The Lotus F1 Team head into Monaco having finally scored their first points of 2014 with Romain Grosjean in Spain, and will be hoping to build on that result this weekend around the tight and twisty Monte Carlo circuit. Pastor Maldonado will be hoping to take his first points of the season, while trying to stay out of trouble after a difficult weekend in Spain that saw him crash in qualifying then obtain a penalty for a collision with the Caterham of Marcus Ericsson during the race.
Grosjean’s 2013 Monaco Grand Prix was full of incident. He showed flashes of speed, but ended up crashing three times, including into the back of the Toro Rosso of Daniel Ricciardo during the race that earned him a ten-place grid-drop penalty for the following round in Canada.
“It was great to see so much French support last year, with all the flags and banners,” admitted Grosjean. “Then there are the unique challenges of such a special circuit. As a driver you have to stay calm and relaxed on a track that doesn’t allow for any mistakes. I’ve been super quick in the past, but also hit the walls! It’s an exciting and glamorous Grand Prix and always a step into the unknown, because it’s difficult to predict how well each car will work there. It’s a crazy week with all the focus and attention, but everyone loves Monaco.
“When you finish a lap and you know it’s quick because you’ve given everything and you’re so close to the walls at every corner, it is something special. Finding the balance between pushing too hard and not enough makes a huge difference in Monaco.”
He feels the grip levels at Monaco, which traditionally are low, will be even less in 2014, but with the track being less engine dependent than all of the previous races this year, he feels it could be a good weekend.
“There will be less grip than in the past, so we will have to be careful with the right foot. In terms of mapping, torque, energy and fuel saving I actually think it will be easier than most tracks because the race distance is shorter so we shouldn’t have to worry too much. Of course we’ll need the best drivability possible around the tricky sections, but the most important thing in Monaco is to trust your car and have confidence in it.
“The emphasis at Monaco is on low speed corners, which is not our greatest strength, but the team worked with Monaco in mind during the Barcelona test. Bumpy straights and a low grip surface are the other main Monaco characteristics and how well you adapt to them can make or break your weekend. We’ll do our best with set-up and of course Monaco is less engine dependent than most circuits, which is better for us.”
Looking back at the Spanish Grand Prix weekend and his first points of the season, he praised the team back at the Lotus factory in Enstone for all the hard work they’ve put in to enable him to get there.
“It’s great for all the team and they certainly deserved it. They’ve been working very hard at Enstone and at the track and if you look at where we were in Australia and where we are now, it’s a massive step forward. So I’m proud of them all and happy with what we’re doing. It was a good reward for all of us.
“It was nice not only to score points in Barcelona, but also to be fifth on the grid in qualifying – if we can do that again in Monaco it’ll be very good for us.”
Pastor Maldonado spent some time in the post-Spain test getting a better feel to the car after failing to score a point in the opening five rounds of the season. He was happy to get a problem-free day under his belt and arrives in Monaco feeling more confident. He feels the test was a boost to the whole team who continue to strive towards making a competitive car.
“I would say it was our first ‘normal’ test without any problems and we were able to complete our entire schedule,” said Maldonado. “It was really important and a very positive test because we learnt so much more about the car. Everything is getting better and better in my opinion. Of course I’m happy with the result as well. The car has made a big step forward from where we were. The focus of the test was to continue to develop settings and try new ideas. It was a busy programme to be honest, but hopefully the rest of the season will be much better for us. We got a lot of data, which our engineers took back to the factory to analyse in detail.
“I think it’s a great boost for everyone at Enstone and of course as a driver it gives me more confidence in the car so I can aim to achieve better results. It’s a true testament to the team’s capabilities and I hope we can start to get the results on track that we so deserve.”
Looking ahead to Monaco, the Venezuelan is happy to be back at the circuit where he has performed well in the past, including two GP2 Series victories. He knows overtaking is extremely difficult, and the race will be tough both physically and mentally.
“First of all it’s such an historic Grand Prix and an iconic race for Formula 1. I really love it. I’ve been very quick in the past and I think it is one of the most special weekends of the year. The atmosphere is unique. The track is really challenging and changes a lot over the sessions, which you need to anticipate. It’s difficult to be quick close to the walls and overall it’s a very tough race, demanding in terms of concentration and stressful physically and mentally. The only negative thing is that it is quite difficult to overtake, but it is not impossible.”
Maldonado spoke about the challenge the new for 2014 tyres will be on the streets, with the compounds being harder than in previous seasons. Pirelli will be bringing the Soft and Supersoft compounds to Monaco.
“We’re going to face a big challenge as the tyres are harder than those we’ve used in Monaco in the past. In Barcelona we ran with the super-soft and were able to finish the lap without causing problems for the tyres, which was not the case in the past. So that’ll be a big question mark. For sure Mercedes is the strongest team at the moment but we are focused and pushing hard to catch them.”