Newly appointed Deputy Team Principal Federico Gastaldi gives an insight on where Lotus F1 Team stands as we head into the second race of the season at Sepang this weekend.
It's been an interesting first week for you in your new role?
Federico Gastaldi: I think it would be right to say that the start of the season has been a tough wake up call for everyone. I knew that it was not going to be easy to start with, and I've been in Formula 1 long enough to understand what was coming. It was frustrating more than anything to see the team working so hard; everyone pulling all-nighters but without great results to show for it on track. Following the race on Sunday it felt like we'd completed our first real test as the two weeks in Bahrain were a very frustrating experience for everyone. The Melbourne race was the first time we managed to run some consistent laps with both cars, because the free practice sessions were so difficult. So, on that side it was very tough considering the amount of hard work that everyone put in to make things happen.
What does your experience bring to the team?
FG: It's true I've been in Formula 1 for many years, and in various different roles. I've been with 'Team Enstone' since the Benetton days and there are many people from those times who are still with the team which shows it has a solid bedrock.
I feel very much part of the team and my goal is to deliver what I feel it deserves in terms of results on the track. That's my main objective here. I will still be involved with business development and searching for new partners and investors. My other main goal is to try to put together all the elements with regards to all the talented people in the team, and to ensure we can deliver. It's obviously not only up to us - Renault Sport F1 play a big part within this framework so it's all about working together to achieve the best results possible. I know this team is the best in the paddock, there is absolutely no doubt about that in my mind. We have some of the most committed and experienced personnel around and they all have a winning mentality.
What's your perception of Romain so far this year and how he's dealt with the difficult situation?
FG: Romain has matured greatly in the past few years. His approach to the team is very positive; he understands that we're all making a big effort, just as he is making a big effort in the cockpit. Like all of us he's frustrated, obviously. However he's very hands-on and wants to understand what is needed from his side in order to move forward in the right direction. Australia was tough for him, with tricky free practice sessions, and a disastrous qualifying. The race was what it was, in essence a test, but ultimately he is very positive - he knows this is a good team who deliver great cars and win races.
How is Pastor settling in?
FG: For Pastor it's all new, but his approach has been extremely positive. His work ethic is very serious and he's a hardworking professional. Obviously, like Romain, he felt frustrated. I think it's natural! Romain has been here longer, and Pastor paid attention to him and the way in which everything worked over the weekend. Pastor has been very constructive and thumbs up to him for delivering the maximum in what is a temporarily difficult situation.
Talk us through the plan for Malaysia - what's the realistic aim?
FG: To keep learning. I would be dancing faster than the music if I said something different! We need to keep learning and if everything goes as we anticipate, in collaboration with Renault Sport F1, then we will be in a position to continue progressing for Bahrain and when the Championship comes back to Europe in May.
What would you say to all the doubters?
FG: I'd say wait and see what we can really achieve with the E22. If you look at it logically, Renault Sport F1 are the reigning world championship winning engine partner, so how is it possible to go from there to nothing? They will deliver the right package to all of us which will enable Lotus F1 Team to be at the front once again. We're a smaller team - we're not Mercedes or Ferrari or McLaren, but we have enormous pure racing spirit. This team has been around a long time and we have people here from the glory days, who have passed on the philosophy and ethos of the team's renowned spirit and passion. We are ready to fight!
After a challenging first race weekend of the 2014 season, Technical Director Nick Chester evaluates the key technical lessons from Melbourne and looks ahead to Malaysia.
How frustrating was it to be at the back of the grid in Australia?
Nick Chester: It was very frustrating. Everyone in the team worked really hard for Melbourne. In my fourteen years at Enstone I cannot remember a more intense period of work and for there to be no tangible reward for it is tough to take but we knew that this would likely be the case. It was disappointing that we were not quicker and that we were unable to attain a truly representative position on the grid. Everyone understood that there are so many new parts and so much new technology for 2014, so we knew that it was going to be difficult for everything to work straight away and achieve a positive result. We are now addressing these issues one by one and making clear, quantifiable progress.
How did Romain and Pastor approach the weekend?
NC: Both drivers were really strong and resolute in their approaches. They knew that it was going to be a challenging weekend after the evidence from the final test in Bahrain and although they wanted it to be a normal race weekend, I think that they both knew the value of making the very most of whatever track time we got. They were very professional throughout the weekend. Their feedback was very important particularly after the race when they had done a lot of miles even though unfortunately we didn't finish the race itself.
What were the positives to take from Australia?
NC: We know that there is good potential with the E22 and we need to get the whole package operating properly. The lack of mileage meant that we encountered problems that would normally have been resolved prior to the first race. Some issues we confronted were associated with software, the fixes for which can be quite time consuming. Worse than that, they can be time consuming at the most inopportune times over a race weekend. That said, we left Australia with some key directions including a deeper understanding of the energy management and how we need to optimize it.
Where does the team go from here in terms of making more progress for the upcoming races?
NC: There are several issues we have pinpointed in Australia that we will be working on; some on the chassis and some on the power unit. I know that Renault Sport F1 are working very hard to fix issues on the software and also some on the mapping. The E22 is much more complicated in terms of how you operate the power unit and how it interacts with other systems on the car. This is something we need to improve on; and there is a lot of time to be found in this area.
With one race completed, how confident is the team in the E22?
NC: From what we have seen on the chassis in terms of measurements, particularly on the aero side, it still looks very strong. There is nothing fundamental on the car that will stop it being competitive but we need to get to a sufficient level of mapping and operating the car so that the drivers can extract the maximum from the E22. There are clear, identifiable areas where we can find big chunks of time. Once we have more mileage under our belt and worked on the balance of the car then the drivers will feel more comfortable and we will make good progress.
Does the current workload affect the team's upgrade programme ambitions?
NC: It makes no real difference. We are still producing new bodywork and have some good upgrades coming for Malaysia in all areas around the car. We will keep pushing as hard as we can with the upgrade programme.
Is there a timeframe where you think the team will start to make significant progress up the grid?
NC: It is difficult to make a strong prediction after the weekend we have just had in Australia, especially with the limited mileage under our belt. I'm certainly hoping for an improvement for Malaysia and then some more in Bahrain, although as they are back to back it is likely to be small steps. It may well be Barcelona before we are in a more stable position and compete at the level we want to be at. One thing's for certain, we're not sitting back; we're pushing all the way with the focus on extracting the maximum from the E22.