New Territory…New Audience for F1 at Sochi

Deputy Team Principal Federico Gastaldi looks ahead to the 2014 Russian Grand Prix

Sochi has plenty of unknowns for the drivers and teams. What are you looking forward to this weekend?
Everything! It is a brand new adventure for F1 and an exciting one. F1 is a global spectacle and to be at the first race in Russia will be a great experience for us all. Most important will be to meet and engage with the fans and to ensure they take F1 to their hearts. We have a very good Russian Formula 1 driver in the sport with Daniil Kvyat and at Enstone we had the first ever Russian F1 driver – our friend Vitaly Petrov. It will be nice to see him again and to get his thoughts on how his fellow countrymen will embrace our sport more.

Do you see Russia as an important market for F1 in the future?
Absolutely. We should be racing in the world’s biggest country. We have seen over the last 20 years or so, since the change from the Soviet Union, that the opportunities there are huge. The rapid expansion of the economy and the many big sporting events that are being held here over the next decade will make for great momentum in commercial opportunities. At Lotus F1 Team we are always investigating new markets and looking to expand the F1 experience for new audiences.

We are racing around an Olympic venue this weekend. F1 and the Olympics are two of the world’s biggest sporting attractions. Do you think there could be more events like this?
Well, for sure there are parallels, in that the occasions are massive and attract huge companies and brands. That can only be healthy for F1. It is something that the sport as a whole and the teams involved need to maximise all the time. There is so much in F1 that is attractive to big brands. The technology and efficiency of the cars this year is genuinely exciting for the future of the sport, so we need to promote it as far and as wide as possible. Ultimately though, I think F1 has been strong in having a good relationship with the Olympic philosophy because we have a race at Montreal where the Olympic rowing was held in 1976 and also the Barcelona track was built just before the 1992 Olympics, so there is a nice legacy there.

How do you summarise the Suzuka weekend?
Of course it was difficult for everyone because of the freak incident that befell Jules. It leaves a big cloud over everything. As a team we really wish him all the best for the coming days and weeks and we all hope for a positive outcome. Before that, it was difficult to draw real conclusions because of the difficult conditions. I must say that both drivers did very well, especially as visibility from the spray was so bad.

On another day we could have got points, but we got another double finish and after the circumstances of the race this was something positive.

How do you judge the FIA’s calls on safety cars and red flags during the race?
It is a hugely difficult job to have and anyone can be an expert with the benefit of hindsight. I must say I thought they got it right in the way the safety cars and the race suspension played out. Initially it was obvious that it was just too wet but they did the sensible thing to have a good number of laps behind the safety car. Later when the rain returned it was starting to get bad again and then obviously it was completely the correct decision to red flag it when the serious incident occurred. As a sport we will always look for lessons to be learnt, especially after there has been a serious incident, but overall I think they did a good job under very demanding and stressful conditions.

Are the building blocks for 2015 continuing to fall in to place for the team?
Yes, there is plenty going on behind the scenes which are positive for 2015. I keep saying that we still have opportunities for more points this season which we must focus on but at the same time we are pushing hard for next season. It looks exciting and we are working toward re-gaining our position further up the grid. Everyone at Enstone is massively concentrated and motivated on making this happen.

Rushing Around

Romain Grosjean looks forward to the 2014 Russian Grand Prix

Japan was a difficult weekend for many reasons… Yes and we all wish Jules the very best recovery. We know he is in the best hands so all we can do now is hope and pray. It was such difficult conditions and it looked like a freak occurrence.

How was your performance on track?
It was certainly a race where you had to really concentrate and focus for every moment. It was right that we should start behind the safety car, but it was right that the race was red flagged once it became clear the conditions were too difficult. Once the rain stopped, the restart was good. We quickly moved from full wets to intermediate tyres and that gives a good gauge of how wet it was. As a team we didn’t always make the correct decision with strategy, but it’s hard to say if anyone does in changeable conditions like that.

Tell us what you know about Sochi.
I’ve been driving the Sochi circuit on the simulator. It didn’t look very sexy from the outside but it actually seems to be really good fun. There’s a great mix of corners and some good high speed areas too. The setting looks to be pretty impressive with a new facility and one where there are mountains not far away as well as being right next to the Black Sea.

For me, it’s also quite special to race at the site of and Olympic Games. I’m a huge fan of the Olympics and especially the Winter Olympics, because my grandfather competed in skiing events at the 1948 and 1952 events. Hopefully that will bring me some luck! It’s good to go to Russia as well. It’s such a big country. When you fly to Japan most of the time you seem to be just flying over Russia! I’ve been to Sochi once before in 2009 for a team event and I’m looking forward to seeing more of it.

If you were not a Formula One driver and had to pick an Olympic discipline, which would you most like to do?
I would probably go for skiing or bobsleigh. Like Formula 1, both events are about high speed and picking a racing line. It’s all part of my DNA. I actually started my career in skiing before I went into racing so that would probably be the discipline I would choose.

How about driving an F1 car on studded tyres in the snow?
I would love to give it a go! It has been done before, by Lotus F1 Team in Dubai in 2009, but that was indoors so let’s try a full outdoor ski slope! I’ve done a few car races on ice so I’d be happy to try an F1 car in the snow.

How quickly do you learn a new circuit?
Even without a simulator you get a basic idea of the track pretty quickly. What the simulator does is let you speed up this process and make initial decisions about car set-up and so on. What the simulator can’t do for a new circuit is give a precise idea of the grip levels you will find as it’s a surface we’ve never raced on before. With any new surface, we’d expect the grip levels to change over the course of the weekend, so that will be part of the challenge.

Does a new circuit afford you any greater opportunities?
We all face the same challenge, but there is an element of how good the driver and team are at quickly getting a handle on the track. Hopefully Sochi is a circuit which suits our car. We won’t know the answer to that till we get there!

Pastor Maldonado RACE DRIVER #13
Into The Unknown

Pastor Maldonado looks forward to the 2014 Russian Grand Prix

How have you been able to prepare for Sochi?
We’ve been preparing on the simulator, where the track looks very interesting. It’s a long lap with some unusual corners. From the simulator work we should know more or less what the racing lines will be and when we arrive on Thursday we will double check as many things as we can. It’s good. I’m happy to go there. I’m happy every time Formula 1 opens the door to new countries. I saw some of the Winter Olympics but I’ve never been to Russia before, so it will be my first time.

Would you say that grip levels and track evolution are the biggest unknowns?
Everything is new and especially in terms of the surface there is no way for us to know how the track will develop during the weekend. In the past we saw situations like in Austin where the track was super slippery at the beginning and then session after session we were making improvements of two or three seconds. It’s vital to stay on top of everything because parts of the set-up that were working well might hold you back when you go five or six seconds a lap quicker. You can’t take anything for granted and it will be important to keep an open mind throughout the weekend.

Have you ever been to Russia before?
For me it will be an all-new experience, and one I’m looking forward to a lot. I’ve met many Russians and I know it’s a very big country which has changed a lot over the past decades so it will be very interesting to experience it for myself.

The Japanese Grand Prix was a difficult weekend, what are your thoughts looking back on it?
Firstly, all our thoughts are with Jules, his team and his family. Even though we all know the danger of motorsport, no-one wants an accident like that to happen. We hope he makes a full recovery. For me, it was a solid weekend in the car. We showed some good potential on the Friday, but then we weren’t able to show that in qualifying. In the race, which was held under very difficult conditions, we were able to put in some good lap times, even when the grip levels were very poor. It’s a big challenge for a racing driver racing when the weather is like that.

What’s your aim for the final four races of the season?
We are keeping focused and we still want to get the very best results possible. Even though it’s been a tough year, there are still improvements being made to the E22, so there’s still potential to get more points before the season ends. We’re also as a team starting to focus on 2015 in terms of some of our evaluations at the tracks so we can get as early a start as possible in terms of information for next year’s car.

How frustrating has this year been for you?
We all want to get good results so of course this has not been the year that me or the team has wanted. But there have been and there are many positives. Seeing how the team has reacted to all the problems we have faced has shown me many strengths. We have a very clear development path for next season as we have learnt many lessons about this latest generation of car. We have four races left this year, so there’s still time for some improved results and more lessons to be learnt.

Ultra Simulation

Lotus F1 Team Technical Director Nick Chester looks to the all-new circuit that is the Sochi Autodrom.

What would you describe as the main challenges of Sochi Autodrom?
We will of course only properly identify the challenges once we are actually in Sochi however we already have initial feedback from both Romain and Pastor who have been in the simulator. Turn 3 is a long and quite high speed corner that will present a good challenge. Braking down into Turn 13 will be very severe and you come out of the kink before you brake so it will be a difficult corner to get right. Overall, the whole track looks quite technical, so it certainly will be a challenging one for the drivers.

What type of car set-up and downforce levels do we expect for Sochi?
It looks like a high downforce circuit as most corner speeds are between 80 and 140kph. I would say that setup will probably be similar to Singapore although there are a couple of straights that are longer in Sochi so downforce levels will be between Singapore and Suzuka.

The circuit seems to have little in the way of run off; what challenges does that throw up for the team?
The main challenges really on these types of circuits are for the drivers. They will have to learn the track pretty rapidly to feel comfortable with its configuration and concentrate at all times during the lap. We all know the penalties of a short run-off when it’s a new track with uncertain grip levels.

Are there any climate challenges?
The information we have is that the weather can be quite unusual in Sochi as you have the mountains on one side and the sea on the other. We can expect mild temperatures of about 20°C during the day and 12°C at night, the average in that region in October. Early forecast indicates that there are reasonable chances of rain.

Pastor and Romain have both previewed the circuit in our simulator. How useful was it for them to have had a first taste of the new track?
The simulator is a valuable asset and one which enables the drivers to be very quickly up to speed when they take to the track for the first time. They will know how one corner flows into another, which line to take and have an initial idea about braking points. It might mean that they get their lap times down three or four laps earlier than they normally would. Overall it gives them a head start in FP1.

What type of preparations does the team do before visiting a new circuit?
How useful is it to do preparation work in the simulator? Before we had a simulator, when we had a new circuit like this we would estimate the racing line through the corner to do initial simulations. With a simulator, once the driver has completed a few laps you have a more accurate racing line, which enables us to create a far more accurate simulation model. This assists the trackside engineers to prepare an initial baseline set-up which once again saves time at the track.

How did we prepare to take the team to a new venue?
It’s important to have a good environment for everyone to be able to perform on track, so we liaise with the organisers and our partners to ensure we have suitable office space and telecommunications links back to Enstone. It’s amazing the amount of data which is processed over the course of a race weekend, so we have to be able to house all of the team as well as all the equipment involved. There’s a lot of forward planning behind the scenes to ensure the smooth running of any event, and especially if it’s a new one.

What were the performance considerations for the team in Suzuka?
It was an usual weekend in terms of performance. We looked to have good potential on the Friday, then we couldn’t match our goals on Saturday. Then in the very difficult conditions of race day we put in some pretty respectable laps over the course of the race. It was a tough event in terms of strategy, but both drivers we able to get some good stints and make good gains. It was another race weekend where we learnt a lot.


FRONT WING Sufficient front wing to help keep the front end planted through the long turn three and assist with turn-into the numerous 90 degree corners.

REAR WING Similar downforce levels to Singapore, however Sochi features longer straights so the playoff between downforce and top speed will be looked at closely.

SUSPENSION Suzuka tests the qualities of the chassis with quick changes of direction calling for a good responsive ride. The Degners 1 and 2 corners also call for a good stiff set-up.

BRAKES Two reasonable braking events for T2 and T13 and plenty to keep the brakes up to temperature over the course of the rest of the lap.

TYRES Pirelli’s medium (white) and soft (yellow) compounds will be used. This is seen as a combination capable of covering the wide range of possible scenarios for a new circuit. This combo has been used previously in 2014 in Australia, Bahrain, China, Hungary, Belgium.

ENGINE Not severe for the ICE however heavy demands on the energy recovery systems and battery.