Lotus Deputy Team Principal Federico Gastaldi and Technical director Nick Chester (pictured) reflect on Spa and look ahead to Monza.
Spa was obviously disappointing. Were there any silver-linings amid the clouds at Spa?
Federico Gastaldi: We always try to find some! But yes there genuinely were some positives from a tough weekend. It is in the DNA of Enstone that even in the hard times we fight for and then maximise what we have at our disposal. Despite the initial disappointment of not getting a result we remain super motivated. We knew it would be hard at these power tracks like Spa and Monza. However, Romain did a solid job to get in to Q2 and then after he got a new nose in the race after he was hit by Bianchi at La Source, his pace was good. The new parts on the car showed some encouraging signs and if we get better luck and have clean races then we can progress a lot more up the field.
Pastor again had some tough luck in the Spa race?
FG: Yes, sadly. It was an exhaust issue. It was a big shame because he was pumped up to come back from the tough start he had to the weekend after the Free Practice incident. I know that when the conditions allow he will put himself in a good position to make the most of the E22 and fight for points. I am confident of this, and the team believe he can continue to fight for some good results before the end of the season.
Monza is a cauldron of racing passion and history. How do you see it as an event?
FG: Like Spa it is part of F1's identity. It is another name that goes hand in hand with racing the world over. If you went anywhere in the world I am sure you would get an instant association of the words Monza and F1. They are linked, I hope, forever. It is a race that along with Monaco, Silverstone and Spa should be the first to pencil in to the calendar. The race itself is important but there is also a lot on the commercial side that takes place at Monza for the following season.
What makes Monza so unique for the engineers and drivers?
FG: Monza is a real test for the engineers and drivers because it is the ultimate compromise in speed and aero balance for the car. That is unique in F1 these days. It will be interesting to see how they rise to the challenge. We go there in a difficult position as we are not the fastest in a straight line. But we will push to the maximum, matching the passion and spirit we see off the track from the fans, with our usual determination on it. We have to dig in and make sure we are in the best position possible for when our luck changes.
Monza is the end of the European leg of the season. Will the flyaways suit the E22 more?
FG: Singapore should be better for us as the power disadvantage will not be so pronounced. Sochi will be a big unknown for everybody and Suzuka, although having some long straights, also rewards a good set-up and good aero.
After Spa, have the aims and objectives changed at all for the second half of the season?
FG: No. We stated that for the second half we will strive to make the most of the E22 and to add to the points tally right up until Abu Dhabi in November. The team is fully focused on ensuring that we get some reward from 2014 which has been challenging for many reasons. Naturally in F1 you are always thinking ahead and we have already started on the 2015 project but we have the resources to do both concurrently. There is plenty to look forward to for the short and long term at Enstone.
How much of a challenge is Monza for the engineers?
Nick Chester: It is quite challenging because it is such a low downforce circuit. It is difficult to get grip in the car and for the drivers to feel comfortable - so working on the car set-up is key. We will also focus on the braking so Romain and Pastor can make gains on the entries to the chicanes and generally feel more comfortable in feeling where the limits are. We have more aero parts to take to Italy which we will try on the Friday free practice sessions. We will have a low-drag rear wing for Monza that is circuit-specific and as a result the skinniest we will run all season. It is all about meeting the low downforce challenge.
What would a current generation car be like if used on the old Monza banking?
NC: In actual fact, it would probably be very dull because of the amount of downforce these days which would mean the car would be like on rails, glued to the track with no sliding at all. The old Monza banking is really bumpy - and I believe that it was bumpy even back in the days it was used. Cars used to break springs regularly and so a modern car just wouldn't survive on it from a vehicle dynamic perspective.
How fast could the latest generation F1 cars be on the Monza straight?
NC: It will depend on the downforce and drag levels that the teams will run but I expect it will be higher than last year. It might be possible to achieve 360kph on the straight, depending if the car is getting a tow with DRS.
Neither car made it to the end of the race in Belgium - is there any further insight into what went wrong?
NC: As we suspected, it was an exhaust failure for Pastor and we have identified the area of the exhaust that broke so that has been updated for Monza. For Romain, the aero imbalance he experienced was due to an issue with the rear wing mounting mid-race. He did have a few excursions off circuit so we had loadings that you would not normally see which we think contributed to this.
Are there any specific mechanical ways in clawing back any power disadvantage at a track like Monza?
NC: Not really. If you are trying to improve straight line speed then reduced downforce and drag is the only way, however this means a downforce deficit to the other cars so you would get penalised on the corners, especially the Lesmos and Parabolica.
Do you expect the cars to be more of a handful to drive with the relative lack of downforce in the 2014 spec?
NC: They will be a little bit trickier than last year's car being a bit lighter in downforce and with more torque in the turbo engines so I think the exit of the chicanes can be quite tricky. We have seen in all the cars this year how the cars move under acceleration out of a corner and at Monza which is the circuit where we run the cars in their most slippery configuration, we will see some acrobatics from the drivers as they manage the cars on power at mid-corner and also on the exits.