2015 Italian Grand Prix, Preview
Friday 28th August
Lotus F1 Team previews the twelfth race weekend of the 2015 Formula 1 season, the Italian Grand Prix.
ITALIAN GRAND PRIX
4/5/6 SEPTEMBER 2015 MONZA
Deputy Team Principal Federico Gastaldi looks ahead to the Italian Grand Prix.
The Belgian Grand Prix yielded a brilliant result for the team, now that you have had a few days to absorb it, what is your take on it?
I was very, very happy for the team but not amazed because I know that the team has the ability to always deliver such great results. We have great drivers and fantastic people here at Enstone. For me we are the best people in the paddock so I’m not surprised by the result and even though we currently face some challenges, we can still deliver strong cars. It was a great job by Romain and a great job by all at Enstone.
Monza is next, a notoriously high-speed track…
Monza is a fantastic race track. As in Spa, we have good chances to perform well in Italy with the E23 and bring back home a haul of points.
Pastor suffered a retirement in Spa, what is the team doing to make sure this doesn’t happen at the next race?
First the team will prepare the cars as usual for the weekend sessions and hopefully, with a clear weekend, we can hope for a good performance by both drivers.
Where do you feel the team is at currently?
We are facing challenges but we are a united team. We have shown many times that we are fighters and that we punch above our weight. We are now fifth in the Constructor’s Championship and that makes me proud of everyone at Enstone. We want to continue to show our worth and fight on each and every lap these coming races.
How important is Monza, and Italy, for Formula 1?
It’s very important for me personally as my ancestors were from Italy! More seriously, Monza, Spa, Silverstone, have all been part of the original history of motor racing. Monza is and will always remain a classic in the Formula 1 calendar. The fans – or tifosi in Italy – are simply amazing and there are so many of them at all these historic venues no matter if it pours with rain or even if it snowed!
What do you like the most about Italy?
The people; Italy is very colourful. The Italian food of course is also wonderful. It makes me feel at home when I’m there, I love the country.
This is the last European race of the season, what are your thoughts heading to the final batch of long-haul races?
We will be heading to races overseas after Monza and we’ll be visiting some great countries and venues. From Singapore which always offers a great night spectacle, to the USA that is extremely popular, to Mexico, a new venue that we are looking forward to visiting this year, and of course Russia, Brazil and Abu Dhabi, places where F1 is warmly greeted and where the promoters are doing a fantastic job. We shall be looking forward to visiting all these places in the latter part of the season..
Fresh off the back of his Belgian third place, Romain Grosjean sets out his targets for a similarly strong performance in Monza.
How goes the high after your Spa podium?
I still have a massive smile on my face about it! What a race and what a performance from everyone in the team. We have a great car in the E23 and it worked so well around Spa Francorchamps. Everything came together so well. I probably drove the best race of my career, but it was thanks to the hard work of everyone at Enstone that I was able to perform at the top of my ability on that day. It felt almost like a race win.
Could you have passed Sebastian Vettel if he hadn’t had his tyre issue?
I was closing in on him pretty quickly and I’d have done everything I could to get past him. He’s a pretty tough competitor, but I was VERY determined at that point. It’s only a shame that he did have his tyre issue on track as I was really looking forward to fighting him for that position and I’m convinced I would have taken the final podium spot.
How do you like Monza, the Theatre of Speed?
I like Monza a lot because it is so distinctive. It’s a great track that has a lot of racing history. This makes it nice for us to compete at a place where all our heroes raced too. There is a lot of atmosphere around the track and to race in the setting of the royal park makes for a really special ambience. Of course the Ferrari fans are a big part of it and it is really nice competing at such a legendary venue.
Any special memories from Monza?
One of my first ever races in cars was at Monza back in 2003 when I was driving in a category called Formula Lista where I won and then went on to win every race of my rookie season in that formula. I have had some other big results at Monza too throughout my career, so it holds lots of good memories.
What aspirations do you have for Monza this weekend?
On paper, Monza should suit our car better than Spa so in theory a podium could be possible again! Of course, we don’t know how our performance relative to our rivals will stack up until we get there, but I’m certainly going out for the strongest result possible, as I always do.
What’s the key to a strong result in Italy?
You need your car to be as slippery as possible and quick in a straight line, and in that regard we’ve looked pretty strong so far in 2015. Then we have to manage the tyre degradation. Also for us it will be tricky in the big corners like the Lesmos and the Ascari chicane because the less downforce you have then the more difficult it is to get good grip in the turns. It is a tough compromise but one I am sure that the team will get the best solution possible.
Pizza or Pasta?
I know a great Pizzeria close to the track, so it is pizza all the way for me. But I am always careful because it can catch up very easily on the weight side of things! Italy is a magic place and the cultural aspects are a big part of that. Like a lot of drivers I did a lot of racing there, even since karting days so I feel like I know the country very well. I don’t know anyone who does not enjoy being in Italy.
Pastor Maldonado looks forward to the 2015 Italian Grand Prix at a place where so much of his race craft was learnt.
What are your opinions of racing in the Parco di Monza?
I like Monza and I love Italy. I actually used to live very close to the circuit when I was starting my career here in Europe. I have won races here so it holds some good memories and special feelings for sure. I have a lot of friends here and a lot of supporters who come and see me at the track, so it is very nice to catch up with them all. The track is totally unique and of course it is great to be racing where all the old heroes did too. Monza has changed only very slightly over the years and it still has the character of the old banking and the parkland trees as you drive through it and of course the fans create a great atmosphere which is a great soundtrack to the Grand Prix.
Any particular expectations for the Monza weekend?
I am really looking forward to Monza this year. We’ve shown our car to be pretty good through the speed traps this season and Monza is where you want to be as fast as possible in a straight line. Coming off the back of our performance in Spa it’s going to be really interesting to see how we go; I have a good feeling.
Tell us one word that comes to mind when you hear the word Monza?
Speed. It has to be speed because the track is all about how fast you can go on the start/finish straight and then also on the back straight too. We are reaching the highest speeds of the season on these stretches. One of the critical points is the Parabolica corner. You have to get this right at the end of your lap to ensure a good time, and if you get it wrong it also compromises you for the next lap. It’s difficult to do this as the car is set up for low downforce on the straights, so it’s more difficult to drive on the corners – especially a long corner like Parabolica, which is tough and fast, the most crucial at Monza.
Last year the outside of Parabolica was changed from gravel to tarmac; did this make a difference?
The approach was still the same, which is to take it as quickly and efficiently as possible. Of course you are aware that it’s safer and there’s less penalty in going off and this is good from a safety point of view because it is a quick corner with not that much room on the outside.
How frustrating was your Belgian Grand Prix?
Of course, it’s frustrating not to finish any Grand Prix, but it was particularly so in Belgium as we really had potential to go well. Romain did a great job to finish on the podium and I started my race ahead of him on the grid. We know what is possible and our car should go well in Monza. I would love to score a very strong result in Italy as I have so many fans there.
Were there particular lessons learnt?
We’ve gone through the data and we think we know what we need to do to avoid a similar situation again. Spa’s a pretty unique place so it’s unlikely we’ll see the same set of circumstances again. It was good to watch the team get a good result, but it would have been better to have been part of a strong result for both cars on track.
Pizza or Pasta?
Both. Definitely both. But not at the same time of course!
TEMPLE OF SPEED
Technical Director Nick Chester looks back at the team’s performance in Spa and talks about Monza, the fastest circuit on the calendar.
What’s the potential for Monza?
I think that the potential is quite good. The cars have performed well at medium downforce tracks like Montréal and Spa. Monza is a step lower downforce that we never run anywhere else. The car seems to be efficient heading down to these kinds of levels. The E23 also has good braking and is reasonably well set-up for low drag. It should go quite well in Italy.
With Monza’s straights is it a case of simply taking off all the wing and ensuring the car’s as slippery as possible?
Monza is one of the fastest circuits that requires the lowest downforce setting. The cars will be doing around 350kph so very fast. It is also important for the car to be good over the kerbs at the chicanes and so far we have seen the E23 is pretty good over kerbs.
Any new parts?
We will be doing more work on our new front wing which we first ran on the Friday in Spa and will run a number of tests in Monza.
Coming back to Spa, the sessions were somewhat mixed up – did this mean our pace and potential was masked at times?
Possibly, although straight away in FP1 Pastor looked reasonably quick before his shunt – he was around P8 – and Romain was P7 in the second session. We were already looking reasonably fast on the Friday and then on Saturday with more running Romain went quicker still. If anything our pace picked up through the weekend with good qualifying results for both drivers and then very strong pace in the race for Romain.
What went wrong for Pastor in the race?
We are still checking all the parts but he had a big excursion at Eau Rouge and hit some curbs very hard which gave the chassis a 17G impact. That looks to have effectively knocked the power off the car and although he managed to get the power back on, it looks like we might have damaged the clutch control valve. Even though we may have been able to reset it when Pastor came back to the pits, we looked at the extent of the damage and decided to retire the car.
Pastor started the race from P7 and Romain from P9 (who’d qualified in P4) – was there potential for a 3-4 result?
Pastor’s pace was pretty good throughout the weekend, only a little bit off Romain as we saw in qualifying but certainly P4 or P5 were possible.
What went right for Romain?
Pretty much everything! He drove incredibly well. His qualifying lap was brilliant – it was disappointing to get the gearbox penalty which in the end didn’t affect us as he drove such a good race. Romain didn’t have the easiest of weekends as he missed FP1 and then had stoppage time in FP2. Still, he was incredibly positive all weekend; his management of the race was excellent looking after the tyres when he needed to and then pushed when he had to push. Everything was perfect.
Romain was closing in on Sebastian at a rapid rate – would he have likely got past if Sebastian Vettel’s tyres had held on?
He had another two laps left to overtake him before Sebastian’s tyre failed and I think that it would have been possible. He was closing in all the time and he could have had a good shot at passing him.