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Lotus' Singapore GP preview with Gastaldi and Chester


Mid-way through what has been a character-building season, one of the biggest characters in the F1 paddock, Lotus F1 Team Deputy Team Principal Federico Gastaldi urges the team's fans to keep the faith for the future.

There have been some trying times at Enstone of late; what's your appraisal of the current situation?
Federico Gastaldi: They say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I can confirm that the team is very much alive but we have been going through a very strenuous workout programme this season! Things have certainly been tight and we've embraced the Japanese just-in-time philosophy a little too literally on occasions. All this has been necessary but we keep fighting the good fight. We believe in the team; we believe in Formula 1 and we believe we'll still be here fighting for the rest of this season and beyond. Don't believe any of the negative rumours you hear.

Can you talk about the challenge the team faced to get to Monza?
FG: External factors made it something of a challenge getting ready for Monza, but it was a mark of everyone at Enstone that we took it in our stride and we were able to compete over the weekend. I think we need to make particular mention of everyone on the race team, especially our set-up crew who put our Racebase - the home for our engineers and technical personnel - together in record time so we could operate over the weekend. Thanks too for our fellow teams, all of which offered their assistance and of particular note are Ferrari, Sauber and Toro Rosso who lent us tyre blankets for Saturday after the overnight storm had damaged ours.

Looking ahead, how beneficial is it for Formula 1 to visit an important business hub like Singapore?
FG: It is a very important market for us as a team. We have seen increasing attention and interest from Singapore companies and have regular contact with many of them. The business centre of Singapore is one of the best, influential and most active in the world so we undertake lots of meetings and hospitality at the race. I must say the Singapore people have embraced F1 completely. They are passionate about the sport and they are proud to have a race right in the heart of their fantastic country.

There's lots of talk about the financial situation of the team; what can you say?
FG: Everything is under control. Certainly, this is a lean-running year and you wouldn't want to attempt running much leaner. Thankfully we do have some fantastic partners, all of whom understand the situation and are tremendouslysupportive. I need to clarify some misunderstanding too, all our sponsors and partners have paid on time and some even ahead of time. We're certainly a pretty long way from being flush with money - unlike some of our rival teams - but we've done what has been necessary to make the team far more efficient and viable going forward.

Given the background and build-up, how much of a kick was the Monza result?
FG: It was a big stinking race for us, well a short and frustrating one. After all everyone had done to get the cars there, then start from the top ten, we saw the infamous first corner claim both our cars. There was some choice language for a little while after that. Then, we gathered up all the pieces and focused on the next races. There's no time for "what could have been" in motor sport, you get on with the next challenge.

What are your thoughts if Renault were to return as a works team?
FG: It would be fantastic for the sport and a mega-positive note for Enstone to see their return, but until any deal is signed, sealed and delivered we keep focused on our current tasks. It would be a very different project for Enstone and there's been a lot of change over the past few years since they last had a full works team entry. Here in Enstone we're used to adapting and making the most of situations. Certainly we would relish any opportunity to be a works team and welcome them back!

Final thoughts on Singapore?
FG: It is one of the most colourful races - even if it does take place at night! It's always very well organised and a party most becoming to the sport! A fantastic place with a superb race venue, the people are very warm and welcoming; we're always very happy to go there.

Technical Director Nick Chester looks to late nights in Singapore with a reasonable degree of optimism.

What's the outlook for the E23 Hybrid on the streets of Singapore?
Nick Chester: It should be pretty good for us. We've shown the E23 to be pretty capable in low speed corners and over kerbs which is positive. We may not be quite as good as we have been at the medium downforce tracks but there's scope for a good weekend.

What's there to think about when one casts one's mind to the Marina Bay circuit?
NC: There are a lot of walls and not so much run-off meaning there's plenty to think about. You're dealing with very slow speed corners and a lot of kerbs which means many demands on the car. There are many braking points - even though there aren't any high speed stops, the brakes really take a pummelling as they're always being used and they get no time to cool down. Lots of braking means lots of accelerating afterwards, so you need good traction. There's plenty to think about for the drivers and engineers alike.

Looking at the car set-up for Singapore, what are the key elements?
NC: It is a high downforce track, so everybody will be running toward their maximum downforce set-up. Then it really is all about how you manage the mechanical set-up to get the best out of the car in terms of handling the kerbs. Ensuring a good level of grip in the low speed corners is crucial at Marina Bay.

How will the drivers compensate for the relative lack of track temperature in night running?
NC: It will be down to the drivers to report back what the car is doing and let the engineers re-balance the car as the track temperature comes down. With previous years' experience we have a fair idea of what sort of adjustments we need to make. The temperature does fall quite a bit, changing the grip and balance of the car somewhat. As the track temperature comes down the grip difference front to rear can change and make it tricky to get the car balanced following the earlier hotter practice sessions.

Are there any particular challenges that the team face working at night and in the hot temperatures?
NC: The team doesn't seem to find it particularly difficult. In fact, we are finding it reasonably easy, as we stay on European time! Before the very first race there in 2008 we had long discussions on how to prepare for it, as it contrasts so much with any other venue. But in the end it was okay. Singapore is a very popular race on the calendar and everyone in the team always enjoys coming back to this fantastic venue. It has a very vibrant and unique atmosphere which the whole paddock seems to like.

There's been a lot of talk about the tyres recently and Pirelli has announced its latest race allocations - any thoughts on these?
NC: The allocations for the next races are pretty much what we've seen before and expected. For Sochi we go a step softer which should be beneficial for all. It's normal for a tyre supplier to err on the side of caution with a new circuit which is what happened last year for our first visit to Russia so a step softer for this year is not a big surprise. It's a smooth surface so getting the energy into the tyres with the harder compounds can be a challenge.

What was the debrief like after the Italian job?
NC: We were reasonably happy with the performance of the car, the drivers were confident with the balance and performance. Qualifying went reasonably well and although we could have got a little bit more out of it starting eighth and tenth on the grid wasn't bad. It was a real shame to have both drivers taken out and neither accident was the fault of our drivers. We could have had a good run otherwise, on pace we should have been fighting for fifth.


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