Lotus F1 Team Deputy Team Principal Federico Gastaldi explains the team's resilient focus for fight back to where it belongs.
How do you view completing the season under the lights at Abu Dhabi?
Federico Gastaldi: I think it is a great place to sign off. Obviously with the Drivers' title still up for grabs it will be exciting at the very front to see who can win what has been a great battle. The ambience of the track and the surrounding area is excellent and it is a venue which is now well established on the calendar. The track is interesting with lots of different challenges. With the race going in to the evening, the lights and atmosphere make it a very distinctive event and a good one commercially for the sport with lots of celebrities and partner guests enjoying the weekend.
A long season comes to an end at Yas Marina. How do you look back over the last eight months?
FG: We could write a book on it all! There is no point glossing over the truth. It has been very challenging and tough for everyone in the team. We started several steps behind where we should have been and it's remained a battle to get back to where we should be. We saw some glimpses of potential like Barcelona, Monaco and Austin but ultimately this team needs much more. Ultimately, what the season has done is galvanise our ambition and determination to succeed in 2015. We have modified several key aspects in the technical package to make sure we are in the best position to return to the sharp end of the grid. We know we have the people and the desire. Therefore, we go in to the winter with real determination to be a force once again.
There was more action off the track in Brazil with regard to the structure of the sport. Is Lotus F1 Team playing a pivotal role in discussions?
FG: I would say that the discussions we had at Interlagos were an extension of what we talked about in Austin. Everyone knows that the situation is not good for the sport and that the fans, TV companies, and commercial partners need a strong and healthy grid of participants for the future. It is of course a complex subject, but ultimately any business, whether it be sporting or not, needs to have stability within its members. Gerard (Lopez) got some very supportive comments from the fans and media for what he said after Austin. I had discussions with many parties at Interlagos and some were positive and constructive. But what we need to see is progressive action.
It is the end of a long, hard season but the factory is still buzzing. What can we look forward to over the winter?
FG: A lot of hard work that is for sure. We will leave no stone unturned going in to 2015. The pain of 2014 will only inspire us to make sure it does not happen again. For the race teams there will of course be some time to refresh, but straight away we will all be back at the factory and pushing the limit for 2015. There will be a lot of work packaging the new Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrain unit as well as the other production, build and then testing and development phases. It will be an exciting time and a genuine fresh page in the history of the team.
This will be the final race with Renault power. How will you remember the partnership with Enstone which stretches back nearly twenty years?
FG: I think that everyone associated with the team will recall the great days of 1995 and then again in 2005 and 2006 when the titles were won with Michael (Schumacher) and Fernando (Alonso). Renault Sport has been valued partners and we shared an intricate and evolving partnership. All good things come to an end, as they say, and for 2015 we go our separate ways. As with any long-term partnership there were good and bad times. We have many friends at Renault Sport for we genuinely thank them for their expertise during a very long association.
Lotus F1 Team Technical Director Nick Chester is looking for a positive end to the 2014 season in Abu Dhabi.
The team has good memories of Abu Dhabi, what kind of performance can we expect at the 2014 season finale?
Nick Chester: We would really like to be fighting for points with both cars. We made good progress in Austin and we should be nearer to that level of relative performance than we were in Interlagos where we knew we would face a challenge due to the nature of the track. For Abu Dhabi we believe that the E22 should perform quite well, particularly on the soft and super soft tyres. Yas Marina is a circuit where we've performed well in the past so we'd certainly like to end what has been a very tough season with a positive finish.
How does the drop in temperature affect the car as day turns to night at Abu Dhabi?
NC: It can be quite tricky to manage that aspect as we can't influence the change in track temperature. However, we know what the trend will be and we will balance the car toward mid-race temperatures and come up with a medium set-up to cover the 55 laps. It may also affect our strategy choice for how many laps we run on each set of tyres.
What are your thoughts about the tyre selection for Abu Dhabi?
NC: The tyre selection for this last Grand Prix will make for an interesting race, with perhaps one more stop than if Pirelli had brought the medium and soft compounds. What's certain is that it gives everyone a few more possibilities.
Good change of direction is one of the keys to a good lap at Abu Dhabi with the succession of quick and medium speed corners. What aspects of the car can be focused on to ensure this is achieved?
NC: A good change of direction is something that's always required in a car regardless of the circuit specifics, although some circuits highlight a deficiency more than others. Where it can be difficult is to be able to achieve a good change in direction without compromising control of the car in other parts of the circuit, for example making the car too nervous on braking or too nervous in high speed corners. We will be working to get a good change of direction, however not at the expense of some of the other areas on the track. We will work on aero and mechanical set-up to get there.
Are we planning to test any specific 2015 developments you can talk about during the free practice sessions?
NC: We will carry on our programme which is geared towards next year. We're looking at evaluating a new steering wheel with a larger display and there will be some bodywork changes that the eagle-eyed might notice.
We didn't come away with points from Interlagos, what were the main challenges we faced during the race?
NC: The main challenges for us - and indeed for most of the teams - were to manage the tyre wear and degradation. As a result, we could see a few different strategies during the race. It would have been interesting to see what Romain would have done had he been able to finish the race. As he went onto the soft tyres he was lapping quite quickly but then he had an ignition issue with the Power Unit. Pastor drove pretty well to go from eighteenth to twelfth. In his second stint, which was his first stint on the medium compound, he unfortunately blistered the tyres. Had he not, then he might have been in a position to finish further up.
It will be the final race with Renault power at Abu Dhabi. What are your best personal memories of working with them over the years?
NC: There are many memories having worked with Renault for twenty years. For me, working as part of the race team winning the Monaco Grand Prix with Jarno Trulli in 2004 and then winning the 2005 and 2006 Championships with Fernando. There have been many good times with Renault and we have enjoyed working with them.