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Lotus' Mexican GP preview with Gastaldi and Chester


Deputy Team Principal Federico Gastaldi looks to Formula 1's return to a highly popular venue with the Mexican Grand Prix.

What are your expectations for the Mexican Grand Prix?
Federico Gastaldi: I am expecting a fantastic event! I've seen the work that has gone on behind the scenes and I know the passion and enthusiasm there is for Formula 1 in Mexico. It's a great country and a superb city with warm and welcoming people. We've been away from Mexico too long; it's going to be fantastic to be back.

What's the team's history in Mexico?
FG: Once upon a time we were called Benetton and we scored our first Formula 1 victory in Mexico in 1986 with Gerhard Berger. It was Gerhard's first Grand Prix win, and interestingly he went on to score his and Benetton's final Grand Prix win eleven years later, although that win was in Germany!

What are your reflections on the United States Grand Prix?
FG: I am still drying my socks! It was an incredible build-up to what turned out to be a fabulous race. I can't remember ever seeing so much rain as we did on Saturday. It's a testament to all the professionalism of everyone at COTA and in Austin that everything was able to run as smoothly as it did despite the very challenging conditions. For us as a team it was good to see Pastor score points for the third consecutive race, but it was unfortunate that Romain's race was effectively ended at the corner thanks to over-exuberance from another driver.

As a former Grand Prix promoter what are your thoughts when you experience extreme weather like we saw in Austin?
FG: Certainly Hurricane Patricia unleashed a lot of water and could blow with some force too. You can't change the weather but it's definitely not something you'd want. I think the race itself was fantastic and quite some reward for the loyal fans who attended despite the weather. The conditions certainly gave everyone something new to work around, but we all got there. It was a weekend we're remember for quite some time.

How tight a turnaround is it for the team heading to Mexico?
FG: Fortunately the distance involved is pretty short and the timezones are very similar so it's not as difficult as it could be. The second event of a back-to-back race combination does have less time to prepare, but everyone involved is professional and knows their jobs so we're not expecting any surprises.

Would you like to see further races in the Americas?
FG: There's a balance between how many races we want to have during the course of a season and all the amazing venues we'd love to visit around the world. On a personal level I'd love to see Formula 1 return to Argentina and I know it would get a fantastic response there.

Can you give some insight into the selection process for Jolyon Palmer as race driver for the team in 2016?
FG: Jolyon's a talented driver and a very balanced and measured young man, smart and focused both on track and out of the car. He's done everything we've asked of him in his FP1 sessions during the course of 2015 and we've seen that he has a strong future ahead of him in Formula 1. Next year will be his rookie season, but we've every confidence that he will deliver on track and complete a strong pairing with Pastor.

How many other pieces need to fall into place for the team for 2016?
FG: We're working hard behind the scenes and we'll have some good strong and positive announcements to make in due course.

Technical Director Nick Chester considers the challenges presented by the return of the Mexican Grand Prix at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez.

What are the technical and engineering challenges of the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez?
Nick Chester: There's one very notable factor about the location of the Mexican Grand Prix and that's the altitude. Mexico City is located at over 2200 metres and surrounded by mountains, some over 5000 metres. The altitude of the track means less dense air. Previously, with naturally aspirated engines, the air density would make quite a difference to engine power, but turbo-charged engines are less affected by this due to their forced induction. The current generation Formula 1 cars also have electrical power deployment, with the energy recovery and subsequent deployment not susceptible to air density variation. The altitude isn't only relevant to engine performance however, there is also cooling and aerodynamics to consider. The less dense air provides less downforce and drag than we would produce at sea level. Because of this we could see some pretty fruity speeds along the start-finish straight. Less dense air also means you can't cool everything you want to be cooled as well as would be the case at lower ground levels.

How do you approach a new circuit?
NC: We get a good set of information relating to layout which we can start producing simulations from. This gives us an idea of a baseline start set-up and downforce levels. Pirelli do their track surface analysis which gives us an idea of how much energy will be put through the tyres from the surface itself once Pirelli have chosen their allocation – which is medium and soft once more for this weekend. Once we get to the track itself we can get out and have a good look at things like kerb heights, specific bumps, camber and other elements. Once we've done all that, it's up to Pastor and Romain to jump in their cars and get out there.

Should the layout suit the E23 Hybrid?
NC: The start-finish straight is of a decent length which should allow the E23 to stretch its legs pretty well, then there's a nice mix of different corner types over what is a relatively short track. The track is likely to be quite low grip and that coupled with reduced downforce due to altitude and a relatively conservative tyre compound selection will provide a challenge for getting the tyres in their working temperature range.

What other factors are relevant for this weekend?
NC: It looks like there's a decent chance of rain again. This will make things very interesting as drivers and engineers could find themselves trying to learn a new venue with the moving target of a wet track. A wet track is a pain for finding car set-up at the best of times, but on a new track this difficulty is compounded. It's a new track surface so we'd expect the surface to be slippery event when dry. Add in potential rainfall and the oils which usually emanate from a new surface and we might have to approach the initial sessions pretty gingerly.

A topic for a few teams at the moment; what are the considerations regarding changing engine supplier when looking at development for next year's car?
NC: We have experience of this as we changed manufacturer for this season. It is a big change but any change for 2016 is still to the same regulations. When we changed from the naturally aspirated V8s to the current V6 turbo configuration it was a substantial difference. With the current regulations maturing both the engine manufacturers and teams know more of what's needed in terms of installation and cooling etc. Certainly for any team having a late call on engine change it's a pretty intense timeframe for next year, but no-one ever said Formula 1 was easy.


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