Cyril Abiteboul, managing director: Going to a new event gives both a buzz and an opportunity. For the race team, it's a chance to take advantage of a more level playing field. One of our core strengths is the ability to adapt quickly and interpret data quickly and efficiently, both of which are key when visiting new tracks. Given our recent results, I don't want to state expectations, but clearly we want to use our ace cards to maximise any opportunities that come our way. In parallel, we need to remain vigilant on all aspects of reliability. As we saw in Canada we are not yet consistent on all fronts so we need to work on this to fully capitalise.
Racing Director Fred Vasseur gets hot under the collar for Baku.
What's your assessment of the Canadian Grand Prix?
Fred Vasseur: It was cold and our performance on track certainly didn't leave us with a warm feeling. It was a difficult weekend; Kevin crashed in FP3 and consequently missed qualifying and we had to retire Jolyon from the race. That's not the sort of race weekends that dreams are made of.
The team has seen two chassis broken in the last two races; what's the impact of this?
FV: It means the crew at the track and the team back at Enstone are kept very busy! It's certainly a challenging schedule with three consecutive street races and we've shown how unsympathetic walls can be. Kevin's Canadian chassis did not get too badly damaged so we'll see it as the spare in Baku. Jolyon's Monaco chassis was rather more damaged so we won't see that one again. This is the nature of motor racing and our composites department is being kept busy. Fortunately neither driver suffered any ill from either of their impacts which illustrates the strength of the modern Formula 1 car.
Has performance been to expectation?
FV: We knew we weren't going to set the world alight given the late start to this project and we are in Formula 1 for the long term. That said, we certainly haven't seen the results go our way in the last few races. In order to get the results we need to finish, that's one thing. And in order to extract the maximum performance from the car we have we need to have a smooth run over the weekend. It's true we haven't seen that in the last few races. On the positive side, we've seen the potential of the B specification power unit and we have been making progress with the car. We have a decent amount of upgrades being worked on at our factories and we're looking to extract the maximum from every opportunity. We're all highly motivated.
What do you want to see in Baku?
FV: After the cold of Canada I'm looking forward to seeing the sun! Warm temperatures will not only put a smile on our faces, they should also help our car to work better with the tyres which is an essential ingredient to a race weekend. It would be good to have a race weekend without a broken chassis and what we really would like is some points. That's what we're aiming for.
Technical director Nick Chester looks forward to visiting the land of fire.
What can we do to prepare for a new circuit?
Nick Chester: We use a map of the circuit and overlay a racing line and from there we perform all our simulations for downforce and drag levels. From this we can calculate some elements for set-up.
We also usually receive track surface information from Pirelli who do a ranking of what the surface is like in terms of macro and micro roughness, which also helps our understanding of how the tyres will work.
What are the particular challenges of Baku?
NC: It looks a very power-sensitive track with a lot of sharp corners and then decent straights, particularly the long one leading back to the start/finish line. Traction will also be very important out of the slower speed corners. We will discover the track in real time for the first time during our trackwalk on Thursday and see if there are any bumps and kerbs to look out for.
Where are we with our hunger for chassis?
NC: Indeed, we have been a bit hungry… Kevin's chassis was damaged on Saturday morning in Canada and came back to the UK on Monday for repair. We are reviewing the damage but I am sure we will see it again for race action later in the season.
How do you assess how extensive the damage is?
NC: A visual assessment is a first stop, but beyond that we use a process called ultrasonic testing (NDT), which shows precisely which parts might have de-bonded, to enable us to determine how extensive the damage is and if it can be repaired or consigned to recycling.
Why did we struggle in Canada?
NC: We struggled making the tyres work in the very cool track temperatures; we struggled a bit in low speed corners and Kevin didn't get a great run in the race, unfortunately. Jolyon was also unfortunate as he suffered from a water leak. We've identified what caused this and are doing everything possible to ensure we don't see a repeat of this. It was a real shame for Jolyon as he was happy with his car and should have gone well.
What are the positives heading to Baku?
NC: The weather forecast is good for Baku with hot temperatures so we shouldn't face as much of a challenge getting the tyres into the temperature operating range. That said, it's a new surface where there will be a lot of evolution over the weekend so we'll have our work cut out nevertheless. There are a lot of walls we will want to stay clear of, that's for sure! A new venue offers new opportunities. We have a strong baseline set-up and both cars have the B specification power unit so we're certainly looking forward to getting stuck in.