Both Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli say a well-balanced car that can attack the kerbs well is extremely important around Monza as Team Lotus prepare for the Italian Grand Prix.
“Monza is another different challenge for us and it'll be good going there on the back of such a strong weekend in Spa,” says Kovalainen. “It has different downforce requirements to most of the rest of the tracks we race on, but we'll go there with the same sort of aggressive strategy we used well in Spa to put us into Q2.
“For Monza you'll hear a lot of the drivers talking about how one of the keys to a quick lap is how well you use the kerbs. Getting over them as efficiently as possible helps minimise the overall length of the lap and it might only be fractions of seconds, but shortcutting as much as you can, obviously within the rules and as much as the car can take, saves time and helps you maintain momentum onto the straights.
“To the viewer on TV and even at the track the kerbs don't look all that hardcore, but when you're in the car you hit them pretty hard and you need to be ready for it to get out of shape and even start to snap away from you. We'll work on Friday on getting the setup right to give us maximum speed on the straights and enough compliance in the suspension to really be able to attack under braking and into each corner. I'm looking forward to it – it's a classic track and the Tifosi are among the most passionate fans anywhere, so it's a good place to end the European leg of the season.”
Trulli does not sound as enthusiastic about heading to his home grand prix as other drivers would be: “Monza's a funny one for me,” he admits. “As an Italian everyone expects it to be the most special race of the season for me but really it's not. I can't really afford to treat it differently to any other race as I want to make sure I can focus on the job every day I'm on track, and even though there's a lot of fans in the stands, and friends and family around the paddock, I always try and treat it like any other race.
“Obviously the good thing for me is that it's close to my home, so I do get to catch up with lots of people who I don't normally have time to see, but ever since I started racing I was nearly always abroad, so while it's obviously my home race it's not one I approach differently to any others.
“From a technical perspective Monza's not the most technical track, but it's still critical to have the car balanced so you can attack the kerbs and be really confident under braking, particularly into the first chicane as that's the most obvious overtaking opportunity. The car felt really good in Spa, and I know we have the revised power steering system I used in Hungary back for this race, so I think we'll be ok. We had very strong race pace in Belgium, and if we can carry on like that in Italy we'll be just fine.”
Monza is the last European venue that F1 will visit this season, and team principal Tony Fernandes is hoping to leave the continent with a good result. “Monza gives us another chance to keep edging towards the teams ahead before we go back to the Far East and what is really our third home race in Singapore,” says Fernandes. “This weekend we are not going to be challenging the teams ahead quite yet in outright pace, but clever use of strategy and very strong drives from both Heikki and Jarno gives us a chance to hold our own in the race, so the target for Monza has to be to maintain the reliability record established in Spa and look for another two car finish at the chequered flag, as high as we can reasonably hope.
“That is a realistic target, and that is the approach we bring to everything related to our team. The plans for the future development of the team, and the group it sits in, are taking shape eactly as we want them to and we are setting ourselves reasonable goals that can be achieved through hard work, innovation and a little bit of luck.”