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Sochi Q&A with Gastaldi and Chester


Deputy Team Principal Federico Gastaldi and Technical Director Nick Chester (pictured) look ahead to the Russian Grand Prix.

Sochi has plenty of unknowns for the drivers and teams. What are you looking forward to this weekend?
Federico Gastaldi: Everything! It is a brand new adventure for F1 and an exciting one. F1 is a global spectacle and to be at the first race in Russia will be a great experience for us all. Most important will be to meet and engage with the fans and to ensure they take F1 to their hearts. We have a very good Russian Formula 1 driver in the sport with Daniil Kvyat and at Enstone we had the first ever Russian F1 driver - our friend Vitaly Petrov. It will be nice to see him again and to get his thoughts on how his fellow countrymen will embrace our sport more.

Do you see Russia as an important market for F1 in the future?
FG: Absolutely. We should be racing in the world's biggest country. We have seen over the last 20 years or so, since the change from the Soviet Union, that the opportunities there are huge. The rapid expansion of the economy and the many big sporting events that are being held here over the next decade will make for great momentum in commercial opportunities. At Lotus F1 Team we are always investigating new markets and looking to expand the F1 experience for new audiences.

We are racing around an Olympic venue this weekend. F1 and the Olympics are two of the world's biggest sporting attractions. Do you think there could be more events like this?
FG: Well, for sure there are parallels, in that the occasions are massive and attract huge companies and brands. That can only be healthy for F1. It is something that the sport as a whole and the teams involved need to maximise all the time. There is so much in F1 that is attractive to big brands. The technology and efficiency of the cars this year is genuinely exciting for the future of the sport, so we need to promote it as far and as wide as possible. Ultimately though, I think F1 has been strong in having a good relationship with the Olympic philosophy because we have a race at Montreal where the Olympic rowing was held in 1976 and also the Barcelona track was built just before the 1992 Olympics, so there is a nice legacy there.

How do you summarise the Suzuka weekend?
FG: Of course it was difficult for everyone because of the freak incident that befell Jules. It leaves a big cloud over everything. As a team we really wish him all the best for the coming days and weeks and we all hope for a positive outcome. Before that, it was difficult to draw real conclusions because of the difficult conditions. I must say that both drivers did very well, especially as visibility from the spray was so bad.

On another day we could have got points, but we got another double finish and after the circumstances of the race this was something positive.

How do you judge the FIA's calls on safety cars and red flags during the race?
FG: It is a hugely difficult job to have and anyone can be an expert with the benefit of hindsight. I must say I thought they got it right in the way the safety cars and the race suspension played out. Initially it was obvious that it was just too wet but they did the sensible thing to have a good number of laps behind the safety car. Later when the rain returned it was starting to get bad again and then obviously it was completely the correct decision to red flag it when the serious incident occurred. As a sport we will always look for lessons to be learnt, especially after there has been a serious incident, but overall I think they did a good job under very demanding and stressful conditions.

Are the building blocks for 2015 continuing to fall in to place for the team?
FG: Yes, there is plenty going on behind the scenes which are positive for 2015. I keep saying that we still have opportunities for more points this season which we must focus on but at the same time we are pushing hard for next season. It looks exciting and we are working toward re-gaining our position further up the grid. Everyone at Enstone is massively concentrated and motivated on making this happen.

What would you describe as the main challenges of Sochi Autodrom?
Nick Chester: We will of course only properly identify the challenges once we are actually in Sochi however we already have initial feedback from both Romain and Pastor who have been in the simulator. Turn 3 is a long and quite high speed corner that will present a good challenge. Braking down into Turn 13 will be very severe and you come out of the kink before you brake so it will be a difficult corner to get right. Overall, the whole track looks quite technical, so it certainly will be a challenging one for the drivers.

What type of car set-up and downforce levels do we expect for Sochi?
NC: It looks like a high downforce circuit as most corner speeds are between 80 and 140kph. I would say that setup will probably be similar to Singapore although there are a couple of straights that are longer in Sochi so downforce levels will be between Singapore and Suzuka.

The circuit seems to have little in the way of run off; what challenges does that throw up for the team?
NC: The main challenges really on these types of circuits are for the drivers. They will have to learn the track pretty rapidly to feel comfortable with its configuration and concentrate at all times during the lap. We all know the penalties of a short run-off when it's a new track with uncertain grip levels.

Are there any climate challenges?
NC: The information we have is that the weather can be quite unusual in Sochi as you have the mountains on one side and the sea on the other. We can expect mild temperatures of about 20C during the day and 12C at night, the average in that region in October. Early forecast indicates that there are reasonable chances of rain.

Pastor and Romain have both previewed the circuit in our simulator. How useful was it for them to have had a first taste of the new track?
NC: The simulator is a valuable asset and one which enables the drivers to be very quickly up to speed when they take to the track for the first time. They will know how one corner flows into another, which line to take and have an initial idea about braking points. It might mean that they get their lap times down three or four laps earlier than they normally would. Overall it gives them a head start in FP1.

What type of preparations does the team do before visiting a new circuit?
NC: How useful is it to do preparation work in the simulator? Before we had a simulator, when we had a new circuit like this we would estimate the racing line through the corner to do initial simulations. With a simulator, once the driver has completed a few laps you have a more accurate racing line, which enables us to create a far more accurate simulation model. This assists the trackside engineers to prepare an initial baseline set-up which once again saves time at the track.

How did we prepare to take the team to a new venue?
NC: It's important to have a good environment for everyone to be able to perform on track, so we liaise with the organisers and our partners to ensure we have suitable office space and telecommunications links back to Enstone. It's amazing the amount of data which is processed over the course of a race weekend, so we have to be able to house all of the team as well as all the equipment involved. There's a lot of forward planning behind the scenes to ensure the smooth running of any event, and especially if it's a new one.

What were the performance considerations for the team in Suzuka?
NC: It was an usual weekend in terms of performance. We looked to have good potential on the Friday, then we couldn't match our goals on Saturday. Then in the very difficult conditions of race day we put in some pretty respectable laps over the course of the race. It was a tough event in terms of strategy, but both drivers we able to get some good stints and make good gains. It was another race weekend where we learnt a lot.


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