After quite some season for the Enstone outfit, Team Principal Eric Boullier looks forward to the final race of 2013.
It's been quite some year; how are you approaching the final race of 2013?
Eric Boullier: It's the 'Last Chance Saloon' to score points and we want every single one we can get. We head to the race in fourth position in the Constructors' Championship but with third still mathematically possible. You never know what can happen in this sport, so we're going all out to score everything we can.
What do you think of Interlagos?
EB: If you look back over the years we have seen some fantastic races at Interlagos and the fans are always very enthusiastic. The circuit is unique and it seems to always deliver something special. We hope we can offer something to all the teams' fans to end the season on a high.
What was the Team Principal's opinion of the weekend in Austin?
EB: Well, we were certainly kept busy! Even though it's only the second time we have visited the venue it was a really popular event. From a team perspective, we had to get everything ready for Heikki to join us at short notice and to ensure that we gave him the best opportunity possible to perform. He did a great job over the weekend and kept focused even when there were problems in the race. Over on the other side of the garage, Romain delivered one of his best Grand Prix performances to beat one of the Red Bulls on track and take second position. We really couldn't have asked more of him.
What have been the highlights of the year?
EB: There have been many highlights. Winning the opening race of the season was a fantastic accomplishment; especially compared to the previous season where we'd looked close to victory but kept having it slip out of our fingers until we finally nailed it in Abu Dhabi. This year the E21 has been such a superb car and a testament to the hard work of everyone at Enstone. We've been able to sustain our pace and development and were also able to adapt well to the mid-season tyre changes; allowing us to keep punching above our weight relative to the opposition, which has been exceptionally satisfying. Our recent run of podium finishes really shows what a fantastic group of people exist at Enstone. To have been able to produce and develop such a car under conditions that are not always perfect is a great achievement. Finally, one of the definite highlights has been how Romain has matured as a Formula 1 driver. He keeps delivering exactly what we want from him and is really a force to be reckoned with against anyone on the grid.
What's the latest news about Kimi?
EB: We know he's had his operation and that it went successfully, so that's great to hear. He now has a process of recovery; for which everyone at Enstone wishes him well.
What happens next for the team?
EB: After Brazil there will be a little bit of time to celebrate our performance this season and to thank everyone in the team - both on track and back at Enstone - for putting in such dedicated efforts this year. Then of course our focus will be fully turned to 2014. Our car for this monumental change to the regulations has been something we've been working on for around two years now. So much of our recent investment at Enstone - our improved CFD facility, our 60% wind tunnel, our gearbox dyno and our simulator - have been commissioned with the knowledge that there is the immense challenge of building the 2014 car. We hope to be able to be fighting at the front again once the new season gets underway.
As Lotus F1 Team prepares for its final race with the E21 - and also the V8 engine - Trackside Operations Director Alan Permane looks at the team's potential to end the season on high.
What do we think about Interlagos?
Alan Permane: It's quite a tough track for drivers. It runs anti-clockwise with some pretty quick left-hand corners, so drivers certainly know that they are racing there! We wouldn't be surprised to see the occasional helmet pad making an appearance to help the drivers' necks. Engineering-wise, it's a circuit where we can see quite a lot of track evolution over the course of the weekend so you're trying to set the car up for a somewhat moving target. Historically, the circuit can get quite bumpy which adds an extra feature for consideration. The most recent resurfacing addressed this well, but every year the surface can be just a little bit different.
What's needed from the car?
AP: Downforce levels are a little bit lighter than in Texas or Abu Dhabi; particularly to maintain top speed on the long straight. This is something we're paying extra attention to this year, as there's now a second DRS zone on the straight. Being quick in the twisty bits but slower on the straight might produce a quicker lap for a car on its own, but as there aren't so many overtaking opportunities at other parts of the circuit it would make the driver a sitting target in race conditions. Last year there wasn't a DRS zone on the straight so we will revise our approach to setup accordingly. Anything requiring top speed of course relies on engine power, so we're working closely with Renault to ensure we can extract every last bit of horsepower in the most appropriate fashion for the final outing with the V8s; with the added challenge of the thinner, higher altitude air to contend with. Elsewhere there are some pretty quick corners so extra front wing is a consideration to balance the car. Turns four, five, six, ten and eleven are all challenging. In fact, there's a lot of challenging corners here! You also need strong change of direction for the low speed turns eight and nine where good traction is required on exit.
It makes for an interesting race, come rain or shine?
AP: The weather is always a consideration in Interlagos. Sao Paulo can offer anything from blazing sunshine to torrential rain which has to be taken into account, so we'll have our eyes glued to the radar all weekend. The weather forecast we have currently suggests the chance of rain on Friday with the rest of the weekend being dry; albeit with rather cool temperatures of under 20 degrees C. This means we will have our work cut out to harness the potential of Pirelli's ultra-conservative hard and medium compound tyre allocation. This could mean that we see two or three laps required from a qualifying run to get the maximum performance from the tyre, which adds a different dimension on Saturday.
Happy with the driver line-up?
AP: With Romain you couldn't ask for more at the moment; he really is a driver who is delivering at the top of his game. Heikki joined the team at short notice and impressed with his immediate pace. Qualifying in the top ten was a really strong performance and his lack of pace in the race was due to factors outside of his control. He lost a huge chunk of performance from his front wing which is something we'll investigate fully once our freight and personnel land in Brazil. We've identified the KERS problem he also suffered from in the race, so we're hopeful of a strong end to the season from both drivers to give the E21 the sendoff it deserves.