F1 News: 2013 Brazilian GP Preview – Lotus F1 Team

Lotus LogoThe Final Cut – 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix Preview

Heikki Kovalainen: “All we need is a better Sunday”

Our Finnish Enstone returnee is determined to harness the positives from his E21 debut and strike back with a strong performance at the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix

What do you think of Interlagos?

It’s a great circuit and certainly different from Austin. There are some really nice corners, some more ups and downs and it runs anti-clockwise. The weather can be interesting when there’s potential for rain as it can make for some really challenging conditions. It’s a good place for us to end the season as it’s one of those tracks where anything can happen. The track itself is quite tricky. It’s pretty narrow in parts and you need to make sure you get your lines right or it’s very easy to make a mistake. It’s also fair to say that it has one of the best atmospheres of the whole season. The fans are incredibly passionate about Formula 1. They’re very knowledgeable and they turn the whole weekend into a giant party in the stands. It’s pretty cool on Sunday when you’re on the gird and all the stands are bouncing. It really is a cool place to race Formula 1 cars.

What are your feelings on your Austin weekend?

The race didn’t go the way we wanted and I’m not sure if it was the car or if the driver was just a little rusty! We had a problem with the front wing losing downforce which meant we lost pace, but this improved later on when we changed the front wing. There was a KERS issue too about halfway through the race, though not enough to account for my lack of race pace! We’ll have a good look at the data and hopefully be on top of things far better for the race in Brazil.

Are there plenty of positives heading to Brazil?

Apart from the race it was an encouraging weekend in Austin, so I feel well prepared. The car is quick for sure. It’s fantastic to drive when things are going the right way, so if we can get on top of the issues we had in Austin then the potential is certainly there for a good result. I don’t think we could start the weekend much better than we did last time out, but we can sure finish it better! Let’s see what happens; my goal is to help the team achieve their target in the Constructors’ Championship, so I’ll be pushing right to the end.

What do you think of the E21 now you have a weekend’s experience of it?

The E21 feels good and it gives you the confidence to attack straight away as you can lean on it pretty comfortably without it snapping away from you; it’s really a stable car. This was certainly one of the reasons why I was able to get up to speed pretty quickly. It’s really kind on tyres too and you really notice this on the longer stints. Overall, it’s a great car.

Has it been good to work with the Enstone crew again?

It’s been very straight-forward with no issues at all which has really allowed me to concentrate on the car and the racing. There are some familiar faces around the garage from my time here in the past, which always help you to settle in too.

What do you want to achieve in the final race of 2013?

We’ll try to have a stronger Sunday and get a better result. It was quite a smooth weekend up until the race in Austin, but in Brazil it could be a different story so let’s see how it goes. The main thing is to try and get a good result. The car is right up there – we saw that with Romain’s performance in Austin – and it’s really good to drive so the potential is there. Certainly, I don’t want to make any predictions. It could be a difficult weekend or it could be a great weekend; who knows? We just need to work well with the car like we did in Austin, get up to speed quickly so we’re in good shape going into qualifying, and try to avoid any issues in the race. A better start with a stronger first lap will help too of course; if we put all these things together we should have a strong race.

Romain Grosjean: “I love going Brazilian”

After a standout performance in Austin, Romain Grosjean looks ahead to the season finale at Interlagos hoping to end the year on a high

Tell us about Interlagos; is it a track you like?

It’s a fantastic track; there’s really no part of it that isn’t great. It suits my driving style so I’m really looking forward to it. The E21 has been performing really well this year and there’s no reason to think it won’t be a great car once again in Brazil.

Is there a specific part of the track you like the most?

Everything! It’s a fantastically challenging track which never seems to let you relax. Even the main start-finish ‘straight’ isn’t boring as it starts uphill with some interesting camber, then gradually turns before finishing at the downhill turn one where it’s so easy to out-brake yourself. If I had to pick favourite parts of Interlagos, I would say the first and last corners. The first corner is really technical and punishes you if you get it wrong, while the last corner is so fast and really puts quite a strain on your body. As a driver I really enjoy these corners. It’s one of the real classic old-style tracks so it’s very hard to pick out a single element; I love it!

How difficult has it been taking the fight to the Red Bulls over the last few races?

They have a very fast car, of that there is no doubt! Sometimes we get a sniff of being able to chase Seb [Vettel], but now he’s got the championship in the bag he’s got some additional confidence and speed which makes it all the more difficult! Being able to chase and lead just one of the Red Bulls is really quite some achievement for the team and I’m so grateful to everyone at Enstone for all their hard work throughout the season.

Why do you think the team is performing so well at the moment?

The whole team at the track and back at Enstone are doing an amazing job. The spirit of these guys is awesome; I really can’t say enough about them. They come to the track or the factory having had just a few hours’ sleep after the late night’s work the previous day, but they’re always happy to do anything they can to get the best from a weekend. We drivers are always wanting more from a car, and they never stop trying to make that happen.

You had quite a fight with Mark Webber in Austin?

You know that Mark is very experienced and he’s never going to give up, so that certainly puts the pressure on. Equally, it gives you very good motivation as you know there is no option to make a mistake as he will just take the place. It’s really satisfying racing with such a good competitor, and also very satisfying when you’re the one who crosses the finish line ahead.

Weather is usually quite a talking point in Brazil, with the altitude playing a factor. How will you approach the weekend?

To be honest the weather and altitude is not something we can change and therefore we just have to deal with it. We will plan our strategy well and just aim to be in a position to fit the right tyres at the right time. The good news is that Brazil is closer to our normal time zone, so jet lag will be less hard to cure when we go back home!

What do you think of São Paulo and Brazil in general?

It’s a great place to end the season and I know the crew like visiting there. It’s been a long year, so I think everyone is really looking forward to the end of season party which our sponsor burn is going to hold; that should be a great night! Brazilian people are very friendly and there are some great places to eat. We’ll have a team meal with everyone before the track action gets underway and that’s a pretty good way to say thank you for everyone’s efforts throughout the year.

How would you like to end the 2013 season?

Well it’s always fantastic to be on the podium and of course the top step is always our target. We won’t know how well we and our opposition will perform until we’re out on track, but we’re certainly pushing to do the very best we can.

Eric Boullier: “It’s our last chance for points and we want every single one we can get”

After quite some season for the Enstone outfit, Lotus F1 Team Principal Eric Boullier looks forward to the final race of 2013

It’s been quite some year; how are you approaching the final race of 2013?

It’s the ‘Last Chance Saloon’ to score points and we want every single one we can get. We head to the race in fourth position in the Constructors’ Championship but with third still mathematically possible. You never know what can happen in this sport, so we’re going all out to score everything we can.

What do you think of Interlagos?

If you look back over the years we have seen some fantastic races at Interlagos and the fans are always very enthusiastic. The circuit is unique and it seems to always deliver something special. We hope we can offer something to all the teams’ fans to end the season on a high.

What was the Team Principal’s opinion of the weekend in Austin?

Well, we were certainly kept busy! Even though it’s only the second time we have visited the venue it was a really popular event. From a team perspective, we had to get everything ready for Heikki to join us at short notice and to ensure that we gave him the best opportunity possible to perform. He did a great job over the weekend and kept focused even when there were problems in the race. Over on the other side of the garage, Romain delivered one of his best Grand Prix performances to beat one of the Red Bulls on track and take second position. We really couldn’t have asked more of him.

What have been the highlights of the year?

There have been many highlights. Winning the opening race of the season was a fantastic accomplishment; especially compared to the previous season where we’d looked close to victory but kept having it slip out of our fingers until we finally nailed it in Abu Dhabi. This year the E21 has been such a superb car and a testament to the hard work of everyone at Enstone. We’ve been able to sustain our pace and development and were also able to adapt well to the mid-season tyre changes; allowing us to keep punching above our weight relative to the opposition, which has been exceptionally satisfying. Our recent run of podium finishes really shows what a fantastic group of people exist at Enstone. To have been able to produce and develop such a car under conditions that are not always perfect is a great achievement. Finally, one of the definite highlights has been how Romain has matured as a Formula 1 driver. He keeps delivering exactly what we want from him and is really a force to be reckoned with against anyone on the grid.

What’s the latest news about Kimi?

We know he’s had his operation and that it went successfully, so that’s great to hear. He now has a process of recovery; for which everyone at Enstone wishes him well.

What happens next for the team?

After Brazil there will be a little bit of time to celebrate our performance this season and to thank everyone in the team – both on track and back at Enstone – for putting in such dedicated efforts this year. Then of course our focus will be fully turned to 2014. Our car for this monumental change to the regulations has been something we’ve been working on for around two years now. So much of our recent investment at Enstone – our improved CFD facility, our 60% wind tunnel, our gearbox dyno and our simulator – have been commissioned with the knowledge that there is the immense challenge of building the 2014 car. We hope to be able to be fighting at the front again once the new season gets underway.

Alan Permane: “We want to give the E21 a fitting sendoff”

As Lotus F1 Team prepares for its final race with the E21 – and also the V8 engine – Trackside Operations Director Alan Permane looks at the teams’ potential to end the season on high

What do we think about Interlagos?

It’s quite a tough track for drivers. It runs anti-clockwise with some pretty quick left-hand corners, so drivers certainly know that they are racing there! We wouldn’t be surprised to see the occasional helmet pad making an appearance to help the drivers’ necks. Engineering-wise, it’s a circuit where we can see quite a lot of track evolution over the course of the weekend so you’re trying to set the car up for a somewhat moving target. Historically, the circuit can get quite bumpy which adds an extra feature for consideration. The most recent resurfacing addressed this well, but every year the surface can be just a little bit different.

What’s needed from the car?

Downforce levels are a little bit lighter than in Texas or Abu Dhabi; particularly to maintain top speed on the long straight. This is something we’re paying extra attention to this year, as there’s now a second DRS zone on the straight. Being quick in the twisty bits but slower on the straight might produce a quicker lap for a car on its own, but as there aren’t so many overtaking opportunities at other parts of the circuit it would make the driver a sitting target in race conditions. Last year there wasn’t a DRS zone on the straight so we will revise our approach to setup accordingly. Anything requiring top speed of course relies on engine power, so we’re working closely with Renault to ensure we can extract every last bit of horsepower in the most appropriate fashion for the final outing with the V8s; with the added challenge of the thinner, higher altitude air to contend with. Elsewhere there are some pretty quick corners so extra front wing is a consideration to balance the car. Turns four, five, six, ten and eleven are all challenging. In fact, there’s a lot of challenging corners here! You also need strong change of direction for the low speed turns eight and nine where good traction is required on exit.

It makes for an interesting race, come rain or shine?

The weather is always a consideration in Interlagos. São Paulo can offer anything from blazing sunshine to torrential rain which has to be taken into account, so we’ll have our eyes glued to the radar all weekend. The weather forecast we have currently suggests the chance of rain on Friday with the rest of the weekend being dry; albeit with rather cool temperatures of under 20°C. This means we will have our work cut out to harness the potential of Pirelli’s ultra-conservative hard and medium compound tyre allocation. This could mean that we see two or three laps required from a qualifying run to get the maximum performance from the tyre, which adds a different dimension on Saturday.

Happy with the driver line-up?

With Romain you couldn’t ask for more at the moment; he really is a driver who is delivering at the top of his game. Heikki joined the team at short notice and impressed with his immediate pace. Qualifying in the top ten was a really strong performance and his lack of pace in the race was due to factors outside of his control. He lost a huge chunk of performance from his front wing which is something we’ll investigate fully once our freight and personnel land in Brazil. We’ve identified the KERS problem he also suffered from in the race, so we’re hopeful of a strong end to the season from both drivers to give the E21 the sendoff it deserves.

Nick Chester: “This is easily the biggest year-on-year change I’ve seen in my thirteen years at Enstone”

As we prepare to draw the curtain on the V8 Formula 1 era, Technical Director Nick Chester gives us the lowdown on the radical regulation changes for 2014, and assesses the challenges which lay therein…

What are the main changes in terms of the regulations for next season?

There are just so many it’s hard to know where to begin! Obviously, the engine is the big one; moving from the incumbent V8 unit which we’ve known and worked with for so long to a 1.6 litre, direct injection, V6 turbo unit. This power plant is a very different size and layout to what we currently run with equally distinct cooling requirements; significantly altering the architecture at the back of the car.

Cooling requirements seem to be a hot topic, so to speak?

You need to cool the air that goes into the engine once it’s been through the turbo which is quite a sizeable requirement. The energy recovery systems are significantly more powerful than the 2013 system requiring a lot more cooling for both the batteries and motors. Cooling may well be a differentiating factor between teams next year in terms of how efficient the system can be made which then has a direct impact on aerodynamic performance. The previous change from V10 to V8 engines was obviously significant in terms of cooling requirements but certainly not on the same scale as the changes for 2014. Far from creating a new iteration of an existing package, the requirements are so distinct with the new power train that the challenge is to create an entirely new system and related aero package; revolution rather than evolution, if you will.

What about the energy recovery systems?

In simple terms, we currently use a single motor known as the MGU-K which harvests energy under braking and feeds it back to the engine during acceleration. From next year we will see the addition of a second motor linked directly to the turbo, which is capable of both recovering energy from and sending energy back to the turbo as an anti-lag device.

What effect will the usage of this energy have in terms of the races?

Energy and fuel usage will be largely dictated by strategy. Grid slot will certainly affect how the fuel is used throughout the race, so if you qualify out of position you will almost certainly want to conserve fuel in the opening stages to ensure it can be used to greater effect later on in the race when the track ahead is clearer. The amount of variables in terms of strategy will be far greater than seen previously without doubt.

Are there any notable changes in terms of the structural requirements from the cars?

The chassis design has transformed quite significantly for next year; easily the biggest year-on-year change I’ve seen in my thirteen years at Enstone. There will now be two impact structures on each side of the car instead of the four as per recent years. Although we no longer have to conduct the impact test, there are now more aggressive push and squeeze tests to be carried out on these structures which will be quite a challenge to pass. Obviously, we’ve put a lot of effort into making our chassis as strong as possible with these tests – and ultimately safety of course – in mind.

What can we expect in terms of appearance from the cars?

Starting at the front, we will see the tip of the nose sitting a fair amount lower than currently with the maximum permitted width of the front wing also reduced by 150mm; an area of significant focus in terms of aerodynamic optimisation. In the centre of the chassis, sidepod design will be affected by the aforementioned cooling requirements; significantly altering their shape. Moving to the rear, we will no longer see lower rear wings such that the top rear wing will be supported by a pylon. There will also be a single, central exit tail pipe as opposed to the twin side exit exhausts on the current cars.

Overall, how smooth has the development process been for the E22?

It’s been a long process as you would expect; over two years since we first began working on the 2014 project. The initial stages are more scheming than development; assessing options in terms of your core philosophies before ideas start funnelling down towards a reasonably settled outline of the final design. That process has been working well, but with a new era such as this it’s very difficult to accurately say where we stand no matter how closely we appear to be running to schedule. There’s still an awful lot of work to be done before the car rolls out of the garage for the first time in anger.

We’ve spoken previously about the value of the long wheelbase E21 in terms of investigating development processes for next year; how important has that been?

Although there will be some extra in-season tests returning next year, having the opportunity to assess concepts with the E21 has been of tremendous value. Simulators are fantastic tools and are becoming increasingly so as time goes on, proving a concept without investing time into designing parts or track running is invaluable.

With such a significant amount of work required for 2014, how has the team managed to ensure that the E21 remains competitive right into the closing stages of the current season?

Although not to the same extent seen earlier in the season for obvious reasons, we’ve managed to bring upgrades to the E21 right up to the American Grand Prix. These have ranged from the long wheelbase configuration to aerodynamic and mechanical improvements, which is testament to the effort of everyone at Enstone across a range of departments.

São Paulo Showdown: An Engineer’s Guide to the Interlagos Circuit

The Circuit

Turn 1: A tricky downhill turn at the end of a long straight, the nature of the first corner makes it easy for drivers to out-brake themselves. This year also sees the addition of a second DRS zone – running for 500m along the start/finish straight – which should boost passing opportunities into what is already a good spot for overtaking.

Turns 2 – 3: It’s important to get a good exit from Turn 1; carrying the momentum on through Turn 2 into the high speed Turn 3 and subsequently to the DRS straight.

Turns 4 – 7: The first DRS zone along the back straight presents a good overtaking opportunity heading into Turn 4, which along with Turns 5, 6 & 7 is quite high speed before heading in to the lower speed Turn 8.

Turns 8 – 10: Flat kerbs through the low speed Turns 8 & 10 allow drivers a degree of freedom in their apex point.

Turn 12: Turn 12 is crucial for a quick lap, with exit speed defining how fast you can charge up the hill and along the start / finish straight.

Turns 13 – 15: The uphill section generates high loads for the engine due to an altitude-induced oxygen deficit.

The Car

Rear Wing: Downforce level is a little bit lighter than that seen in Texas or Abu Dhabi, with the intention of maximising top speed down the long straight.

Front Wing: As there are some pretty quick corners, extra front wing is a consideration here to balance the car. Turns where this is relevant include 4, 5, 6, 10 & 11; all of which are quite challenging corners.

Suspension: As we see so often in the current calendar, this is a compromise. The car needs to be strong in the high speed turns, but also have quick change of direction for the low speed Turns 8 & 9. Good traction is also required on exiting Turns 8, 9, 10 and particularly Turn 12 to maximise speed heading up the long hill on to the start / finish straight.

Brakes: There are no particular challenges for the brakes here, other than ensuring that temperatures remain relatively high at the end of the long straight which forms the downhill entry into Turn 1.

Engine: Interlagos is all about altitude. The track is 800m above sea level, meaning the RS27-2013 could be producing around 8% less power than at a sea-level race such as Korea. Over the course of the lap the track also undulates significantly, putting the oil and fuel systems under considerable pressure; particularly through the long left-hand corner onto the pit straight.

Tyres: As per last time out in Austin, the allocation here is once more the hardest in Pirelli’s arsenal with the medium and hard compounds elected. This is quite conservative and could make for a one stop race depending on degradation levels. With a relative absence of high lateral loadings – discounting the final sector – Interlagos is not expected to be too demanding on the tyre structure.

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