Lotus Deputy Team Principal and Technical Director talk Spa, updates, silly-season waffle, FRIC, classic tracks and the need for a summer break.
What is the feeling in the team as we head to Spa?
Federico Gastaldi, Deputy Team Principal: It is a feeling of huge motivation to keep pushing and to try and turn our season around as much as we can. We now have just two more races in Europe with the rest all flyaway races, so we need to make sure we gain some good momentum. Hopefully that will be triggered by some points at Spa and Monza. It won't be easy because these two circuits are power tracks but as ever we will be fighting for the optimum result. Although we had the enforced summer shutdown, our team will not have stopped thinking and visualising the races ahead. F1 never stops, especially in the talented brains at Enstone. I can guarantee that all our team had a long think about the season so far and then resolved to ensure we do as much as is humanly possible to extract the maximum from the second phase of 2014.
What makes the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa so special?
FG: Simple, the track. The atmosphere is unique as well, but ultimately Spa is all about the challenge that it presents to the drivers. Just watching them attack the classic corners like Eau Rouge and Pouhon is a thrill. It must be amazing to drive this rollercoaster in the forest; it is like the track reflects the ups and downs of everything in F1. Spa also has a good feeling in the paddock too because everyone is refreshed from the summer break and there is a sense of renewed energy for the rest of the year.
The 'silly season' traditionally starts here too. Expecting lots of paddock waffle in Belgium?
FG: Something like that! Seriously though you learn to just focus on what is happening in your own corner of the paddock and doing what is best for the team. Of course sometimes it is fun to hear the stories and as everyone re-groups after the summer break it is natural for stories to start circulating. I have been around F1 for a long time so I know what to expect off the track.
How important is it for F1 to race at circuits such as Spa?
FG: In my opinion it is vital. These tracks are the lifeblood of F1. There wouldn't be a tennis season without Wimbledon or a golf season without the Masters at Augusta. These circuits need to be maintained in F1 because the fans identify with them so much and they nearly always create excitement. I think we have a good balance of tracks in F1. Some traditional like Spa, Silverstone and Monza, some great street circuits like Monaco and Singapore and then newer F1 markets like Russia, the Middle East and the US. F1 should be about variety in every context while at the same time being relevant to partners, fans and teams alike.
There are many challenges ahead for the remainder of the season. What are the key ones?
FG: The big one is to make sure we unlock as much performance from the E22 as possible and also ensure that we get greater reliability in all areas. Without this we are limited to what can be achieved. We know that the E22 can be quick and can get points when a stable platform is provided. The aims and objectives are clear for us as a team. We are targeting a strong end to the season that will give us the momentum to carry through to 2015 where we fully intend to climb back to the sharp-end of the grid. It will not be easy but what I know as fact is that our people at Enstone will make it happen. This team has had tough seasons before and always come back stronger. This will be the case once again. We will make sure of that.
Technical Director Nick Chester outlines that there's plenty still to come from the E22.
Are there any announcements incoming about 2015?
Nick Chester: We will make any announcements when we are ready. 2015 looks very exciting indeed and we will have a great mix of new relationships to enjoy while also keeping some good continuity in the team which is important.
Will we see new development parts on the E22 at Spa?
NC: We have a fair amount of new development parts for Spa such as new bodywork and some smaller modifications centred around the front of the chassis which should give some good downforce benefits for us.
We will still have plenty of developments to come as the season goes on. Front and rear wing developments are planned for Spa. The rear wing upgrades may be tight for Spa due to the time lost in manufacturing during the summer shutdown but we are pushing for it to be in Belgium. The key thing is that we are continuing to push development of the E22 in the coming races with some fairly substantial upgrades. We know that there are some very sensitive areas of the car where we can make some good gains so we will be focusing on these areas too.
What are the secrets to getting a good set-up at Spa?
NC: Like most things in F1 there are no specific secrets just hard work and good engineering. Because there is so much time spent at full throttle at Spa you need a reasonably light downforce level, so it is a tricky one because this has to be countered with what you face in sector two, which is a relatively slower section. This means there is a reasonable compromise to be made but ultimately you need to have a car that provides confidence for the drivers in the high speed corners. You also need good mechanical setup to get through the high compression sequence at Eau Rouge and Raidillon, which is still very demanding on the car.
Spa and rain are two words often heard together. How will we fair should the weather revert to type this season?
NC: Spa always throws up the possibility of wet or damp conditions. We have seen some promise with the E22 in these conditions already this season but most recently at Hungary that really wasn't the case. We struggled to generate good grip on intermediate tyres but then so did many others so it looked like a function of the track surface.
How are we adjusting to life post interconnected suspension?
NC: We have made some progress in reducing the deficiency from losing the interconnected suspension but we are still hurting a little bit. We have some revised mechanical parts for Spa including some new springs and enhanced suspension settings which should help. It was a highly developed system on the E22 beforehand so it is hard to claw all of the performance back straight away.
Is the summer break a help or a hindrance for the team?
NC: There are two sides to this really. As an engineer you actually want to keep on attacking and extract the maximum you can out of the package you have. On the flipside, the F1 season is very demanding so actually in the long-term and throughout the whole season it is probably a benefit in terms of human performance.
Spa and Monza are two legendary tracks and they are really popular with the fans. How about engineers?
NC: Of course we love going to these 'spiritual' tracks. They are part of the fabric and history of F1 and indeed racing in general. You feel the drama and excitement at both Spa and Monza despite them being very different in nature. As an engineer Spa is a massive challenge but a satisfying one. Monza is totally unique as it is the quickest track of the year. This year will be tough for us as we are not the quickest on the straights but as ever we are up for the challenge.