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After a strong Bahrain Grand Prix, with both drivers on the podium, Eric Boullier reflects over that result and looks to what is possible from the rest of the season…
Eric, what image spontaneously comes to your mind when thinking about the Bahrain race?Eric Boullier: First of all, the joy of the race team when looking at the podium. The guys had not seen our two drivers up there since 2006. But, most of all, I remember the face of Kimi and Romain. I liked the fact that they were relieved, but not fully happy. We had just achieved a great result, but they already wanted more. They knew we could have won. Instead of simply enjoying the moment, they were trying to figure out what went wrong and why they were not standing on the first step of this podium. It says a lot about our team's spirit right now.
Were the last three weeks busy?EB: Quite busy, yes! First of all, we got all the chassis' back in Enstone for the first time since they'd left for Australia. They deserved a full service, including respray. They're like new now. We then had to prepare ourselves for our full scale wind tunnel session in the United States, as well as for the Mugello test. We've also started calibrating our new simulator which is another exciting development for the team.
Are you looking forward to racing in Spain?EB: The first race in Europe is always the start of a new adventure. In this respect, yes, we¹re all looking forward to this challenge. It also makes the life of the team easier in terms of logistics: we¹re not that far away from home any more. This said, Barcelona is a special track because we always test there in the winter so it will be interesting to see the gaps between the teams; it might be even tighter than what we have already seen.
Are you optimistic?EB: Well, we've been able to look after our tyres quite well during the races so far but the Barcelona track is very abrasive, especially for the front left tyre. Maybe we'll do a better job than our rivals in this area. The only question mark is our performance relative to the temperature. A pattern started to emerge over the first four races, where we seemed to be more and more competitive in hot conditions. We'll see.
We were testing in Mugello last week. Has it been useful?EB: Yes. Even when the weather wasn't great, we were able to try some combinations that we would not normally go for during a race weekend, as they take quite a lot of time to set up. We've learned a lot about the car. Also, our Windshear session had given a lot of positive results. We know that the E20 will be even quicker now. But performance is a relative concept. Let's wait and see how our opponents have improved.
Out of the box the E20 has been good, but time waits for no car in F1, and the man charged with pushing forwards the development of Lotus F1 Team's charger speaks on the topics of the podium performance, Mugello test and the all-important tyre performance question…
Looking back, how close do you think the team came to taking the win in Bahrain?James Allison: When Kimi got past Romain he was clearly faster than Sebastian (Vettel) thanks to having new tyres vs. Vettel's scrubbed set. It was very exciting watching him close the gap, and he came very close to pulling off a pass, but it was not quite enough. With slightly better grid slots and no front wing damage for Kimi then the victory could well have been ours. As it was we had to settle for a really dominant P2 and P3. We will have to wait for the E20 to score a maiden win, but I think we can do it.
What's in store for Barcelona?JA: We will bring the first tranche of gains from our Windshear programme in addition to some parts from our conventional wind tunnel development. There will be modifications to the front and rear drums, to the front wing and to the floor.
What did the team achieve in Mugello?JA: We saved for Mugello certain tests that are too elaborate to do on a Grand Prix Friday, because the modifications take too long. On both of the dry days we ran one fundamental configuration in the morning before switching to a different fundamental configuration in the afternoon. Then, within each morning or afternoon session there was a constellation of smaller tests,that could be made independently of the major morning to afternoon assessment. This has allowed us to answer some questions which have been bugging us for a while and it gives us a good direction for our future campaigns. That's the benefit of an in-season test compared with a pre-season test. At the start of the year you are so focused on reliability and getting all the bits ready for the first race that you don't have the breathing space to contemplate a more elaborate comparison of different configurations.
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