Lotus: Malaysian Grand Prix Preview
20 March, 2012
“It doesn’t feel like I’ve been away”
Qualifying in eighteenth position wasn’t quite the plan in Australia, but a storming drive through the field to seventh showed that the Iceman is back. What will Sepang hold?
How did it feel coming back to Formula 1 after two years away? Did you find it easy getting into the groove with a new car, new tyres and the DRS?
To be honest it didn’t feel any different to when I last raced. There have been a few rule changes but the racing itself is very similar. The DRS is easier to use in the race than in practice or qualifying because there are only certain places you can activate it, whereas in the other sessions people will try to push the limits of how early they can use it which can easily lead to a mistake if you are too aggressive.
Given your performance and where Romain managed to qualify in Australia, how much potential do you feel the E20 has?
The car feels very good. In the race I was stuck in traffic a lot so it didn’t show so much, and who knows what might have happened if we had a better grid a slot. There is a lot of speed in the car.
You came on the radio shouting about the blue flags…
I was just wondering what was going on as they kept showing it to me! I assumed it was for the car behind that I’d just overtaken but it seemed to go on for a few laps so I wanted to know why they were still waving at me!
With round 1 now done and dusted, what are your thoughts moving on to Malaysia?
I’m happy to get the first race out of the way. We’ll be trying to improve our performance in Malaysia for sure. We don’t know how the car will behave there but it’s been good everywhere so far so hopefully it’ll be the same there. It’ll be hot and humid which is a challenge but we have a good car. As long as qualifying goes well we could be fighting for podiums. We’ll have to wait and see.
Sepang as a circuit is quite different from Albert Park as a track?
You still need a good car and that looks to be what we have. Hopefully we’ll have a smoother weekend than we did in Australia with no mistakes. We won’t know how the car will perform until we get out on track, but it’s been good everywhere else so far. Hopefully it’ll be the same in Malaysia.
What are your main memories of Sepang as a circuit?
Malaysia has been good and bad for me in the past; I’ve had a few bad races there but I’ve also won three times at the circuit including my first Grand Prix victory so it’s nice to go back to where it all began. It’s hot and humid which makes it a challenge for the drivers, but it’s the same for everyone.
With two long straights forming part of the circuit layout, is this a track which will lend itself to overtaking with the DRS and KERS systems?
I haven’t used the DRS here before so I’m not sure how much use it will be, but our car is good in a straight line so hopefully it can help us out in the race. We’ll have to wait and see.
Do you feel like you’re getting the most out of the E20 at this stage?
There’s much more to come. We’re learning about the car all the time and the last race didn’t really give us the chance to use its full potential. Hopefully Malaysia will be a bit more straightforward.
“Sepang is probably my favourite track”
Australia may not have had the dream ending Romain had hoped for, but It takes a lot more than bad luck to knock the Frenchman out of his stride.
Firstly, let’s talk about qualifying in Australia – that was quite some result…
It was like a dream come true. I only really discovered the Albert Park in the dry in the morning as we’d had rain on practice day and I’d never driven the track before. When I heard my qualifying position on the radio, I just could not believe it!
What happened for you in the race – it didn’t go quite to plan…
To begin with the start wasn’t very good. Then Pastor (Maldonado) hit my car on lap three and that was it, my race was over. From what I saw he braked far too late, and came across to hit my right front wheel which broke the steering.
Was there anything different you could have done?
I made sure to be careful through the opening laps but I can’t control the other drivers and there was no way I could have avoided it. From what I saw he braked far too late. I can’t move all the way into the gravel just to give someone space; I’m not driving a 4×4! When you’re overtaking someone you have to leave at least enough space for that car to remain on the track and this was not the case here.
The good news is that the car looks good in terms of performance. Does this give you confidence going to Malaysia?
The car is performing very well. I was keeping pace with the guys in front of me and was pushing to get past so with a bit more luck I think we could have achieved a great result. I’m disappointed for the team because they deserved better having worked so hard to give us a strong car.
Are there any specific improvements or developments you want from the E20?
To be honest the car was working very well over the weekend in Australia. There are always small improvements you can make but there’s nothing major I could point to right now which is always a good thing! I have a strong relationship with the team after winter testing; we’ve built up a good level of understanding and I know if there are areas where we can find time I can trust the guys to find them. It’s a great feeling having a team behind you who all work for each other and are fighting in the same direction, during the good times and bad.
Back to back races always put an extra strain on the team, especially when heading to a climate like that of Malaysia. How do you plan to recover and prepare for the next race?
There are a few things that help in these situations. Firstly, it’s important to continue your training regime as normal, no matter how much you may want to just sleep! Then the key is to adjust your body to the time difference and climate, particularly the latter in Malaysia where the heat and humidity make it one of the most difficult races of the year physically.
Unlike Melbourne last weekend, the Kuala Lumpur venue is one you are familiar with already. What do you think of the circuit?
Sepang is probably my favourite track. I raced there in 2008 as part of the GP2 Asia Series and I really loved the circuit. It’s nice and wide, with fast flowing corners and a lot of undulation which makes it great fun to drive. The last corner is a tricky one, but I enjoy everything about racing here. Well, maybe not the heat and humidity, but at the end of the day it makes it just another challenge for the drivers! I’m really looking forward to it. I believe we can achieve some positive results this season, hopefully starting in Malaysia.
Team Management Interview
“The E20 should be competitive in Malaysia”
The Enstone family is unique in its ‘human’ approach to Formula 1; a strategy Team Principal Eric Boullier believes will drive the team forwards.
Eric, if you had to sum-up the Australian GP in one word, what would it be?
Pride, I think.
Well, we are coming back from a tough 2011 season. From a human and a technical point of view, last year was very, very tough. We took some risks with an innovative concept that didn’t pay off, and we paid the price for that. However, when we approached the subject of 2012 this experience did not prevent us from being brave once again. The team proved that they were not scared to think outside the box once again. This is exactly what I was expecting. I guess this is in the DNA of Enstone. As a Team Principal, I can only be impressed with this approach.
Were you expecting the E20 to perform so well in Melbourne?
Before qualifying nobody really knew what to expect. Possibly to a greater extent than in previous years, there was very little reliable information to be learned from winter testing. We knew our car was quite quick, but as for the others we had absolutely no clue. Saturday was a relief: you don’t reach the second row of the grid by chance.
What about Sepang, then?
It will be a totally different track from Albert Park of course. This said, we think that the E20 should be competitive there. One of its bigger assets is very low tyre degradation. Considering the very hot conditions in Malysia, this can only be a help. We think we can be competitive there.
Romain and Kimi seem to be a very competitive line-up…
Yes, and that was our target for this year. The two of them get on well and they push each other. This is an ideal situation for us. We knew it from the beginning. Romain was really unlucky in Australia as he could have fought for the top places there. Unfortunately, he’s been taken out of the race by another driver. This is part of the game I guess, but it was really frustrating. Such manoeuvres from opponents are unnecessary in the first few laps of a race. This driver did not see the finish line either, so I guess there is some justice in that… Kimi managed to gain 11 places over the course of the race, which shows how motivated he is.
The 2012 championship will be decided on development, presumably. Will the team be able to cope with it?
Development means resource and investment. With Genii Capital behind us, we know that we’ll benefit from a strong a reliable asset. They will do whatever it takes to help us design and produce the parts we need to be more competitive. Genii did not get involved in Formula 1 to finish second.
How can the team fight against Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull? Your budget does not have anything in common with these teams…
You’re right, but our philosophy is that money does not buy wins and championships. For us, Formula 1 is all about being clever and cost efficient. The E20 is the first Enstone car designed with our 60% scale wind tunnel and upgraded CFD facility. In a few weeks, our brand new simulator will be operational. People in Enstone have the right tools to push forward and we’re investing where we have to. That said, people should not think of us as a second class team. With Lotus, Total, Rexona, Clear and Microsoft Dynamics on board, we’re clearly among the most attractive outfits around.
You have been the only team this year to announce a commercial deal with worldwide groups…
Exactly. This means that our approach seduces the biggest companies in the world. When partners sign with Lotus F1 Team, they don’t enter into a commercial relationship: they become part of a very special family. The human aspect of Formula 1 is usually neglected, but we make it the number one priority on our list. Our communications and marketing philosophy is unique within the sport. We are honest, open, approachable, and sometimes a bit cheeky as well. We love our fans, and we never lie to the media. This is unusual in the paddock and this is what makes Lotus F1 Team a very unique organisation. This will pay off eventually. The good guys always win in the end.
“Albert Park is actually not a bad weather vane for the season”
The E20 has performed well at three circuits in 2012. Can the team unlock Sepang’s secrets?
What was your take on the first race of the 2012 season?
A solitary seventh place from the race doesn’t tell the full story. Overall we can be proud of the way that the car, the team and our drivers have performed. The E20 has looked fast at Jerez, at Barcelona, and now at Albert Park too. Romain did a terrific job to qualify in third position. He was unfortunate with his start and more unfortunate still to have suffered an impact with another driver causing his untimely departure from the race. We took some satisfaction from Kimi’s solid drive which converted his rather lowly grid position into a handful of points.
How much did we learn from the weekend in Albert Park as it wasn’t a straightforward weekend due to a wet Friday limiting running?
We felt from winter testing that we were in a reasonable position. We didn’t think we had the quickest car, but we had a good feeling. We could also see that it was close between all the teams. The wet running on Friday [where we instructed our drivers not to run rather than expose the car to unnecessary risk] meant that we had to wait until Saturday to find out the true pecking order. It was both satisfying and relieving in equal measure to see the car perform at the upper end of our pre-season estimates.
How different is the challenge in Malaysia?
Although slightly unusual, Albert Park is actually not a bad weather vane for the season. Its range of corner speeds and traction demands means that cars which are quick in Melbourne tend to do OK over the remainder of the season. The next race will be much hotter, which poses different challenges for the cars, the tyres and the drivers, but we are confident that our Melbourne form, coupled with our reasonable pace in Jerez and Barcelona, will translate into a competitive showing in Malaysia.
Any changes to the car for the second round?
We don’t have any big upgrades to the car. It is a tight turnaround with a back to back race and we will be concentrating on finding a good setup with the package we have to make sure that we are using the tyres well. Sepang is quite challenging in this regard, due the high track temperatures that we can expect.
How is progress in finding a steering set-up exactly to Kimi’s liking?
We have a baseline steering set-up which Kimi is able to live with. It is not ideal for him, and it is our duty to ensure that we give him a system that meets his demands perfectly. We brought a new option to Melbourne for him to try but the wet weather meant that we were not able to judge whether it was a step forwards. We reverted to the “old faithful” out of an abundance of caution. We will keep persisting until we produce a set-up which is exactly to his requirements.
What area specifically about the steering are the team focusing on?
Each driver is different in what he wants from his steering setup. All of the drivers have a hydraulically assisted powered steering unit in the steering rack as the loads on the wheel would be intolerable otherwise. The engineers adjust the level of assistance that this unit provides to suit the individual requirements of the driver. Kimi likes to drive with quite a light steering wheel, but one which also has great precision. Our baseline rack is precise, but it is not light enough for Kimi’s driving style. Our challenge is to produce a hydraulic rack that is more powerful than the current unit, but which sacrifices none of its precision. We have not got there yet, but we will do.
Tech Talk: Sepang
1. REAR WING
Downforce levels are very similar to the levels in Melbourne.
There are four pretty heavy braking zones – into turn one, in to turn four, into turn 14, and then into turn 15. High temperatures are not such a threat as there are long straights between the braking events to cool the brakes.
Sepang requires a good all round car. There are high speed straights. There are very high speed speed change of direction in turns five and six. There are some reasonable traction events with some very low speed tight double hairpin at turn one and turn two. There are no high kerbs so the car can be ran with a lower ride height than otherwise – giving better overall downforce.
Pirelli’s soft and hard tyres, meaning a greater gap between compounds than in Albert Park (where soft and medium were used). The track is very demanding on the tyres due to its aggressive surface, heavy braking areas, long straights and wide variety of speeds and corners.
5. FRONT WING
The threat of understeer is not as prevalent as in Albert Park so we can run with slightly less front wing.
Malaysia sits to the upper end of the ‘power tracks’ with 60% of the lap spent at full throttle, but the main challenge is preparing the engine’s cooling systems to cope with the intense heat and humidity. Ambient temperatures can reach over 40°C so engine cooling becomes crucial. The RS27’s cooling system is refined at dynos back at Viry-Châtillon, where climatic conditions can be recreated including running with 100% humidity and 40°C heat.
Sepang: An Engineers View – Alan Permane, Trackside Operations Director
The track surface is very abrasive, particularly in comparison to Albert Park, which is very smooth.
High speed stability is an essential requirement of the tyre in Malaysia due to the circuit layout, which contains some long straights and quick direction changes.
TURNS 1 + 2
Good engine tractability required through turns 1 and 2, the second of which leads to a high speed section so a good exit is needed.
Strong stability from the tyres is required through the high speed corner to aid driver confidence.
Heavy braking here
TURNS 5 + 6
These high speed turns require stiff suspension. The car can be run lower and stiffer as there are no high kerbs in Sepang which is beneficial for this.
Turning whilst braking means this corner can prove punishing for the tyres.
Heavy braking from a long straight into the final corner, which is followed by another long straight, means a good overtaking opportunity, and a variety of lines are taken here.
START / FINISH STRAIGHT
The KERS is more effective for qualifying in Sepang because of the where the start-finish line is as you get two bites of the cherry with the KERS usage on the out lap. Heavy braking at the end of the start / finish straight. The brakes have cooled along the straight so should not overheat. A good overtaking location.
Handbags and Gladrags
The eagerly anticipated 2012 Lotus F1 Team merchandise range is now available via our newly re-developed online store.
A selection of branded goods is on offer, ranging from shirts to hand luggage. To view the full range visit: www.lotusoriginals.com/en/category/lotus-f1-team/
Ice Cold and Angry
Finnish media company Rovio Entertainment has announced a merchandising partnership with Kimi Räikkönen for its latest game: Angry Birds Space.
The two will be collaborating on co-branded Angry Birds Space clothing, with Kimi also sporting an Angry Birds design on his team cap during the Formula One season.
Angry Birds Space arrives on iOS, Android, PC, and Mac on March 22.
Microsoft and Lotus F1 Team: A Dynamic Partnership
Midway through last week, Lotus F1 Team announced a three-year partnership with Microsoft. Microsoft Dynamics branding now features prominently on the cars and also on the drivers’ overalls.
As part of the partnership, Microsoft Dynamics solutions, which are designed to enable organizations to be more agile and globally competitive in today’s business environment, will be implemented at the team’s Enstone base to facilitate the team’s business transformation.
For the duration of the agreement, Microsoft personnel will work directly with Lotus F1 Team to continuously transform and optimize operations towards a world class facility.
Kimi’s new website www.kimiraikkonen.com is now up and running, with a host of material to keep even the most die-hard fan entertained.
Key features include news updates, driver profile, results summary, image gallery, multimedia area, fans forum and partners section.
In Numbers: Sepang
3.4 Highest g-force experienced for 2.8 seconds at T5
10 Longest full throttle burst (sec) at start/finish straight
17 % of the lap spent braking
43 Total straight per lap (%)
57 Number of gear changes per lap
65 % of lap on full throttle
75 Lowest apex speed (kmh) at T9
247 Highest apex speed (kmh) at T13
315 Top speed (kmh)
500 Distance in metres from start line to first corner
The Drivers A-Z…
Champion: Kimi made his F1 debut testing a Sauber in 2000 at Italy’s Mugello circuit. The only other driver on track, Michael Schumacher, saw enough to correctly declare him a future champion.
Dahlman: On 31 July 2004 Kimi Matias Räikkönen married Jenni Dahlman, a Finnish model and former Miss Scandinavia.
Craftsman: Romain’s grandfather on his mother’s side was a very well known iron craftsman (Edgar Brandt) who constructed the ironwork on the unknown soldier’s grave under the Arc de Triomphe.
Dual Nationality: Romain was born in Geneva to a Swiss father and a French mother on April 17, 1986.
Our History: Malaysian GP
Lotus F1 Team entered the inaugural Malaysian Grand Prix in 1999 under the Benetton name, with Austrian Alexander Wurz and Italian Giancarlo Fisichella at the wheel
In its various guises the team has taken 2 wins in Malaysia, with Fernando Alonso (Renault, 2005) and Giancarlo Fisichella (Renault, 2006)
The team has also achieved 10 Malaysian Grand Prix podiums, the first in 2003 (Fernando Alonso, Renault) and the most recent in 2011 (Nick Heidfeld, Lotus Renault GP)
The Sepang circuit is one Kimi knows well, having won here twice in 2003 and 2008. Romain also has a strong record at the Kuala Lumpur venue, having finished 2nd in the 2008 GP2 Asia Series feature race here.