The Lotus F1 Team continue to improve in 2014 after the delayed start to their F1 season that saw them begin the year firmly on the back foot. Two consecutive races in the points for Frenchman Romain Grosjean have kick-started their ailing campaign, but troubles continue to plague his Venezuelan team-mate Pastor Maldonado who failed to take the start last time out in Monaco.
Grosjean comes to Canada this weekend on the back of his first two points scoring races of 2014, both of which came in the form of eighth places in Spain and Monaco. He admits Montreal is one of his favourite tracks on the calendar, having finished second there in 2012, and is hoping the ever-improving Lotus will work for him to score more points this weekend.
“Montreal is in-between a normal circuit and a street circuit,” said Grosjean. “The walls are very close in some places, while other parts are similar to a European circuit. I enjoy the sensation of being close to the walls. It’s definitely unique and we normally bring a different downforce package for that reason, which adds another unknown factor to the weekend.
The circuit is not used for the rest of the year so the grip will change a lot – the track surface can also present challenges as we’ve seen in other seasons, so it will be interesting to see what the grip level is like this year and that will certainly be on your mind as you take to the track for the first time over the weekend – and the weather can also be tricky. Hopefully it’ll be nice and sunny because it’s a race I really like – and it’s my favourite circuit to race on the Xbox. The last chicane is a notable feature and overall it’s a good track.
“The aerodynamics are stable and the power unit management is getting better so now we are more focused on the suspension side. Last year we had a very good car in that aspect, so we’ll compare the E22 with the E21 and possibly revert to some previous settings to make it better at low speed. I believe our downforce is pretty good so it’s mechanical grip we’re after.
“It’s always easy to go quick when the car is good. You just have to concentrate on your driving. When the car is a bit more tricky you have to think about your driving and what the car is doing, because it can react unpredictably. Add to that all the different systems management we now do in the car, it becomes a real mental test! I’m happy we made it to eighth at Monaco and we go to Canada with more confidence.”
Team-mate Maldonado has yet to score a point in 2014, and actually sits right at the bottom of the Drivers’ championship. In his three previous visits to Canada he hasn’t scored a point; a thirteenth place in 2012 for Williams the best he has to show. Like Grosjean, the Venezuelan is expecting a tough weekend.
“It could be a difficult weekend for the team, for sure,” said Maldonado. “We are not expecting to be at the top, simply because of the type of track and how we understand our car and its performance strengths and weaknesses. Top speed and slow corners are probably the weakest points of our car now. It’s not very aggressive on the tyres either, so we’ll see how it is when we head out to track.
“Anything can happen and our guys are all working very hard to adapt the car to find more traction in the slow corners and squeeze out some more top speed.”
“When you have a hard time it is vital to be completely focused on trying to solve the problems. I’m trying to do better from my side and also to help the engineers improve the car. This is a crucial moment for the team, approaching the middle of the season. We need to push very hard to recover what we lost at the beginning.
“We always knew it was going to be tough to start with, but the key is not to panic, we’ll just keep our heads down and quietly work harder, do more and do better to catch up, and overtake the other teams. We’re capable of it, there’s no doubt about that, and while it’s always frustrating not to be on the podium where we belong, this is part of the story. It’s very easy to just give up, but I think it will make us stronger in the end. There’s a cool quote I heard – ‘there’s no shortcut to any place worth going’. That’s pretty true I think.
“I think it would be good to have a trouble free weekend and finish the race strongly in the points. With the variable weather we’ve seen there in the past, anything can happen in Montreal, however I would like to see us bringing home some good points for the team. It will be tough as it’s going to be such a tricky track for us, however if we can put in a solid performance and get the most out of the car then I think we could be in a good position.”
Technical Director Nick Chester admits the Canadian Grand Prix could be another tricky one for the team, but he feels they will not be as bad as in Monaco. He knows the team are working hard to improve the handling of the E22, but admits the shortcomings of the car will be emphasised by the long fast straights and slow tight corners.
“It’s probably going to be a bit of a tricky one,” said Chester. “On the one hand we’re going to have the soft and super-soft tyres, which should be better for us. On the other hand Canada’s got long straights, which we feel might not be great for us.
“There are also some big braking points and at some races this year we’ve felt our braking isn’t as good as it should be. With such long straights followed by big stops into low speed corners, getting the braking performance right is critical. Obviously this year with all the energy recovery systems there is quite a lot of tuning that can be done to enhance performance.
“So for the E22 it’s a balance between performing quite well on the softer tyres and maybe losing out on power and braking. We’re going to do all we can to improve those areas before we go.
“There’s a new medium downforce package and we’ve also got a few new mechanical parts, one of which will hopefully improve the grip of the chassis. There’s also a small update to the cooling package, which will give us a little more downforce.”
Chester took some time to praise both of his drivers, who have suffered with the car during the early stages of the season. He has been please at how both Grosjean and Maldonado have adapted to the situation.
“Both our drivers are now sufficiently experienced not to let frustrations impact upon their performance,” said Chester. “Both Romain and Pastor have been extremely professional as you would expect and can see that the team and our suppliers are all pulling in the same direction.
“Pastor has gone through two races this season where he has not started, which has to be one of the toughest things a driver can go through. His resolve and fighting instinct have been notable. Romain has shown incredible spirit and fortitude as well. His performance in all the races have been fantastic, especially considering the relative lack of mileage in the first four races.
“There can be a lot of variables at Montreal like rain, reliability and incidents. Romain and Pastor are exactly the kind of drivers you want on your side to exploit any opportunities. However, we hope to be able to challenge for a good points finish irrespective of any of these variables.”