Despite leaving Spa-Francorchamps having failed to score points for a sixth consecutive race weekend, the Lotus F1 Team continue to be positive about their E22 car, and strive to add to the eight points they’ve scored so far in 2014 before the end of the season, although they expect more struggles at Monza next weekend.
Deputy Team Principal Federico Gastaldi believed there were positives to be taken away from the weekend at Spa-Francorchamps, believing Romain Grosjean’s pace after his clash with Jules Bianchi at the exit of the first corner of the opening lap was strong. He also has no doubts that Pastor Maldonado will perform when given the opportunity.
“There genuinely were some positives from a tough weekend,” said Gastaldi about Spa. “It is in the DNA of Enstone that even in the hard times we fight for and then maximise what we have at our disposal. Despite the initial disappointment of not getting a result we remain super motivated. We knew it would be hard at these power tracks like Spa and Monza.
“However, Romain did a solid job to get in to Q2 and then after he got a new nose in the race after he was hit by Bianchi at La Source, his pace was good. The new parts on the car showed some encouraging signs and if we get better luck and have clean races then we can progress a lot more up the field.
“I know that when the conditions allow he [Maldonado] will put himself in a good position to make the most of the E22 and fight for points. I am confident of this, and the team believe he can continue to fight for some good results before the end of the season.”
Gastaldi believes Monza is one of the standout races that Formula 1 has during a season, and insists it should always be on the calendar. He knows the track is an unique test for both the engineers and drivers due to the compromise required in the set-up of the car for the fast straights, quick corners and tricky chicanes.
“Like Spa, it [Monza] is part of F1’s identity,” insists Gastaldi. “It is another name that goes hand in hand with racing the world over. If you went anywhere in the world I am sure you would get an instant association of the words Monza and F1. They are linked, I hope, forever. It is a race that along with Monaco, Silverstone and Spa should be the first to pencil in to the calendar. The race itself is important but there is also a lot on the commercial side that takes place at Monza for the following season.
“Monza is a real test for the engineers and drivers because it is the ultimate compromise in speed and aero balance for the car. That is unique in F1 these days. It will be interesting to see how they rise to the challenge. We go there in a difficult position as we are not the fastest in a straight line. But we will push to the maximum, matching the passion and spirit we see off the track from the fans, with our usual determination on it. We have to dig in and make sure we are in the best position possible for when our luck changes.”
Technical Director Nick Chester knows the team will face a big challenge to get the correct set-up for Monza, and will be focusing primarily on the braking of the two cars so both Grosjean and Maldonado will be able to push harder into the corners and chicanes. He also expects much higher speeds around the circuit, especially compared to 2013.
“It is quite challenging because it is such a low downforce circuit,” said Chester. “It is difficult to get grip in the car and for the drivers to feel comfortable – so working on the car set-up is key. We will also focus on the braking so Romain and Pastor can make gains on the entries to the chicanes and generally feel more comfortable in feeling where the limits are. We have more aero parts to take to Italy which we will try on the Friday free practice sessions. We will have a low-drag rear wing for Monza that is circuit-specific and as a result the skinniest we will run all season. It is all about meeting the low downforce challenge.
“It will depend on the downforce and drag levels that the teams will run but I expect [the speeds] will be higher than last year. It might be possible to achieve 360kph on the straight, depending if the car is getting a tow with DRS.
“If you are trying to improve straight line speed then reduced downforce and drag is the only way, however this means a downforce deficit to the other cars so you would get penalised on the corners, especially the Lesmos and Parabolica.
“They will be a little bit trickier than last year’s car being a bit lighter in downforce and with more torque in the turbo engines so I think the exit of the chicanes can be quite tricky. We have seen in all the cars this year how the cars move under acceleration out of a corner and at Monza which is the circuit where we run the cars in their most slippery configuration, we will see some acrobatics from the drivers as they manage the cars on power at mid-corner and also on the exits.”