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Q&A with Boullier and Allison

NEWS STORY
17/04/2012

Frustration has been the theme of the season so far for Team Principal Eric Boullier; but behind that is a strong belief in what we could achieve.

Eric, what is your view on the Chinese GP?
Eric Boullier: It was a tough weekend for us. It started right from the free practice sessions, when our new aerodynamic package did not perform 100% as expected. Because the track time is always very limited during a Grand Prix weekend and because we did not know if the situation was the result of the low temperatures or a problem with the package itself, we took the decision to go for a compromise between the new parts and our older configuration after Friday. We then probably lost performance in comparison to our rivals. We made it to Q3 without any problem, but then the race did not develop as expected. Kimi put on a strong performance, but our strategy did not allow him to get onto the podium. We still believe that a two stop plan was good for us but in retrospect, we stopped him slightly too early after his second stint. That was a real shame. Romain on the other hand has been able to put his bad luck behind him. He finished sixth and could have been even higher. Also, his fight against Pastor Maldonado was great to watch, although maybe a bit stressful from the pitwall!

What's your mood, then, ahead of Bahrain?
EB: I spoke about frustration before China and I think this is what I feel the most at the moment. We've only been scoring with one car in the first three races. When you look at the classification in Shanghai, McLaren, Red Bull, Sauber and Williams all had both their drivers in the top ten. This is really what we should be aiming for in Bahrain. I believe the Constructors' Championship classification does not reflect our true level of performance. Ten laps before the end of the race in China, we were still 2nd and 6th, and looking quite strong. We need to keep this level of performance until the chequered flag.

Any positives?
EB: Of course, there are some. Kimi's position on the grid was his best so far, and there are more developments to be added to the car soon. Also, despite some tricky conditions and a track that was not supposed to suit the E20, we managed to fight at the top once again. We were well beaten by Mercedes in China and McLaren have a little bit on us still, but we have a car that can compete for podiums. We just have to make sure that we don't miss any opportunities.

Kimi and Romain have both lost places during pitstops since the beginning of the season. Is it a concern?
EB: We know where the problem is coming from. Our guys have little to do with it. In order to improve our pitstops, we'll have to re-design and manufacture some parts of our equipment. This won't be ready for Bahrain but we will make a step forward in Barcelona for sure.

The expectations for Bahain are clear, then...
EB: Yes. I would say these expectations are a copy and paste from China. Our aim will be to have a trouble-free weekend and show what we can do with the E20. This is the minimum, and unlike what happened at each of the first three races, there should not be any rain to make our life difficult in Bahrain! Having both cars in the top ten would be a nice improvement. Our potential is plain to see. I don't like being in 6th position in the Constructors' Championship, but we should not remain there for too long!

Technical Director James Allison may have had a trying weekend in China, but things are not always as they seem in Formula 1, and there may yet be a few surprises in Bahrain...

What are your thoughts after the Chinese Grand Prix?
James Allison: I'm sure people are going to get bored of us saying 'so near, yet so far' or 'if only' or 'it's going to come good'. But nevertheless this weekend just reinforces the feeling we've had in the first two races, that there is a lot of goodness that will come this season with this car. We are going to start scoring points in a decent way very soon. We were very, very close to it in China and although we didn't quite make it stick, we chose the right strategy for the day and we very nearly turned it into an excellent result. The only thing that undid us I think was probably not going quite long enough in the second stint with Kimi, which left him with just a little bit too much to do at the end. There are good positives to take, though. Both cars were well balanced throughout the race. Both drivers were competitive. We were well beaten by Mercedes. But so was everyone else.

Why weren't you able to get a handle on the upgrade package taken to China?
JA: We weren't able to unlock the pace we thought we brought with the upgrades and that was frustrating. It was very awkward weekend and not just for us. We were dealing with a tyre that was just popping in and out of the edge of its operating window from a temperature point of view. That made it ever-so-hard to make coherent decisions about whether what you had done to the car was a good thing or a bad thing. That was confusing for us, but we pulled everything reasonably back together. The car was very well balanced in the race. You could see from Romain's results that it ran its tyres very nicely. You could also see from Kimi's first stint, where he was right on Button's bumper for the whole of that stint, that our wear and degradation on the option was strong. We very nearly made a two-stop race stick for a strong result.

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