Deputy Team Principal Federico Gastaldi and Technicval director Nick Chester reflect on Canada and look ahead to Austria.
Deputy Team Principal Federico Gastaldi heralds the potential excitement as Formula 1 returns to Austria as well as giving a frank assessment of the state of play following a double retirement in Canada.
What's the outlook heading to Austria?
Federico Gastaldi: We have potential which is still to be fulfilled. Canada was a kick where it hurts for everyone at the team but we took stock, identified the issues and have taken action to avoid any repeats. The last thing you want is both cars sat in the garage at the end of a race, but that's what we had. Thankfully it is very rare for us. A rear wing issue for Romain was something unforeseen. We've analysed what went wrong, found a fix and it won't happen again. A power unit issue for Pastor was not something new so we're spending more time with Renault Sport F1 to do everything possible to avoid a repeat of this. It was an issue with a power unit sensor. Just a small thing, but something that had terminal repercussions.
Do you think a return to more conventional permanent tracks this summer will tap in to the latent potential of the E22?
FG: Yes that is the objective. We saw that on a level playing field at Barcelona we can be fighting for big points. The E22 when running cleanly can be a potent proposition but the bugs must be ironed out and we have to start scoring points with both cars to move our way up the points table to where we think we should be.
What do you think about Formula 1 returning to Austria?
FG: It's good to see another race on the calendar and it exposes our sponsors and partners to another market. For the drivers and engineers it presents a different challenge. It's quite a short track, but one with plenty to think about. The racing could well be very good.
What do you make of one company having two Formula 1 teams and one Grand Prix?
It's an interesting situation which shows the commitment of one multi-national organisation to the sport. It's been a little while since we had a new European race on the calendar so that is great to see. We've seen organisations own more than one team before, so that's nothing new.
Canada was quite an exciting race.
FG: There was certainly a lot going on and Canada has produced excitement so many times over the years. It's great that Felipe [Massa] and Sergio [Perez] were fine after their incident at the end of the race, and only natural that there would be many differences of opinions about how this came about. For Daniel [Ricciardo] it was a wonderful day and he richly deserves that victory. For the championship, there was an exciting battle at the front of the race which wasn't without a little controversy. This is what Formula 1 is about.
Where do you position Lotus F1 Team in the current order of teams?
FG: It's a difficult question. We are only seven races in to the biggest rule changes we have seen for a generation so we're all finding our place. Certainly, we're learning a lot. I don't think it's fair to judge us purely on our results so far this year, and fortunately the championship is 19 races long. Monaco and Montréal were both races which didn't play to our strengths and additionally we had reliability problems at both of them. Austria looks to be more positive in terms of its potential for us, as well as the next few races too. We're making improvements all the time so we can tackle all the aspects which cause us a challenge.
Technical Director Nick Chester explains the special challenges provided by F1's Austrian return...
How would you categorise the Spielberg circuit?
Nick Chester: The layout requires a medium downforce package for the car. In terms of demands it's similar to Bahrain with some decent straights and then an infield section with medium speed corners. So it's lower downforce than some tracks on the calendar. Pirelli's track surface analysis points to a relatively non-abrasive, smooth asphalt which is why we will see the soft and super soft allocation once more.
How much of a challenge is it to understand a new circuit?
NC: It can be quite challenging, although in the case of Austria we have been before. We raced there from 1997 to 2003, so there's a certain knowledge bank we can dip into. In particular we have information about driving lines which improves the accuracy of our simulations. In contrast, with a brand new circuit it's more complicated because we have to generate a driving line to be able to run a simulation and without a real driving line the simulated corner speeds will not necessarily be 100%. We've already got real data for Austria, so we can do a basic simulation quite easily.
Neither driver has driven the track before as F1 drivers, how does that change our approach?
NC: It biases you towards doing longer runs and much of the first session will be about letting Pastor and Romain learn the circuit. As we haven't been there for over a decade, things like track surface evolution could be a challenge as we learn how much the track cleans up as the weekend progresses and this has an impact on set-up.
The post Canada debrief can't have been pleasant?
NC: It's fair to say we were not happy with our performance in Canada. We had a number of issues with Pastor's car over the weekend, emanating both from ourselves and from Renault Sport F1 whilst Romain struggled with race pace and experienced an issue with his rear wing. To say we are investigating these issues thoroughly is an understatement. Pastor's issue in the race was related to a power unit sensor problem. It's only a small component on the car but the issue had big repercussions. Pastor was on course to finish strongly in the points. With Romain's car we've identified the issue with the wing and taken preventative measures to ensure it won't happen again. Every time we experience a retirement it hurts every single person at Enstone and all of our partners. We will keep pushing until we return to the exemplary level of reliability we enjoyed over recent seasons.
What are the latest developments for the car for Austria?
NC: We have a number of aero updates and we have some more work to do on braking. There is a good chunk of time still to be found in the braking zone and the key to unlocking this potential is enabling the latest brake-by-wire systems to deliver better feedback to the drivers.
Where does the focus lie between development of this year's car and work for 2015?
NC: There are no significant rule changes for 2015 so anything we do with this year's car is beneficial for next year's car too. We are learning a lot this year, even if there are tough lessons on occasion. We have faith that there is a lot more to come from the E22 and will continue to develop. We are well underway with the design of the E23 which should be a significant step forwards, both in performance and in the area of reliability which has challenged us and Renault Sport F1 so much at the start of this new generation of rules.