Lotus preview the British GP
Fresh from scoring in back-to-back races, Lotus will be looking to continue their good run of form at Silverstone.
Q: How do you like Silverstone?
Romain Grosjean: It’s a fantastic track with a lot of high speed corners. I won there in the GP2 Series in 2011, so I have to say it has fond memories for me. I scored points there in my F1 debut but then for the last couple of years my British Grand Prix hasn’t been so good in terms of results. This means I must be due a good result and we’ll be doing everything we can to ensure a good finish in the points!
Q: Why is Silverstone rated as one of the favourite circuits for many drivers?
RG: Silverstone is challenging, but it has a really good feeling to it. It’s one of the quickest tracks of the year and as drivers we always like to go fast! There are corners which are legendary like the Magotts, Becketts, Chapel complex. It’s quite a feeling going through there and I can’t wait to feel that sensation once more. The whole layout has a really good, fast flow to it and you can really feel your car working hard with the downforce through the fast flowing corners. It’s a happy place to be. It’s also a special Grand Prix for the team as the factory is very close to the track. It’s always nice to see not only the race team, but also some of the many people from the factory come to see us out in action. It’s thanks to all their hard work that we’re out on track and they are all doing an amazing job, always working so hard. It really does have a feeling of a home event.
Q: How is it as a driver visiting the factory?
RG: It’s still a magical experience as you know there are so many people and so many resources just to make two cars that you and your team-mate will race around the world. It’s such a privileged position to be in and everyone at every level in Enstone does an amazing job. This year the team has made a good step back to where we want to be which has been great to see and that’s thanks to all the hard work that goes on at Enstone.
Q: What can be challenging about a Silverstone weekend?
RG: Over the years there’s been quite a bit of wet weather for the British Grand Prix, and this was not so much of a surprise to the Englishmen I’ve spoken to! I have lived quite near to the track so my experience of regularly visiting Enstone means that I know the weather can change quite a lot. An English summer’s day is wonderful, but sometimes you have to look hard to find one! That said, it’s looked pretty good so far this year and there is even talk of something of a heatwave coming to Britain. It’s fantastic to be at Silverstone when the weather is good and the fans are all out so let’s hope that happens.
Q: Were there any frustrations from your time in Austria?
RG: It was a bit of a frustrating one for me. I didn’t finish the race then to add insult to injury, the Austrian weather really mucked me and the team around for the test day! My race retirement was tough to take as we should have scored another good tally of points, but it wasn’t to be. The test day was unusual as there was so much rain in the morning, but the conditions changed a lot for the afternoon so we still completed some useful runs. Every time we go out with the E23 we learn a little bit more with it, and the car is a pleasure to drive so I will start the Silverstone weekend in a very positive mood.
Q: As a culinary connoisseur, what’s your favourite British food?
RG: For me, I really enjoy pea soup with mint and Aberdeen filet.
Q: Points again; tell us about your Austrian Grand Prix…
Pastor Maldonado: It was a good weekend. In the race we made a poor start due to a small issue, but after that I was able to drive a good race. I stayed on the pace of the cars ahead for my first stint, even though I was on the harder tyres, then when I changed to the super softs I was able to push, even though we did a very long stint on those tyres. It was a satisfying race and I was very happy to take seventh position near the end.
Q: How much of a boost does it give you to get two good finishes in from the past two races?
PM: It’s good for me and it’s good for all of the team. It was frustrating for everyone to be pushing so hard with no reward until Canada, so to score in Canada and Austria has been great. Scoring is what we’re all here for so we’ll keep pushing for points at every race.
Q: Where do your tyre management skills come from?
PM: I think there are two factors. Firstly, you soon learn as a racing driver that you have to manage your tyres and if you use up all the performance early on you’ll suffer later. The other thing I think that helps me is listening to my engineers and doing what they tell me. They have far more data than me so are in a better position to make any decisions either before or during a race.
Q: What did you think of that shimmy in the race?
PM: I’ve seen it on TV now and it looked pretty good! It was a great battle but I’m glad I was able to finish ahead of Max Verstappen and take seventh place. We were both pushing hard, though it’s sometimes a little funny when you read the headlines afterwards and then compare it to what you said. I had no real issue with Max’s driving; he was maybe a little over the limit in his defence of position at times but we all do that as racing drivers. If the Stewards watching think the driving was fine then that’s fine by me.
Q: What are your thoughts of the British Grand Prix?
PM: I’ve won at Silverstone in the GP2 Series and I’ve always really liked the circuit. I’ve spent so much time in England that it’s like a second home to me, especially as I have family who live very close to the circuit in Oxfordshire. It’s a great event coming mid-season and it always provides an interesting race. It’s always a very special event for the teams based nearby and the support all drivers get there is amazing with some of the most knowledgeable fans in the world. I’m looking forward to racing just down the road from the Lotus F1 Team factory and seeing many familiar faces over the weekend.
Q: What do you think of Silverstone as a circuit?
PM: I think that Silverstone is an amazing track. It has a great history, it’s fast and the change to the most recent layout hasn’t really changed the nature of the track too much. It’s always a special place to visit and you know that you’re always there for the racing as it’s not on the doorstep of a big city. I have always enjoyed racing at Silverstone since my first visit back in 2007. I also have good memories of it as I have had some great races there, including winning in both 2009 and 2010 in the GP2 Series.
Q: Which parts of the circuit do you like in particular?
PM: My favourite corner is Becketts as it is really quick through there. I think the track will suit our car because it’s similar to Barcelona and it’s also very fun to drive with sections like Maggots and Becketts which really test you as a driver.
Q: What about the feeling of racing somewhere which so many teams call home?
PM: Certainly, it’s home for many, many people who work in the paddock and you do get a special feeling there. The support you get from the fans is amazing; let’s hope the weather is too!
Q: What's great about the British Grand Prix?
Deputy Team Principal Federico Gastaldi: The Great British Grand Prix really is a fantastic event and one which everyone enjoys visiting. For so many people in motorsport Silverstone is like a home from home and has been part of so many of our histories. It's a great circuit which gives drivers and engineers something to think about and the crowd's enthusiasm and knowledge is legendary; we can't wait for the event to start.
Q: What's the outlook from the team for Silverstone?
FG: I think we can do well. We keep showing the pace of the E23 at different tracks and both Romain and Pastor are doing a superb job. Our race weekends are running quite smoothly, and we will arrive off the back of a positive test in Austria. This year we are arriving at each venue very positive of a decent result and Silverstone is no different.
Q: Will racing at home and so close to the factory be an advantage?
FG: First and foremost it is the home event for the factory and we get so much support from our employees and their friends and families. We'll see so many familiar faces in the crowds and speak to so many people over the course of the event. I know that I'll probably lose my voice by the end of the weekend! Logistically, being down the road from the event certainly can make things easier in terms of time, but the planning and logistics are the same as ever, except for at this race some of the crew can sleep in their own beds for once! From a motivation point of view we never lack that, wherever we race. But there is still an added ambience to a race that is on our doorstep. We want to achieve something for everyone at Enstone to have an extra special spring in their step on the Monday after the British Grand Prix.
Q: How much of a 'home' race is this for you personally?
FG: I have spent a lot of my life in the vicinity of Enstone. There's even an Italian restaurant where I eat regularly where the owner and staff all come join me at my table at the end of the evening! There is some beautiful countryside though I must admit that sometimes I expect to see penguins walking down the street as the weather can get so cold compared to Southern Europe or South America! That said, this year looks very promising indeed for a hot race which puts a smile on my face and warms my heart.
Q: How much would you like to see the team retake fifth spot in the Constructor's Championship at Silverstone?
FG: That would be good. Force India jumped us in Austria, but we did get closer to Red Bull in fourth position. We were unfortunate to have to retire Romain but Pastor showed the pace and potential of our package once more. If we get both cars across the finish line in the points we should make good inroads to the gap to those currently ahead of us. There's still over half of the season left to go, so there is plenty of opportunity for us to move forwards. We will be fighting all the way!
Q: The final test day of 2015 has been and gone; how does this impact on the team's development?
FG: It's certainly different this year with no end of season test, but it's the same for everyone. I know from speaking to our technical department that there are still things to come from the car and we will continue to get faster as the season progresses. Certainly, the feedback was positive after the test in Austria so we're looking forward to putting everything into practice for a super Silverstone weekend!
Q: The next race is the team's 'home' event: what impact does this have psychologically and logistically?
Technical Director Nick Chester: Psychologically, the entire team like Silverstone. Having a home Grand Prix on your doorstep is very motivating. It's a good track and it's nice to have it so close to the factory and to people's homes so not everybody stays in a hotel which makes a nice change for them. Logistically, it's also so much easier – being only 45 minutes away from Enstone, we can get everything there and back in no time. It's quite a big advantage.
Q: What are the characteristics of the Silverstone circuit, and how much of a challenge should they present the E23 with?
NC: Silverstone represents a good challenge. The circuit has a lot of high speed corners and also some good low and medium speed corners, a real nice mix. It also presents reasonable straights meaning that there is a power sensitivity to Silverstone as well. It's a real challenge with the different characteristics of corners and to get the car to work well in all of them. In terms of parts, we tested a few small updates in Spielberg that we'll be taking to Silverstone.
Q: The Pirelli tyre allocation moves from the softest pairing to the hardest – could this have an impact on how the team could perform in Silverstone?
NC: It shouldn't make a big difference. We tended to like the softer compounds a bit better but we are able to generate reasonable tyre warm up on most of the tyres now. Colder weather might have a small impact on how quickly we'll be able to get the harder compounds to temperature but we have made a good step forward compared to last year in this area.
Q: Romain experienced two gearbox-connected issues in Austria, were they related? And what's the team doing to avoid these type of issues in the future?
NC: Romain had an issue with the hydraulic system in qualifying and then he had a problem with fourth gear in the race, however the issues weren't related. We have identified the causes and are now rectifying them to avoid these issues going forward.
Q: Pastor drove a strong race in Austria…
NC: He drove really well and probably one of the best races I have seen him drive. The race start was a bit tricky but then he just drove through and picked up places aggressively but fairly and he backed out of manoeuvres at the right times. When he started the overtaking move on Max Verstappen he had the DRS open so quite a lot less rear downforce which can make it a bit tricky. Pastor did everything right.
Q: The team lost fifth place in the Constructors' Championship in Austria, but the battle is close: can we expect a fightback?
NC: Definitely. Our qualifying wasn't as good as it could have been and Romain had to retire in the race. In general we expected to be in front of Force India but we pulled away from Torro Rosso and Sauber. We fully expect to get these points back. The E23 is going well and a clear weekend should enable us to score some good points.
Q: The squad made two very impressive pit stops in Austria and this is an area where the team really has made great steps over the past few years – how so?
NC: The steps have been gradual. We have put a lot of effort into the pitstops. The crew does an enormous amount of practicing – we had done about 500 practice stops over the winter, we practice every day, twice a day when the team is in Enstone and then daily at the circuits as well. We put a lot of effort in it and I think that over the past couple of years we've managed to really improve and perfect our pit stops.
Q: How much progress was made in the Austrian test?
NC: Despite the first half day being a complete washout, we then still had a reasonable afternoon and did a good amount of aero data logging. We can do this type of data collection when the conditions aren't perfect and it was helpful in terms of understanding our aero package. In the end, we pretty much hit our targets at the test and completed our programme. We did a lot of mechanical set-up work also ahead of the British Grand Prix. All in all it was a useful test despite the heavy rain experienced on the first morning.