After both cars went the distance in Bahrain, Deputy Team Principal Federico Gastaldi wants to see the team's efforts rewarded with points in China.
Where do you see the team at present?
Federico Gastaldi, Deputy Team Principal: There has obviously been a performance improvement since the start of the season and there are good positives for the future and our development. Both cars ran without reliability issues to finish the Bahrain Grand Prix and but for an incident Pastor should have been in the points. That was a positive in relation to how we started the year. There is still a lot of work to do, however, and we have many new parts for the car and a lot of performance to be found.
How do you motivate the team after such a tough start?
FG: Everyone in the team is working very hard so of course it's been frustrating not to get the rewards everyone deserves. But we are all natural fighters. The response internally to our start to the year has been incredibly positive. Everyone keeps smiling and keeps focused on the task at hand so it's been a big 'thumbs-up' in terms of motivation for the challenge ahead. This attitude gives us a real positive vibe. We know the task and we are motivated to get where we want to be. We will keep pushing relentlessly. I knew from my past role at the team just how dedicated everyone is, but now I'm more closely involved at all the races I must say I've been amazed at the intensity of this attitude. We've all been working like crazy since Australia, day and night, to make things happen, so it's a big thank you to everyone in the race team and back at the factory for this incredible effort.
How much of a comeback can the team make?
FG: We are a race team so we are here to win, but we are also realistic. It would be fantastic to think that we could make a major step forward and fight at the sharp end, but it's too early in the season to talk about where we will be at the end of the year. Our first step is to get our cars in the points. Once we're in the points, we'll be hungry to make further steps quickly.
How important is it for Formula 1 to race in China?
FG: It is certainly important for us. We have tried from day one to get the attention from the Chinese audience in both a sporting and commercial way. We believe that China is both the present and the future. It is obviously a huge market to explore commercially so I think it's very important for the business side of Formula 1. Certainly we've seen a growing fan base in China over the years and we have a lot of younger fans there which illustrates a great future for the sport.
When do you expect the team to be able to make significant steps in terms of performance?
FG: We're all pushing for good improvements at every race but it's no secret that both us and our power unit partners - Renault Sport F1 - have a lot planned for the start of the European season in Barcelona. From our perspective we have many, many new parts to test on the car, so reliability is key to be able to test and develop these parts. No one is happy with where we are performance-wise at the moment and there's no question of any of us accepting this status quo. We're all pushing hard to be faster and we will do this together.
Technical Director Nick Chester is certainly a man with much to do after a tough start to the season.
Where does the E22 stand heading to China?
Nick Chester, Technical Director: The E22 has tremendous potential even if we are only gradually unlocking it. In the Bahrain Grand Prix we were closer to Mercedes, Williams and McLaren than we have been previously. Our race-pace gap to the Williams and McLaren is now half a second and it was over a second in Sepang, so we've made a decent incremental improvement. Although we were still not quick enough in Bahrain, we actually don't need to find much more performance before we can be regularly in the points, which when you consider where we started from, is encouraging. We are about level with Toro Rosso for pace at the moment. Were it not for the safety car incident in Bahrain, Pastor would have been fighting for our first point. That's not where we want to be, but we're on the edge of the points during what are still very early days for the E22.
We seem to struggle in qualifying at present?
NC: Our qualifying pace hasn't been on the same level to our race pace. We made quite a bit of progress during Bahrain, getting quicker during each session. In Q2 a further 1.2 seconds would have put us fourth, rather than 16th. We know we are still at a very early stage with the E22 – more so than our rivals – and there are clear areas where we know the performance can be extracted.
Just how much more is there to come from the car?
NC: I think we've got a lot more to learn about the E22 than the other teams. We learn something every time the car takes to the track, with every lap. We've also got some aerodynamic developments that should be interesting to evaluate for China, when we are hoping for a bit more out of the power unit as well, both reliability and pace wise.
Why was track time so limited at the Bahrain test?
NC: It was all power unit issues unfortunately. We're working very closely with Renault Sport F1 to understand why we have faced so many challenges in this regard. Clearly we all want to put reliability concerns behind us so we can focus on performance and showing our true pace.
How has the relative lack of track time affected the development programme?
NC: It means you have to prioritise what parts to evaluate, so we've had to adapt our programme for China because of this. We're going to attempt to get as much as we can out of FP1 and FP2 in Shanghai to test new parts, but ultimately we've delayed the introduction of some key developments until Barcelona now.
What areas are you focusing on with the new parts?
NC: We have a lot of aero parts we want to evaluate throughout the E22, including an evolution to our nose. Expect to see some bodywork upgrades in China and then a bigger upgrade in Barcelona.
What is the outlook for China?
NC: It should be better than Bahrain. Bahrain was an obvious power circuit, as you could see from the way the cars lined up on the grid. China's got a long back straight, however there are more slow and medium speed corners than Bahrain, so that gives us the chance to try and get closer to the front.
Where will the biggest performance gains come from with the E22?
NC: There are quite a few areas. Partly because of how immature the car is we haven't managed to evaluate all the performance capabilities we want to yet. The big areas I would say are braking, aero and the power unit.
Pastor was attempting to try a different tyre strategy in Bahrain. Has the E22 inherited the gentle tyre-wear characteristics of its predecessors?
NC: It's possibly a bit early in the season to say, but it did look like Pastor was going to be quite good on his tyres in Bahrain. The 2014 generation of Pirelli is certainly different from last year's, but there are always strategy gains to be made from prolonging the tyre performance longer than our rivals.