After two race weekends with meagre points pickings, our Finn is eager to get his championship challenge back on track at Silverstone
Your championship potential has taken something of a hit in the last two races; is this a big concern?
Obviously, it’s not been that great and we haven’t got the results we wanted. The last couple of races have been more a question of surviving not attacking and that’s not what anyone wants. That said, Monaco and Montréal are both street circuits; they’re quite different from a lot of tracks we visit and there are quite a lot of variables. You never know how you’re going to go at those two tracks but we do now and at least we got a few points.
Does returning to a permanent race circuit bring any positivity?
Silverstone is a more normal circuit and we’ve been okay at every other permanent circuit so far this year. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be back to the positions we should be with this package. We just have to be patient, do our very best over the entire weekend and step by step we can start catching the leaders.
How challenging is Silverstone as a race track?
Silverstone is all about long sweeping high-speed corners and high downforce levels. It’s one of the fastest circuits on the calendar; it’s very challenging and the flowing corners are pretty good fun to drive. Hopefully our new parts will help us; particularly in the faster corners. If that’s the case, it could be a good weekend.
Have you always liked Silverstone?
Yes, it’s always such a good feeling going to Silverstone. It’s a great place to race and it has been a good circuit for me since the very beginning of my career. I have a long history there. It was the real base for the start of my international racing career in Formula Renault in 1999 and 2000. Since then I’ve always enjoyed racing at Silverstone. I don’t know why; there must be this nostalgic feeling that I have every time we go there.
You won at Silverstone in 2007 and have been on the podium five times altogether; how does it feel when everything goes right there?
When you win in Silverstone, it gives such a good feeling. You have to get everything exactly right. I won there in Formula Renault and then in Formula 1 with Ferrari in 2007. It would be fantastic to win again there, especially with the factory just down the road. I’m sure we would have some fantastic celebrations.
What about the British summer?
It’s always windy at Silverstone. Often it rains too, like we saw last year in qualifying. The track conditions change very quickly, which makes the car more tricky to set-up. Obviously when you are running at the front it’s best to have stable conditions, but I don’t mind really. The weather is just a part of the fun of racing in England. I’ll enjoy the weekend whatever the weather will be.
How’s the feeling from the team?
The team has worked 100% to have a really competitive car for the home race. Silverstone is the closest circuit to the factory so hopefully we can celebrate a good result with all of the factory personnel and their families who bring their support every year.
Romain Grosjean: “An English summer’s day is wonderful, but sometimes you have to look hard to find one!”
After his fightback through the field in Montréal went largely unnoticed thanks to a change to the planned strategy with an extra pit stop, Romain looks to Silverstone for redemption
How do you like Silverstone?
It’s a fantastic track with a lot of high speed corners which should suit the E21; especially with the upgrade package we have for it. It’s a home race for myself and the team so we’re sure to have a lot of support. I won there in the GP2 Series in 2011, so I have to say I quite like it! I also scored points on my Silverstone Formula 1 debut so it’s a run of results I’d like to continue.
Why is Silverstone rated as one of the favourite circuits for many drivers?
Silverstone is challenging, but it has a good feel. It’s one of the quickest tracks of the year, with legendary corners like the Magotts, Becketts, Chapel complex. It’s quite a feeling going through there and I can’t wait to feel that sensation once more. It’s also a special Grand Prix for the team as the factory is very close to the track. It’s always nice to see not only the race team, but also some of the many people from the factory who come to see us in action. It’s thanks to all their hard work that we’re out on track and they are all doing an amazing job, always working so hard. I will be visiting them after the race and hopefully I will go there with some silverware to show them.
What is difficult about a Silverstone weekend?
Last year there was quite a bit of wet weather over the weekend; not that this was much of a surprise to the Englishmen I’ve spoken to! I live quite near to the track now and my experience of regularly visiting Enstone means that I know the weather can change quite a lot. An English summer’s day is wonderful, but sometimes you have to look hard to find one!
Was there much more that could have been done in Canada?
There’s not really much to tell. The second set of tyres really didn’t work for us in Montréal and if you can’t get them to work then you’re going to have a difficult race. We had a strong strategy planned and the first part of the race worked well. Once we got the medium tyre up to temperature at the start of the race I was able to make some good overtaking moves. This meant we were looking like taking a strong position in the points, which wouldn’t have been bad considering I started at the back of the grid. However, once we fitted the supersoft tyres it all went wrong. The set we used simply didn’t work for us and the tyres fell away after fewer than ten laps, which was a big surprise. After that, we could either try to fight a losing battle with shot tyres, or change to a new set – of mediums we decided – and see what we could do by pushing like it was qualifying. Even then we couldn’t get the last set working properly either, so it was a frustrating end to the race.
The next five races are all in Europe; does this make a difference?
There’s no jet-lag and you’re more likely to get a good night’s sleep, which is a good thing! The race meetings are shorter too, as you don’t lose the time traveling or getting used to a new time zone. We visit some great destinations over the next few races, with some very knowledgeable and enthusiastic fans. We hope we can put on a good show, with Lotus F1 Team right at the front of the battle.
Eric Boullier: “We’re happy to welcome Infinity Racing Partners to the team”
Two races without a decent points haul do not constitute a big drama insists Team Principal Eric Boullier, who keenly welcomes a new part-owner to the team with the news of Infinity Racing Partners taking a 35% stake in the squad
What can you tell us about the ownership of the team?
This week we have some very good news which is another step in the development of the team by Genii Capital. A 35% stake has been sold to Infinity Racing Partners, an organisation committed to furthering the team’s goals and supporting Genii Capital’s vision for the team’s future. The day to day running of the team here at Enstone remains unchanged but for the future, access to the global network of Infinity Racing’s principal partners means there are major opportunities to secure high level sponsorships. Investors taking a stake in a team is common practice in Formula 1 and other sports, and Genii have been talking to potential partners for some time as they wanted to make sure that they would select the right one. We’re happy that a strong investor has been found to help bolster the team’s position and allow us to push for the future.
Montréal was the second consecutive event where results fell short of expectations; are the team falling away from the front of the field?
Certainly not. In Monaco it was clear we had the pace and potential to achieve good results. Montréal was a different story, a difficult weekend for us, and we’ll take that on the chin. We struggled a little bit in Canada, but we have been able to identify clear reasons why this occurred. We’ve learnt some valuable lessons and drawn the line under the Canadian Grand Prix. We head to Silverstone with a determined strategy to be back fighting for podiums.
Can the team maintain a championship push?
Yes, and we’re certainly not going to let two weekends of poor results stop us in our efforts. We have a very reasonable package to fit to the E21 for Silverstone – with a number of elements which should help with our performance – and we have plenty of other upgrades to come later in the season too.
What are your thoughts on the latest tyre allocations?
We trust Pirelli’s judgement in these matters as they have all the data to analyse and listen to the concerns of all the teams; some of whom are very keen to see the tyres changed, some of whom are very keen to have the tyres left as they are. Let’s see what happens in the next three races for which the allocations have been made and see how that impacts on future allocations.
How do you rate the performance of both drivers in Canada?
Kimi did a great job when you consider that he was suffering from a brake issue, and he continued his run of points finishes. It’s frustrating for him and it’s frustrating for us that he’s finished without a strong points haul in a second consecutive race, but we have everything in place for Silverstone to reverse that trend. For two of the last three races, Romain’s performance has been masked. In Spain our calculations showed a podium was possible were it not for the component failure which led to him retiring, and in Montréal his performance of driving through the field was masked by us having to change our tyre strategy. Had we continued on a one-stop Romain would have finished strongly in the points.
What do you make of Kimi’s unbroken run of finishes and points scoring?
Kimi’s a points scoring machine and it will be nice if he sets a new record, even if he says he’s not bothered by that sort of thing. Since his comeback with us he has been the most reliable driver on the grid for scoring points, and it’s interesting to reflect back to the doubt some people had about his return to Formula 1. He’s had some bad luck in the last two races, but I’m sure the drivers he’s competing with will also have some bad luck too.
Alan Permane: “Silverstone should see our biggest step forwards this year”
After a difficult weekend in Canada, Trackside Operations Director Alan Permane is feeling positive heading to Silverstone, with a useful box of tricks ready to be unleashed from the upgrades cupboard…
Montréal wasn’t the weekend we wanted; what have we learnt from the experience?
We struggled at a low energy circuit in both wet and dry conditions; that much is simple to say. Of course, as a team we go over the whole weekend and dissect every detail – including things like procedures, car setup and so on – to ensure we pick up on any area we may have missed out on and to identify if we could have done things better. Overall, it was very clear we were struggling for grip through the entire weekend in both wet and dry conditions. Romain put in some decent laps on Friday and ended both sessions in P3, but it was difficult to replicate that performance again. It looks like we weren’t able to get the tyres into their performance window other than on Friday.
If the team struggles with low energy circuits, is there a concern for the rest of the season?
Fortunately there aren’t any more really low energy circuits to come this season. Of the current venues we visit, Montréal, Monaco and Hockenheim can be viewed as low energy and we’ve visited two of those already so far this year, with the third not being on the 2013 calendar. I’ll be surprised if we encounter the issues we did in Montréal again this season.
What is needed from the car in Silverstone?
It’s a circuit which is similar to Barcelona in the regard that it exposes weaknesses in downforce. You need an efficient car; one with a decent amount of downforce, but one which remains slippery for the straights. There are two straights where the cars exceed 300kph, so too much drag will hurt here. There are some very high speed corners, with the first sector of the lap consisting entirely of high speed turns. The new layout has brought a few more technical corners, but overall it’s still counted as a high-speed track. You need to set up the car aerodynamically to be as quick as possible through the medium and high speed corners and along the straights. The circuit is windy with a scarcity of shelter which – added to unpredictable weather – makes set-up difficult at times. The wind can lead you to run with less than optimum levels of front wing to keep the car consistent.
What upgrades are there for the car?
We have a tighter, figure-hugging bodywork package which should give some benefit; especially if the weather is quite cool at Silverstone. There’s a new front wing, suspension profiles and suspension upgrades in addition to various other aero upgrades, which combine to give us what should be our biggest step forward of the year. This is a good thing, of course, but we’ll be running them in the context of all our rivals probably unveiling significant upgrade packs too. We conducted a couple of days of straight-line running after Canada with positive results and some of the fruits of this work should be seen in Silverstone.
What do you make of the latest tyre allocations for the next three races?
They certainly seem conservative and contrary to the supposed approach for the tyre allocations in 2013. The individual compounds – supersoft, soft, medium and hard – were made softer for each grade this year in order to present teams with a challenge, which is what we saw at some races earlier in the season. That work is undone if you simply allocate harder compounds for races, as we’ve seen with those nominated for the next three rounds. It’s certainly unusual to take the same tyres to Hungary as to Bahrain and Silverstone. The situation is quite similar to last year when the allocations went harder late in the year and we just ended up doing one-stop races. Of course, there are teams who are eager for the tyres to be more durable; whether through changes to the tyres themselves or changes to the allocations for races. In contrast, we’re firmly in the camp that the approach to tyre allocation should remain as agreed by the sport before the start of the season, and not be changed part-way through the year.
Greatness in Britain: An Engineer’s Guide to the Silverstone Circuit
The bump at Abbey was ‘addressed’ in 2011 after drivers complained of its severity, making this a much simpler corner than previously.
Minimising understeer through Luffield is essential to ensure good speed down the straight, as this leads on through Copse, then subsequently into the Becketts complex and on to Stowe.
Taken almost flat out, Copse is one of the most daunting corners of the season and a real test of nerve for the drivers.
Overall car balance is essential through the high-speed Becketts complex, which is entered at over 300kph with only minor throttle lift through the entire series of corners.
Vale is one of the slowest corners on the track – taken at around 100kph – and precedes the final right-hander of Club before the drivers pile down the start / finish straight.
The cars may carry a little bit more front wing here than at other circuits to balance the car through the high speed corners. This also helps minimise understeer through Brooklands and Luffield, which is vital to maintain good speed down the following straight, then on through Copse and into the Becketts complex.
After two street courses, the focus changes from maximising mechanical grip to maximising aerodynamic efficiency, with downforce levels appropriate to this aim.
There isn’t a great deal of kerb usage or anything which relies on a particular aspect of the suspension here. You need a stable car through the high speed corners like Copse, Maggots, Becketts and Chapel, which is achieved through a combination of aerodynamic balance and suspension settings.
In complete contrast Canada – where we battle to keep the brakes cool – here we fight to maintain enough heat in them. Silverstone is very easy on the brakes, which get relatively little usage due to the quantity of high speed corners. On occasions when the drivers actually need the brakes they can be quite cold, so the key is to ensure they stay warm enough to function correctly.
Silverstone is not dissimilar to Barcelona in that the high speed corners make it quite a tough circuit on tyres. Pirelli will bring the original 2013 specification tyres – albeit with some changes to the manufacturing process – to this race.
The layout of Silverstone is reasonably hard on the engine due to the high average rpm used over the course of a lap.