BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX
17/18/19 APRIL 2015
READY FOR A DESERT DOUBLE
Lotus F1 Team Deputy Principal Federico Gastaldi is grateful for the points collected in Shanghai but demands more in Bahrain.
How much does the team look forward to racing in Bahrain?
Bahrain is a venue we do like visiting. The circuit provides a good challenge and it’s a track where we’ve performed well in the past. The paddock has a very social atmosphere and we always receive a very warm welcome from everyone involved with the Grand Prix. The weather is always very warm and since last year we’ve had the added pleasure of an evening race. We’re certainly very happy to visit.
Is it good to have points now?
Attaining points is what we’re here for and it’s something we should have achieved in the first two races of the season; we are very mindful of this. Of course, it was fantastic for everyone for Romain to get our championship campaign underway with his seventh-place finish and it would have been a right pain if we hadn’t scored points in China. Now we’ve got the ball rolling our next target is to get both cars in the points in Bahrain.
What else do you feel is noteworthy from the Chinese Grand Prix?
Aside from a braking issue on Pastor’s car in the race – which we’re addressing – the E23 ran very reliably in Shanghai. When you consider that this was only the third race into our relationship with a new power unit supplier, it’s a fantastic reflection of all the hard work going on behind the scenes at Enstone and Brixworth. This is an area we’re playing particular attention to as we did have a number of frustrating niggles at the first couple of races, both on our side and also our power unit supplier’s. It is natural in motor sport for the road not to be smooth, especially when embarking on an exciting new relationship, but what is also natural is for us both to strive to get everything working perfectly. And that is – I’m happy to say – exactly what we’re trying to do.
What are the commercial developments for the team?
There’s quite a lot going on behind the scenes and we have a number of very exciting and interesting conversations going on. Certainly, regular strong performances help with this and that’s something we all know very well. We have some important races coming up and we hope to be demanding more than our fair share of attention at these races for positive reasons.
Romain delivered the points everyone wanted in China – how is he working with the team these days?
Romain is a driver who is very much at the top of his game. He’s been in a relationship with the team for quite some time now so we know each other well; there are no arguments about which side of the bed to sleep on! We know that Romain can jump in the car and deliver. We know he won’t be happy when he has to give up his car for a session, which is natural for a driver, but we also know he can deliver no matter what the circumstances.
What is your take on Pastor’s eventful Grand Prix in Shanghai?
Pastor’s had a bit of an eventful start to his season and his car seems to have a target painted on it for other drivers! Certainly in Shanghai he was having a superb battle with Jenson Button which unfortunately resulted in contact. Pastor had started his race fantastically and was very quick on race pace. Sadly he had a braking issue coming into the pits and this put him on the back foot subsequently. We could all see how hard he was pushing for the entire race and we’re sure the points will come soon.
Jolyon’s in the car again in Bahrain, will this be a regular occurrence in 2015?
Jolyon is a great young talent and his programme is very much about him getting a significant amount of track time over the course of the season so he’ll be a regular sight in FP1 sessions. He did a great job in Shanghai, even if he gave us a bit of a scare with a spin early in the session on a cold and green track!
Romain Grosjean opened Lotus F1 Team’s points account in the Chinese Grand Prix, now he’s eager to cash-in on the early season pace and compound his opening deposit with another strong haul in a place he’s scored well in the past.
What are your thoughts looking ahead to Bahrain?
It’s a good track and I’m happy to go back there. I’m especially looking forward to being able to race in Bahrain at night with a fast and reliable car. It’s a really fun circuit and one I enjoy racing at. Two of the three times I’ve raced at the Bahrain International Circuit in Formula 1 I’ve been on the podium. It’s a good record and of course I’ll be pushing as hard as possible for the best result to get more points for myself and the team in 2015.
What do you like about the Bahrain track?
On paper it is not the most amazing circuit, but when you drive it’s pretty cool. I like the long straights followed by the hairpins and then the twisty middle section with a lot of G-force which makes it exciting. It gives the driver plenty to do behind the wheel and it gives you quite a lot to do in the debrief as well. It’s always rewarding when you balance all the different demands on the car to get the lap as fast as possible.
How much more are you enjoying racing the current generation Formula 1 car? You weren’t their greatest fan this time last year…
Obviously it makes a difference having a good car under you! It’s true I wasn’t the happiest driver when the change was made from the previous generation of cars to the V6 turbo hybrids, and I have a suspicion that it wasn’t too much of a secret that last year’s car wasn’t my favourite either! This year I’m far happier as all you want is to be able to deliver to your maximum on track and that’s a lot easier with our current package.
How much of a difference it is having Bahrain as a night race?
It means a later start, and the later schedule means a larger window for sleep which is always welcome! In terms of at the track, the daytime hot temperatures with a lot of sun made tyre degradation quite high. Temperatures are clearly lower at night which has an influence on tyre grip and degradation. Last time it was certainly an exciting event visually and I think people enjoyed it as a viewing experience on television as well as at the track where there was something more of a party feeling with the crowds.
Why has Bahrain been so kind to you in the past?
I wouldn’t say it’s been exactly kind, but certainly we’ve been able to perform well there in the past. It’s a track I knew from before Formula 1 and it has characteristics that I like in a circuit; some big braking into certain corners, some good change of direction with the double-left in the middle of the racetrack and it all flows quite nicely. With the E20 and E21 we were able to take advantage of the car’s good balance and kindness to tyres. Obviously we had much more of – shall we say – a challenge with the E22, but the E23 is definitely a massive step back to where we want to be, so we’re very hopeful.
How frustrated are you when you have to miss a session?
As a Formula 1 driver you want to be in the car at every opportunity so of course I’m frustrated when I’m not in the car. Because testing opportunities are so limited I understand that sometimes you have to give up your car – after all I was given an opportunity through FP1 myself – but that doesn’t make it any easier standing in the garage when the session is live and you want to be in the car. I can’t wait for FP2 to start!
As someone with banking experience, what would be your growth predictions for yourself and the team over the course of the season ahead?
We’ve made our first deposit in our points account and I expect this to grow strongly through the season. I’m expecting some more good scoring in Bahrain and regular deposits to be a characteristic through the season. We were the fourth fastest car in China so fourth position in the Constructors’ Championship has to be the target. It’s a long season, but we’ll keep pushing. We’re only just coming into our stride with the new Mercedes power unit so there’s a lot of potential ahead. I think we’re a very good investment as a team.
After a strong start to his Chinese Grand Prix, Pastor Maldonado’s Grand Prix came undone later in the race meaning our Venezuelan is eager to finish the job off in Bahrain.
What’s your target for Bahrain?
The target’s the same as ever; to do the best job possible and achieve the strongest result. We know what’s achievable from the car so it’s a case of qualifying well then moving forwards in the race into a solid points scoring finish.
What do you think of the Bahrain International Circuit?
Bahrain is a good circuit. I would say it is a ‘complete’ circuit because it has a mix of high, medium and low speed turns, plus good sequences of corners. It’s challenging over a lap and makes for an enjoyable race. The weather can get pretty hot, although this won’t be as much of a challenge as we’re racing at night now. The facilities for the teams are great and it’s one of the easiest circuits to work in as the paddock feels welcoming, there’s plenty of space for us yet it doesn’t feel like you’re at a massive venue like some tracks do.
Romain opened his and the team’s points account, how eager are you to score too?
I’m very eager! We’ve had three frustrating races where the car’s had the pace to score yet for whatever reason we haven’t been able to make it to the chequered flag. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t go well in Bahrain so that’s the target.
You started so well in China; what went wrong?
The start of the race and the early stints were good, but there were a few issues. I made a great start and we were running strongly early on however later I had a braking issue which made it harder to battle. I locked-up coming into the pits which really put my race on the back foot as I lost time and then returned to the track further down the order. I then had a fantastic fight with Jenson Button and we were passing each other very cleanly; a good, fun, exciting battle. Unfortunately, he got his braking point wrong and went into the back of me. Shortly after than I had to retire the car with a braking issue.
Did you speak with Jenson after the incident in China?
We bumped into each other in the paddock afterwards the first thing he said to me was sorry. The first thing I said to him was great battle! Jenson’s a very fair racer and a great guy and it’s easy to understand how the incident happened; we were both racing for position, both offline in our battle and he was braking after using DRS so all it takes is braking half a metre too late from high speed and you make contact with the car ahead. That’s racing.
What’s the approach to Bahrain as a night race?
We now approach Bahrain a little differently technically in terms of tyre pressures and set-up. Otherwise we will treat it much like any other race and it’s similar in feel to Singapore and Abu Dhabi. At the end of the day it’s racing no matter what the time.
How are you enjoying driving the E23 Hybrid three races in?
It’s been good so far. The car was strong straight away and then in Australia and Malaysia. China was a bit more challenging in the practice sessions but we were able to get it working much more as we wanted it for qualifying and the race. In the Chinese Grand Prix I was really able to push and it felt good to be able to pass people and set competitive race laps. I’m looking forward to pushing hard in Bahrain.
HOPING FOR MORE
Technical Director Nick Chester is delighted with the team’s first points scored in Shanghai and is eager for the E23 Hybrid to continue to show its worth at the Bahrain International Circuit.
How important was it to get those points from Romain after the frustrations of the first two races?
It was very important. We knew that we had a competitive car and it was frustrating in Sepang and in Melbourne not to get any points on the board. It’s great for the team to have scored these points in Shanghai.
What went well in China, and where needs improvements?
We were quite happy with the balance of the car in China, certainly by qualifying. We had struggled a bit with too much understeer on the Friday but the race team did a great job of re-balancing the car for Saturday and the car was much improved for Saturday’s qualifying session and for the race. Of course there is more we need to do to improve the overall performance of the car – for example generating more grip in some of the low speed corners, and perhaps improving our traction as well. Generally we feel that we have a good balance to work with now. The drivers continue to find the E23 easy to drive: they can put the car on the limit well and they seem to be liking the balance. Overall, they feel they can get the most out of it and that’s a big positive.
The team looked very much to be the fourth fastest in China – is that a fair refection of the current state of play?
Fourth fastest was certainly true in China. Red Bull still show flashes of being pretty quick and given their development rate, they’ll be hard to keep behind. We haven’t got a big gap to Sauber and Torro Rosso. It’s a very tight grid and we have to keep bringing performance upgrades to maintain this position and then start to improve competitiveness.
What can be done to close the gap and tackle those ahead?
Development is key and we have more aero updates in the pipeline. Obviously it is very tight in the mid-field and it will be a development race between ourselves, Red bull, Torro Rosso and Sauber. We are all aiming at closing the gap to Williams.
The team’s shown well in Bahrain in the past – how do you think the 2015 iteration could fare?
I believe that we can fare quite well. We’ve seen in Melbourne, Sepang and Shanghai that the car has run pretty well at all those different tracks and we have had cars in Q3 in all those races. The E23 hasn’t shown any particular vices that mean that we’ll perform less well on certain circuits. I expect that we can be in a similar position to China in Bahrain this weekend.
Malaysia was pretty hot and the car and PU did suffer in a couple of areas; is everything looking well addressed in these areas?
We were probably a bit aggressive in how we configured the cooling system for Sepang and we certainly could have been more conservative. Despite Bahrain being one of the hottest tracks of the year we don’t anticipate any problems cooling the PU.
Three races in, what are your thoughts on the tyre performance and allocations so far?
Ultimately we would probably favour tyres to be one step softer to make the races that bit more interesting. Nonetheless, the tyre allocation being the same for all teams, it is a matter of how we use them and we feel pretty happy with our tyre management.
How did the upgrades work in China and anything new to pull out of the bag for Bahrain?
We had a number of aero updates in China that worked pretty well and that we kept on the car throughout the weekend. There are a few more upgrades for Bahrain however with the tight turnaround they will be reasonably small ones but still well worth fitting on the E23.
What’s the schedule once the team gets back after the first four flyaways and ahead of the start of the European season?
There will be an important programme in place with the three week gap until the Spanish Grand Prix. The cars will make their return to Enstone where the mechanics will strip the chassis. We will give the E23 a good re-fresh! They will be repainted, spend some time on the seven-post rig, etc. We will have a reasonably heavy workload up to Barcelona with some sizeable upgrades to put on the car for the first European race of the season.