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25 March 2011

Australian GP 2011 - Lotus Renault GP comments


Friday 25 March 2011

Nick and Vitaly kicked off their 2011 campaigns today as free practice got underway at Melbourne’s Albert Park.

Alan Permane, Chief Engineer - Technical programme notes

  • The track was very green to begin with and we didn’t do a great amount of running in the first session. We used one set of hard tyres per driver and it all went as planned.
  • We used flow viz paint on both cars to assess the performance of the DRS (drag reduction system). We also practiced using KERS in both sessions.
  • We ran both the hard and soft tyres in the second session and did some high fuel work on the soft tyre.
  • We have evaluated some new aerodynamic parts and they are performing well.

What we learned today:

  • Tyres are performing better than expected.
  • High fuel running in the afternoon confirmed that there are no concerns over braking and cooling.

Nick Heidfeld, R31-01
Free practice 1: P12, 1:28.928, 14 laps
Free practice 2: P13, 1:27.536, 29 laps

Nick: “I think today was OK. We spent more time than we expected working on the set-up and so we didn’t do as many laps as we wanted. The car felt alright, but I think we can still improve. With the hard tyres it was quite difficult to get enough grip, and the small problems that we had meant I couldn’t really do a long run in the end. Also, the wet weather conditions meant it was not ideal to learn about the car, but I think we’re lucky that it stayed pretty dry. It’s still very difficult to know exactly where we stand, but we do have a better picture than we had yesterday.”

Vitaly Petrov, R31-03
Free practice 1: P10, 1:28.765, 15 laps
Free practice 2: P12, 1:27.528, 22 laps

Vitaly: “It’s always fun to get the season underway. The weather was quite cold, but I didn’t have any issues with the car during the sessions. We did the baseline set-up work and found some good improvements during the day and I already feel quite comfortable with the balance of the car here. The other good news is that the tyres were performing well today and lasting quite a bit longer than expected.”

Saturday 26 March

It was a day of mixed fortunes for LRGP as Vitaly qualified on the third row, while Nick missed out on a place in Q1 after getting caught up in traffic.

Vitaly Petrov, P6, R31-03, 1:25.212
“After all the hard work during a very tough winter for the whole team, it feels great to come here and qualify on the third row. There was a lot of pressure in Q3 because I only had one run, right at the end of the session. So there were no second chances and I’m glad I was able to deliver the lap. The car has felt good right from the start of practice and we’ve improved it constantly during each session. I think we are in a great position for the race and that we can fight for some points tomorrow. I’m not too worried about the tyres because they have been working well for us so far and we have not seen the drop off that we saw during winter testing.”

Nick Heidfeld, P18, R31-01, 1:27.239
“I’m disappointed to be starting the season from so far back. It wasn’t an easy session and I had a problem with the KERS, which meant I had to change some settings, and that cost me one of my timed laps. Then, there was so much traffic and I tried to find some free space, but it didn’t work out for me. It’s bad luck, but I must try and put that behind me now. As we have seen with Vitaly, the car seems to have good pace and the race is wide open, so hopefully I can move forward and fight for points.”

James Allison, Technical Director: “The race may not be as frantic as we expected”

James, a mixed session for the team. What is your verdict?
We’re all very pleased with sixth on the grid for Vitaly, but sad for Nick that a troubled session in Q1 saw him eliminated early on. P18 is certainly not a reflection of the pace he has shown throughout the weekend.

Did the pace shown by Vitaly confirm what you had seen during testing?
It was very hard to judge from winter testing exactly where we stood in the pecking order. However I was really pleased with the way Vitaly improved the car steadily through the weekend and produced really consistent results in each part of qualifying. Still, there is a big gap to pole position and we need to work on reducing that.

Looking ahead to the race, what are you expecting?
From what we could tell during the pre-season, our car seemed to run pretty well on its tyres, so hopefully we can make good starts with both cars and move forward during the race. It’s too early to have a feeling on race pace, but I think we will be able to maintain and improve on our qualifying competitiveness.

Will it be a race all about tyres?
So far this weekend the tyres have proved durable and consistent – much more so than we saw during testing – and that’s the case for both the hard and the soft compounds. So perhaps the race might not be quite as frantic as we expected before we arrived here.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

LRGP opened its 2011 account in fine style as Vitaly scored his first podium in just his 20th Formula 1 race.

• Both Nick and Vitaly adopted two-stop strategies: soft / soft / hard
• Nick stopped on laps 15 and 30, while Vitaly made his stops on laps 16 and 36.
• Vitaly set his best time on lap 55, while defending his third place from Fernando Alonso
• Vitaly makes history as the first Russian to stand on a Formula 1 podium

Vitaly Petrov, P3, R31-03
I’m delighted to be here on the podium, especially after the winter that we had as a team, which was very tough. Even during testing we didn’t really know where we were compared with the others, but we continued adding new parts to the car this weekend, and they worked pretty well. I made a great start today, which was probably the key for my race because it got me ahead of Alonso and Button, and I was able to run in some clean air and push hard, as well as looking after my tyres. Our two-stop strategy was clearly the right decision and we made it work. I have to say a big thanks to everyone in the team for working so hard and for supporting my over the winter. This result is for all of us and I’m totally ecstatic.

Nick Heidfeld, P14, R31-01
Today was a tough race. I’m obviously disappointed not to finish in the points, but it just wasn’t possible, especially after I got hit on the first lap. It’s a shame because I had made such a good start from 18th to 12th by the first corner. The damage to the car was quite severe, mostly to the right hand bodywork, sidepod and engine cover. So it wasn’t a strong race for me at all. But, I’m pleased for the team and Vitaly that we have this excellent result today. It shows that we have a competitive car and that we can fight hard this year.

Eric Boullier, Team Principal and Managing Director
The podium today is a huge relief and a big reward for all the work which has been done by all the team, and obviously I am very happy. It shows that the decision we took to be aggressive with the design of the car was the right call, and it’s something we can build on going forward. The performance of Vitaly was very strong and it shows that we can deliver strong results this season. In fact, I have no doubt that both our drivers can be fighting towards the front at the next race and that we can build on the competitiveness we have shown this weekend.

James Allison, Technical Director
I’m utterly delighted for everyone in the team because it has not been easy getting here. I would be lying if I said I thought we’d earn a podium like we did today, but Vitaly’s place looked very good in qualifying and we knew we were competitive. We thought we were in with a shout of a good fight with the Ferraris, and we did exactly that. Going forward we will have more aero updates for the car in Malaysia, which are worth a few extra tenths. It should allow us to build on our strong showing today.

Riccardo Penteado, LRGP Engine Support Leader, Renault Sport F1
A fantastic result for Lotus Renault GP today and a dream start to the season. Vitaly drove a great race, under lots of pressure from former world champion Fernando Alonso, but he didn’t make a single mistake and showed that the car has a huge amount of potential. He drove every lap like a qualifying lap and therefore we were a bit tight on the fuel towards the end of the race, but both he and the team managed the economy very well and finally it worked out how we wanted, in fact even better, with a podium. Nick’s race was compromised by some damage to the car. From the engine side we’re obviously very pleased with how it’s gone today and are already looking forward to Malaysia.’