After a top ten qualifying performance in Shanghai, Deputy Team Principal Federico Gastaldi expects another step forward in Barcelona.
It was close but no cigar in Shanghai?
Federico Gastaldi: Yes, we were running in the top ten and there were many green shoots of recovery made evident over the course of the last race weekend, we didn't get the points we wanted. Romain's gearbox issue was something very rare for an Enstone team and we've quickly identified the issue and taken preventative measures and we are working hard to ensure Pastor has the car he wants underneath him.
How difficult has it been for the team to keep improving in absolute and relative terms?
FG: It's true, you always face a moving target in Formula 1. Just finding improvements in your car over the course of the season is not good enough; you need to find more improvements than your rivals do. We certainly have made tremendous gains in absolute and relative terms since we started the year. Definitely, we had the most gains to make, but we still look to be very much on an upward trajectory.
How satisfying has it been to see the improvements come?
FG: We won't be satisfied until we are on the top step of the podium! We are all racers and that is what we all want. Even then, not everyone will be satisfied, as you can only ever have one person on that top step! Certainly, seeing improvement is always a positive and our outlook is good. When you look at how our pace - particularly our race pace - has improved relative to our rivals, there is a lot to shout about.
Is there a temptation to switch focus to next year's car?
FG: It's still early in the year and we are determined to achieve good results in 2014. Of course, even last year we started looking at the 2015 car and we always look far in advance. All the signs are still that the E22 is a great car wanting to come out, and we're pushing progress and development so that everyone will see this.
Is it good for the team to move to races in Europe?
FG: Logistically, it's certainly easier and you don't miss not having the long-haul flights. For me, Barcelona is a fantastic place and we missed not visiting Barcelona in the pre-season testing this year. Spanish is my first language and I have lived in Spain for many years so you could certainly say I'm a fan personally. Formula 1 always receives good support in Barcelona and it's certainly one of the busier events on track of the season.
How are you enjoying the new role now you have four races under your belt?
FG: I have been humbled since my appointment as Deputy Team Principal by the amount of support I have received for the team from the world of Formula 1. I've also been very busy, that is for sure. The role is a good one, and the team is fantastic to work with - which is something I've always known. Of course, it is a challenging time for all teams and for the sport, but we all keep pushing hard.
Technical Director Nick Chester will have plenty of new parts for the E22 to maximise when the European F1 season gets underway in Barcelona.
Describe the Chinese GP from a technical stand point?
Nick Chester: We made some good steps on engine mapping. The car was a lot more driveable due to a much better torque delivery, which helped the drivers make a big step. On top of that we completed a lot of running on the Friday, particularly with Romain, which meant vital set-up work could be undertaken and we also confirmed aerodynamic improvements on the car. These combined factors helped us to be more competitive, including P9 during the second session. In third practice we were pretty quick in the wet, and then again in qualifying we showed improved pace. Our race performance also improved, moving us ahead of Toro Rosso and McLaren in Shanghai. We have made steady progress in terms of closing the gap to all of the leading teams since Australia.
Where might Romain have finished?
NC: We were unfortunate to miss out on a point or two with Romain due to the gearbox failure in the race. It was a new and rare issue but we've made preventative measures to avoid a similar scenario in the future. Pastor's weekend was hampered a little by his mistake on Friday and an issue on Saturday, which necessitated a change of power unit. As a result Pastor lost most of FP3 and all of qualifying, putting him on the back foot for the race. Although we've improved the drivability of the car, Pastor wasn't quite as happy with the chassis balance as he had been in Bahrain. So he wasn't as comfortable in the car as Romain, but that may simply be due to missing out on so much track time.
Was there time to assess all of the new parts?
NC: We had a huge amount to get through because we hadn't run much in the Bahrain test. We assessed over half of the new parts which is a positive and we have a lot more lined up for Barcelona.
Tell us more...
NC: We've got further improvements on engine mapping, which should give us another step forward. We've got a new cooling and bodywork package coming - quite a big upgrade - plus some updates to the rear wing and various other bodywork parts. All of the developments that we've brought for the car so far have been an improvement, which is highly satisfying and validates the hard work being done back at the factory. We also received more horsepower from Renault Sport F1 in China and I hope we'll get a further step-up in Barcelona, which will make a massive difference.
Where can more performance be found?
NC: There are a lot of aero improvements we want to bring to make the car more predictable for the drivers. We also want to do more work on tyre temperatures. The latest generation of tyres are quite hard in compound and it can be difficult to keep them in the optimum operating window. On the other hand braking is definitely better now. We've made some good improvements in terms of how the drivers can control the brakes and manage the power unit during braking.
Last year we finished in second place after a three-stop strategy. What will be the way to go this year?
NC: It is difficult to say because the tyre constructions are different this year and also a lot depends on temperatures. The E21 was very kind on tyres as we know, the E22 we are still really discovering so it is difficult to know for sure. What is certain is the fact that the left hand fronts at Barcelona will be key because of the long constant radius Turn 3.
Barcelona and then Monaco: Two very different tracks, will they suit the E22?
NC: They may look very different, but they are both handling and downforce dominated circuits. Power is always important; more so in Barcelona than Monaco, but it plays a smaller role than at other circuits so we are expecting to be reasonably competitive at both events.