It is important to set the correct compromise between the two. The track is also pretty bumpy which makes the correct compromise of mechanical setup very important. It often rains at Interlagos, and the rain can fall without warning from clouds that don’t appear to be threatening; this always keeps the race team on their toes.
What has been the impact of Pirelli’s tyres, DRS and the return of KERS in 2011?
That’s quite a big question! Overall, the mix of these three elements has led to some very interesting racing in 2011. Dealing with them in turn:
- The Pirelli tyres have been very interesting to deal with. At several races the degradation has been such that the race has been a frantic affair, with small differences in tyre consumption between teams giving rise to huge on-track performance differentials. As the year has progressed, the tyres have been better dialled into the surfaces, but they have still provided an interesting strategic challenge owing to the normally quite large performance differences between the prime and the option rubber.
- In my view, DRS has had a positive effect on the spectacle this year. The FIA have been generally canny in their selection of DRS sectors with the result that DRS has made overtaking possible but far from a formality at tracks where it was previously impossible. Early on in the year, much of the overtaking was as a result of huge tyre degradation, but as the season has progressed, DRS has become more and more important in preventing processional racing.
- KERS is more evident by its occasional absence than anything else. There is no relative benefit when a KERS-equipped car fights another KERS-equipped car. However, once the unit fails then the difference is quickly evident. A failed KERS unit quickly causes significant lost lap time and makes a car very vulnerable to attack from a car whose KERS is functional. This was most evident early on in the season when Red Bull had some teething troubles with KERS that left them vulnerable on occasion.
Looking over the year, how would you evaluate the R31?
I regard it as a bold, but ultimately failed experiment. We were the only team to adopt a forward exhaust layout, and we did so with high hopes, buoyed by very strong wind tunnel numbers. We came out of the blocks adequately well, although it was clear from the first test that the delivered downforce was not as high as we had expected. The season which followed has been difficult for everyone at Enstone. The layout which had promised so much (and which, had it delivered, would have been almost impossible to copy) proved very tricky to develop and had a fundamental weakness in slow corners that has been an albatross around our neck all year. We look forward to moving on in 2012 with all-new exhaust rules and a chance to wipe the slate clean.
What’s the schedule for the team in the build-up to the 2012 season?
This time of year is frantic. It is very busy right now, but the intensity of the new car will build steadily to insane levels as January approaches. There is always way more to do than time to do it, and yet somehow each year it all gets done in time to put the new car on the track for winter testing. A change for this year, which requires all teams to have passed their FIA crash tests before they are allowed to take part in pre-season testing, adds even more tension to an already difficult period