The Lotus F1 Team will arrive in Monza for the 2014 Italian Grand Prix on the back of another lacklustre weekend at Spa-Francorchamps that saw both Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado retire from the race. It is now six races since the team scored points through Grosjean’s eighth place at Monaco in May, while Maldonado is still to open his account with the team he joined at the beginning of the season.
Frenchman Grosjean finished eighth at Monza in 2013, but is expecting a tough weekend at the Italian track this year as the Lotus team continue to struggle with their 2014 car. He admits a lack of straight-line speed with see them toil, and will force them to run lower levels of downforce than they would want to so they can make up that deficit.
“I like Monza a lot because it is so distinctive,” said Grosjean. “Monza is a great track that has a lot of great racing history. This makes it nice for us to compete at a place where all our heroes raced too.
“I think that it will be tough for us. On paper it is not one of the races that we should do that well at. But as always we will be fighting hard and trying to get the maximum from the weekend, so that it gives us good momentum for the Singapore weekend later in September when we should be stronger and the track should suit the E22 a little better.
“We will have a one-off rear wing for Monza and the key will be to make the car as quick as possible from an aero point of view, so that we can get back some of the performance from our straight-line speed disadvantage. Then we have to manage the tyre degradation. Also for us it will be tricky in the big corners like the Lesmos and the Ascari chicane because the less downforce you have then the more difficult it is to get good grip in the turns. It is a tough compromise but one I am sure that the team will get the best solution possible.
“Without the blown diffuser it will be more challenging than last year for sure. But this is F1 and you have to meet the challenge, which we will do. The reality is that we will probably have to run less all-round downforce to make up for the time we lose on the straight, but we will just have to stay positive and extract the most from the package we have in Italy.”
Team-mate Maldonado finished fourteenth whilst driving for Williams back in 2013, and admits the Italian circuit holds special memories for the Venezuelan as he lived close to the circuit when he was making his first steps into European single-seater racing. Like Grosjean, he is expecting the team to struggle at Monza, but is hopeful of a clean weekend so he can fully experience the upgrades the team attached to the cars in Belgium.
“I like Monza and I love Italy,” said Maldonado. “I actually used to live very close to the circuit when I was starting my career here in Europe. I have won races here so it holds some good memories and special feelings for sure. The track is totally unique and of course it is great to be racing where all the old heroes did too.
“Monza has changed only very slightly over the years and it still has the character of the old banking and the parkland trees as you drive through it and of course the fans create a great atmosphere which is a great soundtrack to the Grand Prix.
“For sure it is going to be a tough weekend again for us at Lotus F1 Team. Monza is all about power combined with a low downforce set-up so it is a big challenge. I think it will be interesting to see the new 2014-spec cars here because the track is so unique and there is a very particular way to get the best out of the cars. They will be difficult to drive I think for everyone but we will be doing our best to put the Spa weekend behind us and to get more positive energy going before we head off on the long haul races.
“One of the critical points is the Parabolica corner. You have to get this right at the end of your lap to ensure a good time, and if you get it wrong it also compromises you for the next lap. It’s difficult to do this as the car is set-up for low downforce on the straights, so it’s more difficult to drive on the corners – especially a long corner like Parabolica, which is tough and fast, the most crucial at Monza.
“Spa was very tough with the conditions and also Hungary too. Monza is usually warm and dry which seems to suit the E22 more than the wet. We just need to have a trouble free weekend where we can further explore the low downforce bodywork, especially the front wing package that was introduced at Spa. The big challenge though will be the power issue. It is difficult to overcome any disadvantage on this front but everyone will be working to get as much speed as we possibly can.”