Kimi Räikkönen: “Let’s hope I’m happier in Spain”
After taking his third podium finish of the year in Bahrain, our Iceman looks forward to racing closer to home with the start of the European season
Yourself and the team currently occupy P2 in both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships; are you pleased with how things are going?
For sure it’s an okay start and we’re in a better position that this time last year, but there’s a long season ahead and it’s too early to say if we can fight for the Championships right to the end. It’s going to be hard to catch Sebastian [Vettel] if he keeps taking good results so we need to start taking more points from him, but you never know what can happen. We’ll keep pushing to improve the car and see where we end up.
What’s required to bridge that gap to P1?
Some more wins! To catch the leaders, we have to work twice as hard as they are. It’s no secret that we want more speed from the car in qualifying; it’s so tight up there at the front and we really need to be on the first two rows to fight for victories every time. It’s good to be able to start the European season where we are as this is when you see teams starting to push on with lots of new parts for the cars. It’s still early days, but to have scored strong points since the start of the year is obviously better than not having them. We need to keep scoring points in the same way; even if it’s a bad weekend for us, we need to keep finishing as well as we can. That’s how we will fight to the end of the season.
How is the Circuit of Catalunya for you?
I have won twice in Barcelona and I was on the podium there last year too, so I really look forward to going there again; hopefully to end the weekend with another good result. It’s a circuit where you have to get everything exactly right to be at the top. All the teams have tested many times at this circuit, so to get an advantage there is not very easy. The set-up is crucial as the track changes with the wind and temperature so there’s plenty of work for the engineers too.
Is it good to be racing in Europe again?
I really like racing in Europe. We don’t have to travel that far so all your energy is saved for the weekend itself. Traditionally the real season starts when coming back to Europe. For me, it’s great.
The Circuit de Catalunya is the only circuit at which you’ve tested the E21 so far; does that help matters?
That’s true, but you have to remember that was at the end of February and the beginning of March so conditions were very different compared to what we hope to see in May. It was very difficult to get the tyres working properly when we were last there, but it was the same for everybody. We all start from zero again in FP1.
The team didn’t get so much mileage at Barcelona during testing, but reliability doesn’t seem to be so much of a concern now the season is underway?
I didn’t have that many laps there in testing as there were problems with the car and I also missed a day as I was unwell. That said, me and the team know the track pretty well so I don’t think we’ll be too surprised about which way the track goes or what setup to use on the car. Even though I didn’t get a lot of mileage in pre-season, the main thing was I felt good in the car the whole time. Our car seems to be good at every circuit so far…
You were quite reserved after the podium finish in Bahrain; were you happy with the result?
You’re never really happy if you don’t win, but I suppose second place is as close as you can get. We could maybe have been a few places higher in in qualifying which would have made things easier, but I drove to the maximum and luckily we found the pace in the car that was missing in qualifying. Let’s hope I’m happier in Spain.
Romain Grosjean: “I have the tools at my disposal”
After his first podium appearance of the season in Bahrain, our man in car #8 sees no reason why top points finishes can’t become a familiar state of play
After a start to the season which fell short of your high expectations, why did everything come good in Bahrain?
It’s no secret that before Bahrain my feeling hasn’t been right with the car. It wasn’t the chassis, the aero or anything like that, but we took a while to get everything to my liking and that’s been frustrating. We managed to put our finger on the issue and I feel much more comfortable now. I really had a good sensation behind the wheel on Sunday in Bahrain, and a podium position at the end of the race was the result. I could put the car more or less where I wanted which is all you want as a driver. Third place was a deserved reward for everyone after all our hard work.
How good was it to get that podium after your tough start to the year?
The race was really enjoyable with a lot of overtaking. There were a couple of tense moments where maybe things got a little too close, but it was a lot of fun! To come from P11 through to the podium is really satisfying. I saw P4 on the board and Paul [Di Resta] was not too far ahead, so I thought “come on, this is the podium, let’s go!” I knew I had fresher tyres but it wasn’t easy as I had to push but at the same time look after them, which is hard for a driver when you have another car in your sights. Luckily we managed to get past near the end, pull out a small gap and maintain it until the flag!
How do you feel the E21 is evolving?
We’ve been able to see progress with the lap times so we know that the upgrades being brought in are working. Last year’s car was already very competitive – we achieved a total of 10 podiums in 2012 – so it’s good to see the team has retained and developed the best performing areas of the 2012 car for the E21. For me, after Bahrain, I’m feeling much more at home with the car and I hope that there will be many successes to come in 2013.
What are your thoughts on the topic of tyre management?
Tyre management has always been part of the qualifying and race strategy. I don’t know about others, I just know that I always push as much as I can to obtain the best result possible. Of course, if you drive a certain way or adapt yourself you can get more out of the tyres than if you don’t, but that’s just part of being a racing driver; you always have to adapt to extract maximum performance.
What will be the key to a good weekend in Spain?
In Barcelona it will be important to qualify well as it will be much harder to overtake than in Bahrain. As a team, this is an area where we can still improve a little bit, but we have some ideas of how to do that and hopefully we’ll be able to make the front row.
What are your thoughts on the Circuit de Catalunya?
Everyone knows Barcelona very well from testing. The first four corners which make up the first sector are pretty fast, then there’s the slow final sector with between turns 10-15. Out of turn 15 you need a good rear end of the car with strong traction. It’s important not to overheat your rear tyres and managing degradation will be important – even with the harder tyres which are now allocated – as when you reach high degradation levels on your tyres you are nowhere on lap time. Tyre management will still be the key area for a good performance in the race.
What do you need to keep getting podium results?
To keep finishing in front of the competition! We’ve had consistency already, finishing every race in the points, but now it’s the big results we’re chasing and getting the car as I want it has been a vital ingredient. Now I have the tools that I want at my disposal I can really push. In some ways you can say my season starts now! My podium in Bahrain was a very good start to that challenge. If we keep working the way we have been so far this season as a team I’m sure we can achieve great things.
Eric Boullier: “We must not be complacent”
Coming to Europe with second position in both the Constructors’ and Drivers’ Championship shows that Lotus F1 Team is performing well, but it’s no time for complacency says Team Principal Eric Boullier
The team currently holds P2 in both championships; what’s the secret to sustaining that challenge?
The secret? Good strategy, a good car and two good drivers! Achieving a one-off result is one thing, but keeping momentum is a far bigger challenge and I’m pleased to say we’re doing a great job of that so far this year. It’s such a finely balanced and competitive season. If we look to our most recent race in Bahrain, on Saturday it looked like maybe we had lost our edge having qualified below expectations. Fortunately, we were always confident in our race pace and that confidence proved to be well placed.
The race in Bahrain was a pretty special one for the team: do you ever get a feeling of déjà vu?
It was just like in 2012! Having Kimi second and Romain third was a great result, but just like in 2012 there was Sebastian [Vettel] on the top step. This year’s result was much more difficult, especially after our qualifying performance, but we showed flashes of pace throughout the weekend and confirmed that speed when it mattered in the race. To come away with a double podium when the top six would maybe have been a more realistic pre-race target was a great performance from everybody involved. There was a pretty special feeling in the race team and that was just magnified when I got back to Enstone to see everyone in the factory. It was a well-deserved result.
Kimi is right there in the Drivers’ Championship battle...
Kimi is a fantastic driver and you can never rule him out in any race. In Bahrain, he drove a strong race to manage the tyres and was comfortable in second by the chequered flag. In Australia he won the race and said it was one of his easiest wins. We want to ensure he has more easy races in the future.
How pleasing was it to see Romain back on the podium?
Very. Consistency has been there already for him in the first three races, but I think fighting at the front again will come as a big relief to him after a difficult start to the year. His season really starts now.
What’s been the secret to unlocking his pace?
We sat down with Romain to assess where things weren’t quite working and the team did a good job to find a few little things which helped him get back that positive feeling with the car again. He clearly enjoyed every second on track in last race – making a solid start and pulling off some strong overtaking moves – and I think that enjoyment showed in his performance.
When could the next win come for the team?
We always want to win and our podium successes this year seem to have made us all the more hungry to taste the champagne. We know we are facing other equally competitive teams and only one team and driver get to stand on that top step at each race. Of course, it would be fantastic to start our European season with a win.
There’s always a lot of talk about the development battle; are you confident the team can match the pace of improvement of the other teams?
This is just another aspect of the sport. We have a strong development programme for the E21 and I’m confident we can continue to improve it through the year, just as we did with the E20 before it. Most teams tend to bring a fairly major upgrade package to the first European race of the season and we’ll be no exception. I’m very pleased with how the development of the this car is progressing and I think there’s plenty more to come from us.
James Allison: “We head to Spain hopeful of a good race”
After a double podium in Bahrain, Lotus F1 Team Technical Director James Allison looks optimistically towards Barcelona; a circuit with many similarities to the successful hunting ground of Sakhir…
What’s the technical view heading to the first European race of the season?
We’re pretty well placed. Barcelona is similar in many regards to Bahrain; it’s hard on the tyres with some challenging fast stuff thrown in. It’s not so obviously rear-limited as Bahrain, but is nevertheless a circuit that challenges the tyres which has been a strength of the E21 thus far. That said, the start of the so-called European season – where many teams unleash a raft of their latest upgrades – could shake up the order somewhat.
Talking of developments; what do we have in the upgrade cupboard for Catalunya?
Nothing revolutionary, but plenty which should help us go faster. We have new front wing endplate detailing, new aero around the rear drums, modifications to the diffuser and a different top rear wing so there’s plenty to help keep us in the hunt.
The tyre allocation for Barcelona is different from the past two seasons and the hard compound has been revised: your thoughts?
We’ve used Pirelli’s hard and soft compounds for the last few years, so we were slightly surprised to see them opt for the more conservative hard and medium this season; albeit with the hard compound revised from what we have been using so far in 2013. The new hard is akin to last year’s rubber; giving its best grip at lower temperatures than the one we started the year with and being more in line with the working range of the other compounds in use this season. It should work well for us in the race and the gap between option and prime in qualifying should be smaller than in previous years, giving more choices about how to tackle Q1 and Q2.
What are the performance considerations for this race?
Spain is certain to be cooler than Bahrain, but it’s not that dissimilar. It’s a circuit where the outcome of the race isn’t only determined by whether you’re on pole position, but rather by a combination of how far up the grid you are, how good your car is on race pace, how you manage the tyres and your race strategy. In pre-season we did one of the best race simulation runs at the final Barcelona test. but it’s always difficult to tell what everyone’s doing in testing and that was a good few months ago now.
It’s fair to say that the teams are pretty familiar with Barcelona: how does this affect things?
The familiarity means you’re not hunting around for things like ride heights, weight distributions, aero balance or roll stiffness as you know roughly where you want to be and it’s a matter of fine tuning rather than finding your feet from scratch. That said, we know all of the circuits pretty well…
What went wrong in qualifying in Bahrain?
We didn’t manage to reproduce our Q2 time and although Kimi felt he’d produced a decent lap. It’s so close at the front that just the smallest margin can make that difference; a slight temperature difference from the track, a small variation between sets of tyres, a change in wind direction or force, or the way a driver prepares the tyres on the out-lap can all be a factor. Fortunately it was at a track where the net result was unchanged; a podium looked possible from the front row or elsewhere.
Romain had a much better race in Bahrain – can this be sustained?
We’re confident that the step forward in Bahrain was genuine, and is something we can continue in future races to allow Romain to show what he’s got.
What can we realistically expect in Barcelona?
With our pre-season form at the circuit and our reasonably useful showing at all four races so far this season, we head to Spain hopeful of a good race.
Battling Barcelona: An Engineer’s Guide to the Circuit de Catalunya
Turns 1 & 2: A quick part of the circuit with swift change of direction. Good pace exiting Turn 2 is important before setting a good line heading into the very quick Turn 3. The approach to Turn 1 is one of the few corners on the track where overtaking is possible
Turns 3 & 4: The high speed Turn 3 and tighter Turn 4 put a lot of stress through the tyres, especially the front left.
Turn 5: Braking downhill into this corner makes it very easy to lock the inside front tyres as the road falls away from the car.
Turns 7 & 8: A challenging uphill sequence.
Turn 10: The slowest corner on the track; taken in first or second gear on high fuel before a wide exit into Turn 11 which is taken flat out. Turn 10 is a good tests of the car’s traction.
Turns 14 & 15: A more technical part of the track with some big kerbs, which drivers are advised to avoid. The car is not set-up to use these kerbs.
Turn 16: It is essential to have a good car through Turn 16 to maximise your run down the long straight. In qualifying it’s pretty much taken flat out, but with high fuel and a bit of tyre degradation it becomes a little trickier.
Start / Finish Straight: Although not one of the longest straights on the calendar, effective DRS will notably assist overtaking here.
Surface: The track surface is quite abrasive here, meaning the tyres get a double whammy as the circuit layout puts them through their paces too.
Front Wing: Sufficient front wing is needed to eliminate understeer through the first and final turns.
Rear Wing: Similar levels of downforce are required to Bahrain, which itself runs a little bit higher than Shanghai. A reasonably long straight means an effective DRS system helps, despite the straight not being nearly as long as that seen in China.
Suspension: It’s a track we know well from testing, but the main difference for the race is that track temperatures are much higher, meaning the tyres will work differently. Setups used in winter testing to make the tyres warm up faster will not be needed. There is no particular kerb usage meaning the car can run lower than otherwise. Turn 16 is the essential corner; if you have a good car through here it will maximise your run down the long straight. In qualifying it’s pretty much flat out but with high fuel and a bit of tyre degradation it becomes a little trickier.
Brakes: There are no real issues at all with braking here. The demands are not particularly heavy and we know what to expect having tested here earlier in the year. It will be a case of tuning our front and rear ducts to achieve the correct temperatures for best braking performance, with no particular concerns over wear.
Engine: Good driveability from the engine is needed, particularly through the lower speed corners in the second half of the lap.
Tyres: Pirelli’s P Zero white medium and orange hard tyres will be nominated. Barcelona can be tough on tyres due to the circuit layout and track surface abrasion, while the long, fast Turn 3 puts a particularly heavy load on the front left tyre. Turn 5 can present a risk of locking the front tyres through a combination of braking and turning into the corner as the road falls away from the car. It’s worth noting also that Pirelli have changed to a new hard compound which is closer to that used last season.