CANADIAN GRAND PRIX
21/23/24 MAY 2015, MONTREAL
HOME ON THE RANCH
Federico Gastaldi is feeling positive and optimistic ahead of the team’s first
visit of the season to North America.
Monaco did not go according to the script; will Lotus F1 Team bounce back in Canada?
In Monaco we were heading in the right direction with practice and qualifying, it was just the race itself where we didn’t get the results we wanted. With Pastor there was a technical issue and with Romain there was an issue with another driver. That is racing. In Montréal the team has a good history and Romain has gone very well there in the past. We know that this year’s car, the E23, is good so we’re aiming – and ready – for a strong result.
The Canadian public is always super enthusiastic, how much does the team like to visit Montréal each year?
There are a few races which are classics on the calendar, and Montréal is certainly on that list. The Canadian Grand Prix is a part of Formula One’s DNA. Canadians and Montréal have been a real part of the history of Formula One. The city really comes alive for the race weekend, it is a fantastic place to go.
Is Montréal special for you personally?
I named my first house Gilles’ Blue Ranch which should give you an idea of my enthusiasm for Gilles Villeneuve, who the circuit is named after. He was such a passionate, talented driver, racing in an era very different from today. The whole city has a very special place in my heart, from the architecture, the people, the bars, restaurants and cafés. It’s certainly one place where I wish the race weekend was a lot longer.
What are your thoughts on the various potential future regulation changes being discussed?
For me, it’s always great to hear the feedback from the fans and the great amount of interest there is in our sport. There are a number of different ideas being discussed and a number of different opinions, with some quite strongly opposed viewpoints.
In Monaco the team announced an exciting new partnership with Pharrell Williams; can we expect more partner or sponsor announcements in Canada?
For sure we are working on some exciting deals with Pharrell and with other partners too. Montréal, like Monaco, is one of the most popular races of the year, it’s a good place to make any announcements so watch this space.
Pharrell visited the team at the end of the race; how did that go down?
Pharrell gave a lot of time to see the team and even sat in Pastor’s car to see what an F1 car feels like. He’s a tremendously talented individual and having seen how he can turn himself to so many different fields of endeavour, I’m sure he would be a very handy racing driver too! He is a huge enthusiast of Formula One and came to us straight from Cannes by speedboat. He was very nice and very friendly with all of us and we’re looking forward to working with him on a number of exciting initiatives and seeing him at some other races this season.
When does the team start looking to 2016?
It’s amazing, but already almost a third of the way through the season and we’ll be at the half-way mark in two months’ time. Naturally, we’re already looking at next season, whether it be technically, commercially or in other ways too. We’ve made a huge step back towards the front of the grid this season after our troubles in 2014, and we hope to make a further step forward in 2016 too.
BIENVENUE À MONTRÉAL
After being punted out of a point finish on the streets of Monte Carlo, Romain Grosjean heads to the scene of his joint-best F1 finish to see what he can deliver at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
Do you have good memories of Montréal?
I have very good memories from 2012 when I went from seventh on the grid to my first second place in Formula 1. It was a really great day and it was really a strong team result as we used a one-stop strategy to get on the podium after a disappointing qualifying session the day before. The last couple of years haven’t been so good for me, I had to retire from last year’s race and in 2013 we struggled in the wet weather conditions. As for Montréal itself, it’s a wonderful city to visit. There are obviously a lot of French speakers so it’s like another home race for me, and the fans are so welcoming and knowledgeable. There are also some very good restaurants in Montréal which is always a bonus.
How much of a challenge is the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve?
Montréal is in-between a normal circuit and a street circuit. The walls are very close in some places, while other parts are similar to a European circuit. It’s definitely unique and we normally bring a different downforce package for that reason, which adds another unknown factor to the weekend. The circuit is not used for the rest of the year so the grip will change a lot – something we’ll have to adapt to – and the weather can also be tricky. Hopefully it’ll be nice and sunny because it’s a race I really like – and it’s my favourite circuit to race on the Xbox. The last chicane is a notable feature and overall it’s a good track.
What is it about street or street-esque circuits that you like?
I enjoy the sensation of being close to the walls. Montréal is different from Monaco as there are some long straights and some big braking moments. The track surface can also present challenges as we’ve seen in other seasons, so it will be interesting to see what the grip level is like this year and that will certainly be on your mind as you take to the track for the first time over the weekend.
Looking back, what were the positives from your Monaco weekend?
Despite not finishing in the points, there are quite a few positives from Monaco. The circuit itself is a good test of how a car behaves in low-speed corners, and the E23 worked well. We also were able to employ a good strategy to get back into a point-scoring position after the gearbox penalty meant we started pretty far back on the grid. We also showed that the E23 has pretty strong rear suspension, even when attacked by another car.
Did you brake-test Max Verstappen in Monaco?
Of course not, what would that possibly achieve? In Monaco it’s pretty easy to keep a car behind you, even a car that’s faster than you, by placing your car on the racing line and just focusing on driving your laps. The difficult bit is for the guy trying to get past. I didn’t brake early or lift off the throttle earlier on the lap which Verstappen hit me, in fact the data showed I braked five metres later than the lap before! The FIA are pretty thorough in their investigations and I don’t know which annoyed me more; being hit and knocked out of the points, or having to go through the inquiry afterwards for something that was clearly not my fault. Ultimately, Max caught himself out by driving too aggressively on the wrong circuit to attempt a move like he did and we both felt the consequences. He’ll learn; he’s a very talented driver.
NEW TOWN, SAME TARGET
After frustration in Monaco, Pastor Maldonado looks to the ever-challenging Circuit Gilles Villeneuve with a strong finish the target.
Do you like the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve?
It’s amazing and I always enjoy being there. Canada is a great race not only because of the track but because of the people who come to support it. There is a great atmosphere all weekend and the city is quite close to the circuit which means there is a great vibe all round. There is also a lot of history to the Grand Prix and it has been around for a while – it is one of the great GPs during the season.
What do you need for a fast lap around the track?
You need a good race car to have confidence to push and that is something we have with the E23. You use the kerbs quite a lot, so you need to be able to ride the bumps well and you need good turn-in for the chicanes. Also, like Monaco, you need to stay away from the walls. You should get close, but making contact is too close!
How variable can the weather be in Canada?
It’s an interesting part of the race as you never know what the weather can be like in Montréal. I’ve been there when it’s been pretty hot, but I’ve also been there when it’s cold and when it’s very wet. Any of these conditions can make things interesting especially as the track isn’t used much so you don’t know how it might react.
Monaco was rather a short race for you; how frustrating was that?
Of course it was frustrating, but that’s the way that racing goes sometimes. There were lots of positives; we qualified well and the car felt good on the track. Unfortunately there was an issue with a part and the only alternative was to retire the car. That’s racing sometimes.
Do you think Montréal could be the venue to get your championship charge on course?
I’ve approaching every race wanting to finish in the points. The circuit in Canada has its own challenges but there’s nothing to say we shouldn’t be fast there. This year’s car has felt good so I’ll be pushing for points in the race. At most of the races this year we’ve looked strong all through the weekend and it’s been the final piece of crossing the finish line in the points which has been out of reach. That’s what we want this weekend.
How competitive has the racing been this season?
It’s been interesting where we are and there is still a lot of potential for us to do well this season. We’ve seen that the Mercedes is consistently the fastest car, but they are not unbeatable. Behind them there’s a great battle. We seem to have a car that is in the top ten on qualifying pace and quicker than some of its nearest rivals when it comes to the race pace. At somewhere like Monaco it’s difficult to take advantage of superior race pace, but at more open circuits we’re well placed.
How has the E23 evolved so far?
We’ve had upgrades and we have a good understanding of how to get the car to work how we want it. It’s much more predictable and delivers more than last year’s car. You can see that the lessons learnt in 2014 have been applied. I’m looking forward to some good weekends where we can deliver what we’re capable of.
What’s your focus mid-season?
Over the year your focus doesn’t change much and it’s pretty simple; you want to do the very best you can at every race. You turn up at the track, work with the engineers, get in the car then drive the best you can.
Technical Director Nick Chester dissects the team’s Monaco race weekend and looks ahead to the Canadian Grand Prix.
We are heading to Montréal for the Canadian Grand Prix. What are the challenges presented by the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve?
It isn’t a track that is much run on through the year so it can be quite dirty and low on grip at the start of the weekend. The weather can be variable and generating tyre temperatures can be a challenge in Montréal. We will have the Pirelli soft and super soft tyres available and they should help with the low grip of the track. It’s a circuit that has a lot of long straights making it a power and low drag track. It’s a medium to low downforce circuit meaning that we would take quite a bit of downforce off for Montréal. The E23 performed well in the slow speed corners around Monaco, so this combined with the long straights should suit us quite well.
How would you sum up Monaco?
We were relatively pleased with how the car performed in practice and qualifying and it was all the more disappointing not to score any points given our pace throughout the weekend. Had Pastor performed his Q2 lap again in Q3 he would have been seventh on the grid which would have been pretty good. It was a big shame to be let down by a hydraulic problem in the race otherwise he would have been fighting Sergio Perez for P7. Pastor drove well all through the weekend, he really deserved a good haul of points. Romain had done well to go from fifteenth up to tenth place in the race. All we were hoping for was to get him back in to the points following his 5 place gearbox penalty so up to then we were optimistic, however there wasn’t much that we could have done after he got clipped by Max Verstappen. Overall the car went reasonably well in Monte Carlo in the low speed corners which should be good for other tracks coming up.
Could you tell us more about what the issue was on Pastor’s car?
We know that it was a leak from the hydraulic pump and we know which area was leaking. This is one of the parts of the car that is not made at Enstone, so it has now gone to the manufacturer who we are working with for a full analysis. It was quite an unusual issue but we will get to the root of the problem.
How much damage did Romain’s car sustain in the Verstappen assault?
Fortunately Romain’s car didn’t suffer any major damage given the size of the incident. The floor suffered a bit in the impact but the rear suspension resisted well and Romain was able to finish the race, albeit his chances of scoring had evaporated.
Is Montréal a favourite destination for the team?
Absolutely. We always very much look forward to going to Canada. Montréal is a nice city appreciated by all team members. The circuit itself has a lot of history and we’ve seen some amazing racing over the years. We also have done reasonably well at this circuit in recent history so we are eager to get there and score points with both cars.
What impact could refuelling have for the future of F1?
There has been a lot of talk to bring lap times down in 2017 and refuelling will do so by running less fuel in the first couple of stints during the race. It may not change the strategies that much as everyone will re-optimise for it. It may mean though that drivers can push a little bit harder on their tyres as they’d not carry as much fuel. The challenge would be to bring refuelling times down to the times we can do a tyre pit stop nowadays and that would prove quite difficult.