Deputy Team Principal Federico Gastaldi looks to the Austrian Grand Prix as offering an opportunity for Lotus F1 Team to get some real momentum behind its championship campaign.
What's the team's plan heading to Austria?
Federico Gastaldi: The usual; get out there and score as many points as we can! We'll do this by going as fast as we can to reach the chequered flag before as many as our rivals as possible! Sounds simple, but of course that's what everyone is trying to do. Looking at the circuit and talking to our drivers and engineers it's a place that could suit us so we're feeling quite positive heading there, especially after the E23 showed pretty well in Canada.
What was your impression of the team's performance in Canada?
FG: The Canadian Grand Prix was a reasonable result for us. The car looked pretty strong all weekend and both drivers were happy and able to push. In the race we couldn't show the pace we'd had earlier in the weekend, but we were able to fight in the top ten which is what we all want. It was great to see both drivers score, but that's something we really want at every race. Pastor drove very strongly and did a great job to manage his tyres. He did everything asked from him from the pit wall so we're happy about that. Romain was also having a great race but one small mistake meant he didn't score as well as would otherwise have been possible. He fought back so both cars in the top ten at the chequered flag was a good day for us.
Why has it taken until a few races into the season until both cars scored?
FG: It's been a promising but equally somewhat frustrating start to the season. We've been able to score points, but many times we've been able to see that better could have been possible if everything went to plan. That said, it's our first season with a new Power Unit supplier so we've been learning all the way. I think that we have a lot of potential to come on strong from now on.
How hard is it for the team to keep pushing?
FG: Everyone is pushing hard. When you come to the factory at Enstone you realise how much potential there is and how much everyone is putting into our campaign. If you look at the teams ahead of us you have three very well resourced squads with Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull and then Williams who are in their second year of their Mercedes partnership. We're pushing hard and it's Red Bull who are immediately ahead of us. They've had a stronger start to their season in terms of points scoring than us, but I feel that we've got our early season glitches and bugs out of the way; we should come on strong from here on.
Red Bull have the resource for two Grand Prix teams and a Grand Prix; how do you fight against that?
FG: It's true that most of our rivals ahead of us do have greater resources, but part of the Enstone spirit is being the underdog and prevailing against bigger enemies. We know that Red Bull are ahead of us in the points and will be throwing all their resources at developing their car. We also know we'll be doing everything we can to catch and beat them.
Will the fresh mountain air give the team even more vigour for the Austrian Grand Prix?
FG: It's good to breathe in the fresh and sample the local delicacies. There are some fabulous sights to be seen and last year's event was spectacular and it's great to see what can be done with a strongly promoted event in Europe.
Jolyon has been announced as driving for the next five FP1s - how is his programme going?
FG: The plan with Jolyon has always been for a decent line-up of FP1 sessions through the season and this includes the bulk of the European races. For Jolyon it means he can make real progress in the car and gain a lot of benefit. For Romain, these are circuits he knows very well so it will be the minimum impact for his race weekends. We have a good driver line-up and they work well together. Our engineers are very happy with the feedback given by all three of our drivers.
How are the development drivers faring?
FG: Both Carmen and Adderly have been in the simulator for quite a few days recently. Carmen actually missed the Canadian Grand Prix to get more simulator time and we had Adderly with us at the race. Both have been in the simulator in the build-up to the Austrian Grand Prix and they are making strong progress in their programmes and helping our engineers with the directions that can be taken with development and evolution of the E23.
Technical Director Nick Chester dissects the team's Canadian race weekend and looks ahead to Romain and Pastor pushing for more points at Spielberg.
What's the potential for Lotus F1 Team in Austria?
Nick Chester: There's nothing to say we can't perform as we did in Montréal. It's another medium downforce track with demands for strong traction, efficient aerodynamics and power unit performance. There are a few more medium speed corners than in Canada which changes the requirements a bit and there's every reason to expect the E23 will go pretty well.
Last year was the first time back to the circuit after a rather long interlude; what did we learn?
NC: It had been a long time since we'd visited the circuit and there was a lot to learn in terms of set-up and our approach to a Grand Prix weekend. Particular lessons learnt included that we underestimated the braking requirements and we found it difficult to get the tyres into their optimal temperature operating window. In both regards we're far better placed with the E23.
What was your assessment of the Canadian Grand Prix weekend?
NC: It was a strong weekend, but not a perfect one. As regards the E23 Hybrid, we were pleased with braking performance in terms of getting a fast lap, traction was better than expected and overall car balance was good - the drivers could drive the car with confidence and consistency. In the race itself, we lost out on the first stint, but once we were on the soft tyres both cars were setting lap times comparable with the cars in front; if we'd been able to perform better in the initial stage of the race we'd have been in with a shout of stronger results. This is something we're looking at for future races.
There's been something of a trend for the team to do generally better in the race than in qualifying, yet that seemed to be reversed in Canada?
NC: There's some truth in that and we're spending a lot of time analysing our tyre temperatures to see what lessons can be learnt. Generally our drivers report an understeery car in qualifying but a more balanced car in the race, whereas this time the feedback was more of a well-balanced car in qualifying but some oversteer in the race. It's our task to try to get the optimum for both scenarios. Certainly from the Barcelona test onwards we have made a step forward in understanding and optimising the car. In Monaco we were able to harness the low-speed corner potential and we saw some of this in Montréal where we had a particularly good balance. It's proving to be quite an easy car to set-up and we're continually making improvements.
Is there anything scary on the horizon from the races ahead?
NC: There doesn't seem to be anything to strike fear into the team, in fact the next races present us with a good opportunity to move up the order. Austria should be strong, Silverstone should be good as it's also a power circuit if a little more of a challenge with some of the high speed corners and we went quite well in Barcelona with quite a similar set-up. Budapest should be quite fine as we've shown that we can deal with low speed corners well and traction has been promising. Spa and Monza should also be strong with their power demands. We're showing well on all types of track so we've good confidence for the season ahead.
We've moved into fifth in the Constructors' Championship; what are the targets?
NC: Certainly we want to maintain this position and target any improvement we can get. There's a reasonable gap ahead to fourth, but certainly there's a feeling that we have come on a long way in terms of reliability and understanding of our car after what was a big change for us in terms of Power Unit supplier for this season. We know that Red Bull in fourth position have tremendous resources at their disposal, but we'll be doing everything we can to catch them.
This weekend is the Le Mans 24 Hours race, if the regulations allowed a Formula 1 car to compete how would it fare?
NC: It would be a lot of fun and I'd love the challenge of engineering an F1 car for a 24 hour race. The current engine regulations mean we have an engine and gearbox which could cover the race distance and that certainly wasn't the case in the past. The current F1 car could go in an endurance race such is the performance life of so many of the parts these days. In the past with the V8s and older gearboxes, you wouldn't have the durability. Maybe it's something we should talk to the ACO about...