The Lotus F1 Team head into the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka on the back of one of their most competitive weekends of the season in Singapore, although both Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado ended up pointless.
Grosjean felt he was on course for points in Singapore but the team were hampered by the introduction of the safety car that lost him some momentum.
“Once the frustrations of qualifying were out of the way I was able to focus on aiming for the points,” said Grosjean of his Singapore weekend. “We were on schedule to have a good fight for this outcome when the safety car came out and this lost us momentum.”
Turning to Japan, Grosjean has fond memories of the Suzuka circuit after leading a good portion of the race in 2013 before being forced to fall to third behind the dominant Red Bull’s of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber towards the end, but rates the Japanese track as his favourite track on the calendar.
“Suzuka is probably my favourite track in the world and for many, many reasons,” insists Grosjean. “Of course last year holds a great memory as I led the race for a while. But mainly I love it so much because the track is a massive challenge and also the spectators are so passionate about F1.
“There is not a single corner on the track that is not a big challenge. When you finish a lap at Suzuka you really appreciate it because you know both the car and you have been really tested. You can be proud if you have got the maximum from everything.
“It is the kind of track that you find time and improvements, however small, all of the time. It is a very special racetrack in this respect. Sector one is unbelievable and after you have finished it you can breathe a little bit…but not for long.
“There is no margin for error with very little run-off area and the track is quite narrow, especially at the top of the hill. I love it. Every metre of the Suzuka track is special and every metre a challenge. The Spoon Curve is especially fantastic, a real thrill to drive in an F1 car.”
The team have not scored any points since the Monaco Grand Prix in May, but the Frenchman is hopeful that this record can change in Japan with the driver being able to make a difference on this circuit according to Grosjean.
“Suzuka is a track that highlights the good aspects of a chassis,” said Grosjean. “I hope that we can be in a position where we have a realistic chance of some points positions. At Suzuka the driver can make a difference to some extent, especially through sector one, so I will be hugely pumped up to make sure we are in the best position possible to add to our points tally.”
Team-mate Maldonado admits to loving the challenge of Suzuka, and feels it is a great feeling if he can get the lap right. He describes the track as almost perfect but also knows it will take time to gel with the circuit as he feels it is near impossible to get every corner right straight away.
“It is always nice to know you are going to be challenged by a circuit,” said Maldonado. “If everything gets hooked-up then Suzuka is a pleasure. I really hope we can have a good weekend because at Suzuka it makes it even more of a pleasure to get it right. I think that for a driver it is at least comparable with Spa, maybe even better on some corners. I just love racing at Suzuka and indeed in Japan as a whole.
“The start of the lap is incredible with the sweeps up the hill, right-left-right-left. It is really fast and you need a very good and nimble car to change direction quickly. They are really challenging corners where you need maximum concentration and bravery. The run-off is quite small, so it is really satisfying to get them right.
“When I first drove this track in 2011 it was a big deal for me because I knew that I could find a lot more time in the car. The corners are like this because you never get them 100% right the first time, you learn and learn which is what a great race track should be like I think. Then you have the Spoon Curve, which is magnificent, and 130R, which is still challenging despite being flat-out now. All in all a great, great circuit and with some really steep gradients too. Almost a perfect track!”
Despite having a very disappointing season, Maldonado is hopeful the remaining races can give the team a boost as they concentrate on preparing their 2015 car. He remains highly motivated despite failing to score a point but feels there is still a lot to look forward to at Lotus.
“I am confident we can finish the season off in a good way which will give us some great momentum for the new season in 2015,” insisted Maldonado. “Obviously it has been a difficult year but the important thing is that we are still united as a team and emerge stronger. From what I see and learn the 2015 car looks like being a very good package. There is a lot to look forward to for sure.
“The team at Enstone are more determined than ever to succeed and I can say 100% that I have the same outlook. We will have very high motivation for the winter in terms of preparation and then testing in the New Year.”