Kimi Räikkönen: “We’ll keep on fighting”
After his unbroken run of Grand Prix and points finishes came to an end at Spa, Kimi Räikkönen is reloaded and set for the final European race of the season at Monza
You’ve achieved more wins at Spa than any other track, but at Monza you have none; time to rectify that?
It’s true that I have never won in Italy. For one reason or another things just haven’t worked out for me, but it doesn’t mean I can’t drive the track. Just because I have not won at a circuit in the past it doesn’t mean that I won’t win or get a good result there in the future. It is true that I have previously had some very competitive weekends there – once or twice I have been close to the win – but something has always gone wrong. Hopefully we will have a real chance to fight for that victory this time.
How do you feel about Monza as a venue?
It’s a historical place with a unique design where we achieve very high speeds. It’s a real challenge for everyone to be running so fast and a really good feeling in the car. It’s the home of the Tifosi and there will be a lot of Finnish fans there too. The atmosphere is just out of reach for every other Grand Prix. It’s great to go there with everything working well in your car and see how quickly you can go. It’s the place where we go really, really fast.
What about the challenges of the circuit?
Monza always gives a great challenge. It’s so different compared with the more modern circuits as the layout means the car needs to be set up differently. To go fast at Monza you need a car that is good aerodynamically, stable over the kerbs, and has a strong engine as we are using full throttle for most of the lap. I think we should be pretty good in those areas, but we won’t know exactly how good until we get out on track.
How do you think Monza should suit the E21?
It’s a unique circuit with the high speeds achieved there and everyone will be running the lowest level of downforce we see all year. Low downforce has not always been the best for our car, but the factory has been working hard to get more speed and stability for us with some changes to the car. Let’s wait and see how the car goes on Friday morning and then we’ll have a better idea of what can be achieved.
How do you feel about the DNF you experienced in Spa?
Obviously it was not the first time I’ve had to finish a race early, and most likely it won’t be the last time either. That said, I’m here to race and I want to finish every time, so for sure what happened in Spa was not what we were looking for and not ideal for the Championship.
What could you feel in the car?
There were some brake issues at the beginning of the race but we were managing them and it was going okay. We knew the brakes were hot and you could see the smoke, but I was still able to brake okay until a part failed and there was no way I could continue.
Was it a shame to see your unbroken records come to an end?
We knew the day would come. We had such a long period of time with the best reliability of all, so it was only natural that one day luck would go against us.
Romain Grosjean: “I’m really looking forward to racing at Monza”
It’s the race he missed last year, so Romain Grosjean is eager to set the record straight with a strong performance in this year’s Italian Grand Prix
How much are you looking forward to racing at Monza?
Very much. It’s a race I wasn’t allowed to contest last season and as a racing driver all you want to do is race, so I can’t wait to take to the track for the first time in practice on Friday morning. It’s a very historic venue; a beautiful circuit in a fantastic location and racing there is always great. It’s a special feeling when you are blasting through the park along the Monza straights, and there are so many really enthusiastic fans there. I have to admit though, it’s not only the racing I’m looking forward to as Italian cuisine is superb. I’ll be visiting a couple of restaurants during my stay…
What are the challenges of the circuit?
For the designers, you need to have a car that’s very slippery through the air. Then for the engineers, you have to make the correct decision on gearing to make the most of the slippery car and engine power along the straights. For the driver in the car, there are a couple of heavy braking areas where you are slowing from the highest speeds of the year, so you have to be careful to get your braking right otherwise you can overshoot the corner. You see that quite a few times over the weekend.
Any other considerations?
It can be quite hot there sometimes and it can be hard on the tyres. Considering that this is where we seem to have an advantage with our car, let’s hope for both! You use the kerbs quite a bit, which looks good on the slow motion cameras but you certainly know about it in the car! Basically, it’s a pretty great track.
What are your memories of this circuit?
I was on the podium last time I raced at Monza, which was in the GP2 Series in 2011. Wouldn’t it be great to return to the podium this year? That’s what we’re trying for, of course, so let’s see what happens.
You had a different strategy to your competitors in Spa; could there be a similar approach at Monza?
At Spa, considering where we were in the first half of the race, we had to attempt something a bit different as raw pace wasn’t our strong point. Then, with the new tyres I felt that the grip was much higher than before, but I knew that it would be difficult to get the time back. We tried something different and you never know; had it rained in the middle of the race we could have been well-placed to take advantage. For Monza, we won’t know what we will do until we’ve run in the practice sessions, checked all the data and then after qualifying – when we know our grid position – we’ll decide the options for strategy. Even then it’s not decided, as you have to adapt in the race. Let’s see what happens.
You’re P8 in the Drivers’ Championship and have been scoring points consistently these last few races; that’s a positive aspect?
Yes, Spa was the third Grand Prix in a row that I’ve been in the points which is good for the Championship. There are races where we are fast and everything goes well like in Germany, then there are races when it isn’t as easy like in Spa, so to be still scoring points when things are a little more tricky is positive. Let’s hope Monza is positive.
Eric Boullier: “Spa was an anomaly”
After a difficult weekend in Spa – with performance falling short of expectations and Kimi’s unbroken run of Grand Prix finishes coming to an end – Team Principal Eric Boullier looks at the positives heading to Monza
What was your assessment of the Belgian Grand Prix?
It was a disappointing weekend, with qualifying not as good as we had expected and then a difficult first lap in the race from which we weren’t able to recover. Romain drove strongly with the performance he had at his disposal and Kimi was working his way past other drivers before he experienced his brake failure. Ultimately, it was a race where we should have performed better.
The E21 didn’t look as competitive at Spa as it was in Budapest; is this worrying for the rest of the season?
I don’t think so, as Spa is a very specific track and none of the remaining circuits have the same characteristics. For this season it is not a concern, but certainly for next year’s car we need to understand more why we have struggled at Spa relative to our pace elsewhere as we experienced something similar last season too. Looking to the next eight races, we have quite a few interesting developments still in the pipeline and we’re focused on achieving the best results we can.
Could what happened with Kimi’s car have been avoided?
We’ve traced what we believe was the cause of the brake issue to a cooling duct which was blocked by a helmet visor tear-off. It’s pretty normal to experience this, and once the brake disc was too hot it could not cool sufficiently. This meant that Kimi’s brakes continued to run hot, and we all saw that with the smoke. They were still slowing the car sufficiently – as we could see by his overtaking moves for position – until there was complete failure of the component. With anything like this, you need a component in a precise temperature window to perform correctly. Do you run with more cooling to compensate for any potential blockages? No, because you won’t get optimum performance from the brakes as they won’t be in their correct temperature window. Of course, we’re studying all the data and working on ways to avoid a similar situation from happening in the future. It was unfortunate for Kimi to experience his retirement, but this is sometimes part of motor racing so we must now switch our focus to Monza.
What are the team’s expectations for Monza?
It’s a very different circuit from Spa and we have an equally different aerodynamic package for the car. The weather is usually better in Italy than we saw in Belgium this year so that could help us. We certainly expect better performance and results than we saw last time out.
Kimi’s battle for the Drivers’ World Championship received quite a blow; what can the team to do fight back?
We need to get Kimi back on the podium and consistently. His DNF in Spa was the first he has had with Lotus F1 Team and we certainly don’t want to see any more this season. He’s been on the podium six times so far this year and there are eight races remaining. We all know that the gap to Sebastian [Vettel] is not getting any smaller, but behind Seb the battle is quite tight as we’ve seen over the last few races.
What does the team need to do to ensure Kimi stays next season and beyond?
It’s clear that Kimi likes racing for us and would like to continue, which is a testament to all the hard work put in by everyone at Enstone. From our perspective, we can see what a complete driver he is and how much he brings to the team in many different areas. Kimi wants to be assured that we have everything in place to tackle the significant changes we will see in the sport next year. We’re working hard to assure him that Lotus F1 Team is where he should be and piece by piece we are getting all our ducks in a row.
Alan Permane: “Nothing about Monza causes us concern”
With a frustrating weekend at Spa now in the past, Lotus F1 Team heads to the very different challenge of Monza; whose distinct character certainly presents a challenge, but holds no fears for Trackside Operations Director Alan Permane…
What can you say about Monza?
It’s a circuit that teams and drivers understandably enjoy visiting. The character and challenge are there for everyone to see. In terms of the car, Monza requires a unique approach targeting minimal drag so you can make the most of the long straights. This means we have Monza-specific rear wings while utilising the front wings in a complementary configuration. As well as what you can see on the car externally, there’s also the challenge of getting the gearing right to make the most of the circuit’s unique flavour.
How should it suit the E21?
There’s certainly nothing which jumps up and causes us any great concerns. You need an aerodynamically efficient car – which we have – and a powerful engine which Renault supplies us with. You also need a car that has good change of direction for the interruptions to the straights. Some of the challenges of Monza have diminished over time; an example being the kerbs which are not as aggressive as they once were. You still need to have the suspension sufficiently compliant to enable kerb usage, but it’s not as much of a consideration as before.
Will we see a longer chassis?
This is certainly something we have looked at with the lessons learnt this season and we could see a longer wheelbase configuration make an appearance in Monza.
What about the Device?
Monza is precisely the sort of circuit where the Device would not offer any real advantage as the rear wing is running in low-downforce / minimal drag configuration, so the difference the Device could make at different speeds would not be so great. For the same reason, the impact that DRS makes here is not so significant.
What about overtaking at Monza?
Although the long straights can lend themselves to slipstreaming, overtaking at Monza is not actually that easy – not least for the diminished effect of DRS – so drivers still have to work hard to seize any opportunity.
Are you hopeful of better weather than that experienced in Belgium?
As a team the challenge is obviously to build a car which works in all weather conditions, but it’s no secret that we’d prefer dry and warm conditions to cold and wet.
What did the team learn at Spa?
It was a frustrating weekend and we simply weren’t fast enough in qualifying or the race. Neither car was in a great position at the end of the first lap and we were fighting a difficult battle to try to move forwards with both. For Romain we opted for a one-stop strategy, which required some good tyre management skills from him. This presented the best opportunity to try to gain an advantage, but the speed simply wasn’t there from the car. Kimi was driving as you’d expect him to; making some great overtaking moves before he had to retire.
What can you say about Kimi’s retirement?
Our brakes were running hot in Spa but everything was pointing to there being sufficient durability to get Kimi to the end of the race once we were on top of the situation. What we didn’t realise initially was that a visor tear-off strip had become lodged in the brake cooling duct of his front left-hand wheel. This meant that the brake disc was never able to cool sufficiently and ultimately we saw a component failure. It was a hit for both Kimi’s and our Championships, but we’ll fight on.
Impressing in Italy – An Engineer’s Guide to the Autodromo di Monza
Approaching Turn 1: The fastest part of the track – with speeds of around 340kph – before braking hard for the slowest part of the circuit – the Rettifilo chicane – which has a minimum speed of around 75kph. The kerbs are used extensively here as drivers aim to find the shortest line through this tricky right / left combination.
Turns 2 + 3: Good power delivery on exiting the chicane is essential as the drivers accelerate hard through Curva Biassono; a good slipstreaming opportunity heading into the next complex.
Turns 4 + 5: Heavy kerb usage through the Turn 4 / 5 chicane, which the cars approach at 330kph before braking down to around 120kph.
Turns 6 + 7: The Lesmo curves are approached at over 260kph, with a minimum corner speed of around 180kph in Lesmo 2. Good car control is required though this tricky double right-hander due to the lower than optimum levels of downforce used at this circuit.
Turns 8 – 10: Variante Ascari is a fast third and fourth gear chicane, but unlike the previous chicanes around the track there is no kerb usage. The cars approach this complex at around 330kph with a minimum speed of around 170kph in the first left hand turn, making for a spectacular part of the circuit where bravery from the drivers is very much rewarded.
Turn 11: The second fastest part of the track, with top speeds of around 335kph reached before braking to around 215kph at the slowest part of the corner. It’s crucial to stay close to the car ahead through Curva Parabolica to be positioned for a pass on the following straight.
Rear Wing: With the long straights forming a significant aspect of the Monza circuit layout – speeds of around 330kph being attained during the course of a lap – minimising drag is an important consideration. For this reason a Monza-only low downforce rear wing is produced. As the rear wing creates less drag that normal, the difference made by DRS is less than at other circuits.
Front Wing: Just as for the rear wing, a bespoke low downforce front wing is produced for Monza. This really is the home of speed!
Suspension: There are two low-speed chicanes [Turns 1 / 2 and 4 / 5] where the kerbs are used heavily, so a softer suspension setup with longer travel is preferable for these. However, there is also the higher speed 3rd / 4th gear Ascari chicane [Turns 8 / 9 / 10] where a stiffer setup with sharper change of direction is preferable due to its higher speed and lack of kerb usage.
Brakes: After Montréal, this is one of the heaviest circuits of the year for braking demands; with braking from the fastest part of the track [340kph] to the slowest [75kph] taking place for the Turn 1 / 2 chicane. Recent brake material developments mean that temperatures and wear have become less of a consideration than previously.
Tyres: Due to the higher speeds seen at Monza there may be some specific limitations on inflation pressures and camber settings. This is not uncommon for Monza and is just another factor in making this circuit such a unique challenge.
Engine: Monza is very much a power circuit, with its long straights meaning that a significant portion of the lap is spent at full throttle. It’s not just all-out power that’s required however, with smooth delivery exiting the corners onto the straights also important.