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3 November 2013

Lotus F1 Team comments on the 2013 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Romain Grosjean

Friday 1 November

Kimi Räikkönen ended the first day of practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with the fourth fastest time of the day at the Yas Marina Circuit; racking up the joint-highest number of laps completed in the process [65 across the two sessions].

Romain Grosjean was fastest in the first session, but had a brake and then a vibration issue in the second session to end the day twelfth fastest.

Technical Programme Notes:
Kimi ran with the team’s original, shorter wheelbase specification whilst Romain ran with the later, longer wheelbase specification.
Kimi ran trouble-free throughout both sessions enabling a variety of set-up permutations to be evaluated, whilst Romain missed track time in the second session due to an issue first with his brakes, then with vibration.
Pirelli’s medium [white] tyre was used in the first session, the medium and soft [yellow] compound in the second session [both held in the afternoon].

What We Learned Today:
The E21 demonstrated strong potential using both tyre compounds in both long and short configuration.

Kimi Räikkönen, E21-05
Free Practice 1: P6, 1:44.929, 23 laps
Free Practice 2: P4, 1:41.726, 42 laps

Kimi: “The car feels okay and we had a pretty normal Friday. The shorter chassis feels okay here, but I didn’t drive it back to back with the longer one so it’s difficult to say which is better. We’re still trying to get rid of some understeer, but on this circuit it feels better so far. As always, there are some improvements we can make to the car so let’s see what happens tomorrow.”

Romain Grosjean, E21-04
Free Practice 1: P1, 1:44.241, 21 laps
Free Practice 2: P12, 1:42.607, 18 laps

Romain: “It’s been a pretty good day even if we missed time in the later session whilst the brakes were worked on. We also had a little vibration that needed looking at, but it wasn’t the end of the world. The car feels pretty good as we saw with the fastest time in the first session, so I’m sure we’ll get on top of everything we need to for tomorrow.”

Alan Permane, Trackside Operations Director:
“As always in Abu Dhabi, we saw two very different sessions on Friday; the first taking place in daylight with very high track temperatures, the second in much more representative evening temperatures which is what we’ll see for qualifying and the race. We completed limited setup work in FP1 – focusing on setting ride heights rather than car balance – then used FP2 to complete our normal evaluations of the two tyre compounds. Unfortunately Romain had a brake disc failure which lost him some track time, and there was a small vibration when he returned to the track so we cut his day short in order to fully investigate this issue. Kimi meanwhile had a good day and looks competitive on both tyres. He wanted to try the short wheelbase car again as he felt its characteristics would suit this circuit. So far it all looks good and this configuration will be kept on his car for the remainder of the weekend. His long-run pace looks very encouraging on both tyres.”


Saturday 2 November

Kimi Räikkönen ended the day fifth with team-mate Romain Grosjean seventh in a tightly contested qualifying session for tomorrow’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Hot, dry, still conditions prevailed during the final practice session, with cooling temperatures the feature of qualifying as the sun set over the Yas Marina Circuit.

A straightforward Q1 session saw both drivers set a banker lap on medium tyres, before emerging for a single stint on soft rubber to sail through in third [Kimi] and seventh [Romain]. Q2 by contrast was a closely fought affair; the Finn and Frenchman progressing in ninth and eighth respectively, separated by less than three hundredths of a second after two runs apiece on softs.

The top ten shootout of Q3 again saw both black and gold cars make two appearances on soft tyres, with their opening runs good enough for a pair of top six placings. As the chequered flag dropped under the Yas Marina floodlights, Kimi found himself fifth with Romain seventh.

Kimi Räikkönen, E21-05
Q: P5, 1:40.542
FP3: P9, 1:42.387

“Today wasn’t too bad overall. In the early sessions both yesterday and today I struggled a bit to get the car working how I wanted, but in the evening when the temperature is cooler it’s been much more to my liking. This is good as the race will be in the evening so we’d prefer it that way around for sure. The short wheelbase car seems to suit my style a bit better too, so hopefully we can continue this way for tomorrow. Of course, you always want to be as far up the grid as you can and we clearly weren’t the fastest today, but you never know what might happen on Sunday so we’ll see what we can do.”

Romain Grosjean, E21-04
Q: P7, 1:40.997
FP3: P5, 1:41.832

“That was one of the trickier qualifying sessions we’ve had recently, and seventh on the grid is not where we expected to be after the pace we’ve shown so far this weekend. The car felt quite different this evening – particularly in terms of front end – so we’ll need to investigate where it’s not quite working. It’s a long race tomorrow in tough conditions and everyone around us will be starting on the same tyres, so we need to try and find some performance from the data tonight to achieve our target of the podium.”

Alan Permane, Trackside Operations Director: “We expect strong race pace tomorrow”

How was qualifying for the team?
That was a great qualifying performance from Kimi who was unlucky not to be in front of both Mercedes after the final sector of his qualifying lap narrowly cost him a potential third position. By contrast, Romain had a bit of a struggle today and wasn’t as comfortable with his car as he has been so far this weekend. Having both cars inside the top ten is a decent result however, as we expect to see strong race pace from the E21.

What is possible tomorrow?
Our target on pace alone is to race and beat Mercedes; ending the weekend with another good points haul over them in the Constructors’ Championship in the process. Of course, we’ll be ready to capitalise on any opportunities that Red Bull may present us, but they are looking very fast once more here.

What are the tyre strategy considerations for the race?
There don’t appear to be too many permutations here, so it could be quite a straight-forward race. Certainly, the different options that presented themselves in New Delhi don’t look to be available here so we’ll watch how the race evolves and react accordingly.

Sunday 3 November

Romain Grosjean produced a strong drive to take fourth place in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from sixth on the grid, whilst Kimi Räikkönen’s race ended in retirement following contact at the first corner.

A flying start from Romain saw him jump two places to fourth position through the opening series of corners; settling in behind the third-placed Red Bull of Mark Webber until the first round of pit stops. Kimi meanwhile saw his evening curtailed after just a few hundred metres; a clash of wheels with Caterham’s Giedo van der Garde resulting in a broken track rod on the Finn’s E21.

Having emerged right behind Esteban Guttierez after his first pit stop, Romain wasted little time in passing the Mexican, only to be held up behind Adrian Sutil until the second phase of stops. Once in clear air, the Frenchman pushed hard to build a sufficient gap which would allow him to re-join in front of both Ferraris following his second stop; achieving that task by the narrowest of margins. Despite consistently closing the gap to Nico Rosberg in the closing stages, Romain missed out on a fourth consecutive podium finish by a margin of just a single second at the flag.

Kimi retains third place in the Drivers’ Championship on 183 points; 34 behind Fernando Alonso in second. Romain remains in seventh position with 114 points; trailing Nico Rosberg by 45. The team remains fourth in the Constructors’ Championship on 297 points from Ferrari’s 323, with third spot remaining a firm target heading into the final two races of the season.

Kimi started from twenty-second on the grid with a new set of medium tyres, having been excluded from his P5 qualifying slot due to a technical infringement on his E21. He retired on the first lap after contact with Giedo van der Garde at Turn 1 which broke his right-front track rod.

Romain started from sixth on a scrubbed set of soft tyres, having been promoted one position on the grid as a result of his team-mate’s penalty. The Frenchman pitted on lap eight for new mediums, and again on lap thirty-seven for a scrubbed set of the same compound.

In his pursuit of the final podium position, Romain set the third fastest lap of the race on his penultimate lap; underlining the pace of the E21 here at the Yas Marina Circuit.

Kimi Räikkönen, DNF, E21-05
"There was some contact in front of me through the first corner so I stuck to the inside, but unfortunately one of the Caterhams touched my front wheel and it broke the track rod. It wasn’t a heavy impact, but the angle made it worse. It’s never easy starting so far back on the grid, but after the penalty it was a better choice to help our chances in the race rather than starting from the pit lane. After a difficult start to the weekend we did well yesterday so it was a shame we couldn’t start where we qualified, but these things happen sometimes; it’s just back luck.”

Romain Grosjean, P4, E21-04
“That was a pretty long race. I got a good start and made up two places in the first few corners, but after that I lost a lot of time behind the Force India. I could overtake him with the DRS, but he had much better top speed and could just drive straight back past at the next straight. That middle stint cost us the chance of a podium in the end, and on pace we could maybe even have pushed Mark [Webber] for second place, but that’s how it goes sometimes. It’s a shame we couldn’t make it four podiums in a row, but to come away with fourth place after a difficult couple of days is a decent result.”

Eric Boullier, Team Principal
“It’s been a difficult weekend for the team, but we can be pleased with the fact our car has once again shown strong pace at another different circuit. After the misfortune of his qualifying penalty it was always going to be a tough race for Kimi. Starting at the back with a faster car always puts you in a tricky position, and in the end it was bad luck once again that saw his race end on the first lap; for the first time since 2006 I believe. Romain drove a very mature race to narrowly miss out on his fourth consecutive podium, which on another day and without his issues in qualifying would certainly have been within reach. We have some work to do if we are to achieve our target of third place in the Constructors’ Championship, so our focus must now be on returning to the podium in Austin.”

Alan Permane, Trackside Operations Director
“We came into this weekend anticipating another podium challenge, but unfortunately circumstances have ultimately conspired against that happening. Having already been stripped of his best qualifying performance since Germany, Kimi’s race was cut short on the first lap after a tangle with one of the Caterhams, bringing a disappointing end to a weekend where his pace had been much improved. It was a trouble free race for Romain by contrast, who drove well to take fourth place. His progress was quite heavily hindered by traffic midway through the race and we didn’t quite have the pace to challenge [Nico] Rosberg in the closing stages, so realistically he achieved the best possible result on the day. What’s especially pleasing is that he’s gone from being labelled a ‘first lap nutcase’ to consistently gaining positions away from the line and through the opening sequence of corners at each race. We now head to Austin where we’ll be working hard to make a return to the podium.”

Ricardo Penteado, Renault Sport F1 Team Support Leader
“Romain did a great job today to finish just outside the podium places. Again he managed the engine and fuel consumption well so we could turn up the engine modes when we needed to push and he came away with some valuable points for the championship battle. Unfortunately Kimi stopped early, but it’s always a risk when starting from that position. We’ll keep it focused for the final two races though and try to get as many points as we can to finish the V8 era on a high.”