Brazil caps off an intense, emotional and rewarding season for Lotus F1 Team as Team Principal Eric Boullier reflects in the build-up to the season's final Grand Prix.
What would you like to achieve in Brazil to round off the year?
Eric Boullier: We obviously want to do our best without detracting from the nice championship battle between Fernando [Alonso] and Sebastian [Vettel]. If we can be solidly in the points and ideally fighting for a podium it would be nice. Although there is nothing left to play for in terms of the Constructors' Championship for us, Kimi is still in a tight battle for P3 in the Drivers' standings so we'll be going all out to make sure he keeps that spot. We'll be aiming to end the season on a high and carry that momentum through the winter break.
How do you think the team performed last time out?
EB: The result in Austin wasn't as good as Abu Dhabi obviously, but with both cars in the points we were quite satisfied. The first part of the race created some expectations that we could have been in a position to fight for a better result, however the race didn't play out that way. We had a small problem in Kimi's pit stop and lost time there. Romain made a mistake behind Nico Hulkenberg and lost the opportunity to do a better job, but he had a very strong race from there and came back well. In the end, Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari were faster and there wasn't anything we could do. It's good to gain some points, plus we know we have better performance still to come from the car and the ability to achieve stronger results, so we're looking forward to Brazil.
Would you judge the sports' return to the USA as successful?
EB: I think it was a great race and a great event; there were many fans in attendance and a lot of people watching around the world. The circuit also produced some good racing with a lot of overtaking; much of it involving our drivers in fact! I think it's definitely a huge success for America's comeback to Formula 1 in a country which is an important market for the sport commercially. We're already looking forward to returning next year.
Brazil has always been a favourite too?
EB: If you look over the years we have seen some fantastic races at Interlagos and the fans are always very enthusiastic. The circuit is unique and it seems to always deliver something special. We hope to be able to offer something to all the team's fans to end the season on high.
It's been a long year; Abu Dhabi was a highlight obviously, but which aspects stand out in your mind?
EB: The win in Abu Dhabi is obviously a highlight. Then I would say the fact that the team has done such a good job with the car and we have been able to race consistently in the points; scoring a lot of podiums and having Kimi back and on top form. He's done a great job this year and I'm sure he's going to be a very strong contender again in 2013. If we can keep Kimi as consistent and strong as he has been this season and start the year off as well as we're ending it I think it will be a whole new story. Romain too has shown that he has the pace to run with the very best in the sport. He still has a few areas which need to be polished, but it's also been a fantastic return for him.
How much more is there to come from the team?
EB: It's not only on track that we have been making good progress, behind the scenes too there are many positives which are encouraging and intensifying our efforts. Keep watching us; there's better to come.
Coming into race twenty of twenty, Lotus F1 Team Technical Director James Allison looks ahead to Sao Paulo for a final flourish and reflects over a roller-coaster of a season.
What are your thoughts on Interlagos?
James Allison: It's a track that puts a premium on horsepower. The car has to be dragged up a long hill to the start-finish straight with engines that are already breathless by virtue of the altitude of the Interlagos circuit. We are pleased to have used our more powerful incarnation Coanda exhaust system in anger in Austin as it will serve us well in Brazil.
Although Interlagos is one of the older circuits on the calendar, and we have been there countless times, it throws up many challenges for engineers and drivers alike. It tends to be pretty bumpy, but the severity and the location of the bumps vary from year to year. It's also a track where it can rain suddenly, literally out of the blue from a seemingly clear sky. The long range forecast is showing a high risk of some serious downpours.
Is there anything we learnt in Austin that has relevance for Brazil?
JA: After our rather dismal experience on the dirty side of the track in Austin, hopefully we'll be fortunate enough to qualify on the clean side of the grid in Brazil! Our car has been pretty useful since Korea, so with a trouble free Qualifying and Race we could well be contenders for a podium to wrap up the season.
Without the grid penalty, could Romain have potentially achieved more in the last race?
JA: It's difficult to make those kind of judgements, but I think he would probably have given Fernando [Alonso] a decent run for his money and would certainly have had a stronger result than he eventually achieved.