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The final two European races of the season have been tough going for Lotus F1 Team, with one car exiting the Belgian Grand Prix in an incident which left driver Romain Grosjean banned for the subsequent race in Italy; a race where the team weren't able to display the pace they hitherto have done so this season. No cause for alarm says Team Principal Eric Boullier.
Monza looked like a tough race for the team...Eric Boullier: It's been the toughest so far, yes, but we were expecting it. The whole weekend was about damage limitation and Kimi has once again extracted 100% from the car. As a result, we were not really disappointed with fifth position, as it was the best result we could hope for. Actually, it felt quite strange not to head to the podium at the end of the race, which says a lot about our mindset at present! Things change so quickly in Formula 1. One year ago, we would have been very happy with 5th. This year, we're talking about the toughest race of the season...
Will the team be able to clinch another podium this weekend?EB: There's no reason to think that a podium will be out of reach. We've been quite competitive on twisty circuits this year and Singapore shares a lot of Monaco and Valencia's characteristics. Romain loves that type of circuit, while Kimi has always been quick in Singapore; even if he hasn't had the best of luck during the races themselves. It will be an interesting weekend.
Will you use the aerodynamic device that was supposed to be raced in Belgium?EB: No. It would not suit the track's characteristics. This system should be back in Japan. That said, we have a few upgrades scheduled for Singapore and they should bring some extra performance. Also, I'm very happy with how we've improved our pitstops this season. We broke our all-time record in Monza with 2.44 seconds, but most importantly all of our pitstops were consistent. This was not by chance; the whole team put a lot of effort in and, as you know, such a step forward can have a massive impact on the outcome of a race.
How is Romain?EB: He's in good spirits. Monza was tough for him, but there are also some positives to take from this experience. For example, Romain has followed Kimi's weekend quite closely and I'm sure that he has noticed a few useful tricks. Now, the situation is back to normal and I hope we can put this story behind us.
Were you happy with Jerome's showing in Italy?EB: Replacing Romain at such a short notice was always going to be difficult - as it would have been for any driver - but Jerome gave it his best shot and I was impressed by his pace, especially on the option tyre during the second part of the race. At that moment, his lap times were really competitive. Unfortunately he lost his KERS on lap 6 and this had a big impact on his race. Our simulations showed that he lost around 25 seconds because of that.
The team lost third position in the Constructors' Championship; is that a worry?EB: Not really. We've always said that fourth was our goal this year but looking at our pace, it would be legitimate to try and have a go at third if we can. The pack is so tight that anything is possible. We just need to score points - consistently and with both cars - until the end of the season.
Can Kimi have a go at the Drivers' title?EB: Of course he can. He's currently third, one point away from Lewis Hamilton. Anything can happen. We're not naive though, and we know that his chances are slim. However, we'll push like hell as long as there is a mathematical chance of winning it.
Spa may not have delivered the performance that the team wanted, and the characteristics of Monza may have made it unlikely for our cars to be seen fighting at the front, but Singapore is rather different and should play back into the hands of the E20, says Technical Director James Allison.
The team struggled for pace in Monza; why was this?James Allison: We weren't as competitive at Monza as we have been for most of this season, but I don't think this represents the beginning of any bad trend; it just reflects something of the particular nature of Monza. In common with Spa, the tyre allocation from Pirelli was conservative on two fronts; namely the combination of a harder compound rubber than we would have anticipated and a construction which is different from that used at the other tracks we've visited. Combine those two factors and we weren't able to play our usual trump card, which has been better tyre management in the race. Both Monza and Spa could be comfortably completed with a one stop strategy, or even conceivably with no stops if the rules allowed it. This means we couldn't enjoy our traditional advantage. Happily the tyre allocation reverts to the previous policy from Singapore onwards.
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