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16 April  2012

Lotus F1 Team comments on the Chinese Grand Prix

Friday, 13 April 2012

Kimi Räikkönen and Romain Grosjean took to the track for the first practice sessions of the third round of the 2012 Formula 1 World Championship at Shanghai in cold and damp conditions.

Alan Permane, Trackside Operations Director - Technical programme notes

In FP1 we completed limited running due to the inclement track conditions.
Both drivers completed the majority of running in the first session with Pirelli’s intermediate tyre as we evaluated new parts.
FP2 saw heavy fuel running, evaluating the medium and soft compound tyres.
What we learned today:

Track temperature was colder than expected meaning the car did not handle as predicted.
We saw understeer from both cars, possibly symptomatic of the cool temperatures.
Kimi Räikkönen, E20-03
Free practice 1: P24, 1:50.465, 11 laps
Free practice 2: P13, 1:37.836, 30 laps

“It’s not often that you have a perfect car on Friday and there are certain things we have to improve. To be honest, it doesn’t matter if you are the slowest car on Friday if you are fast for the rest of the weekend. We now just need to look at the information and change the usual things on the car to improve it. We’re aiming for better results than what we’ve achieved from the last two weekends. For sure, we have some work to do on the car. We tried some different things with the set-up today so we have some information to look at, and we know there are certain areas where we have to improve.”

Romain Grosjean, E20-04
Free practice 1: P17, 1:41.204, 14 laps
Free practice 2: P14, 1:37.972, 26 laps

“We had strange conditions this morning and a little bit of a difficult session this afternoon to be honest. We’re not where we would expect to be, partly due to the low temperature which we didn’t expect. We’ll analyse what’s changed coming from two warm weekends to here where it’s pretty cold and has changed the game. On a positive note I’m comfortable with the way the car feels; we have a few set-up issues but it’s not as if the car is nowhere. I’m sure we’ll improve tomorrow, and of course if the weather changes again then everything will change. It’s never easy to learn a new track in varying conditions, but it was good to get out there and find my way around, and also to get a proper impression of the intermediate tyres which is a bonus for me. The track itself is quite nice to drive, and I was pleased to be reasonably close to Kimi who obviously has a lot more experience around here. I’ll be working late with the engineers tonight.”

James Allison, Technical Director:
“We spent today trying to make the E20 good for the race and tomorrow we’ll look at ultimate qualifying pace. The morning session was damp and drizzly, and the afternoon was a bit cold. We’re not certain that today will be representative of the race conditions we’ll see. We didn’t find a balance that either driver was happy with today, but we experienced a similar Friday scenario in Albert Park and Sepang and managed to get the cars sorted for Saturday.”

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Kimi Räikkönen set the fifth fastest time whilst Romain Grosjean made it through to Q3 but did not set a time in the final session before tomorrow’s Chinese Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit. Kimi benefits from a gearbox change penalty for Lewis Hamilton and will start in P4 for tomorrow’s race whilst Romain will start from P10.

Kimi Räikkönen, E20-03. Q: P5*, 1:35.898. FP3: P10, 1:37.061. *Starts from P4.
“The grid position is okay but when you look at the times, I’m disappointed with the pace of the car today. We’ve gained a position after Lewis’s penalty but the speed wasn’t where it should have been, especially when you look at the pole time. We’ve tried some updates this weekend, but they haven’t worked as we wanted so we’ve gone back to how the car was before. We go into the race less confident in the car than in the last two races, but knowing that we start from a higher position on the grid. Let’s see what we can do tomorrow, we’ll try to do the best we can and hopefully we can be higher up than we are on the grid, and that means a podium.”

Romain Grosjean, E20-04. Q: P10, no time. FP3: P12 1:37.274.
“I have mixed feelings after today’s session. After struggling a bit yesterday it’s great to have both cars in Q3, but unfortunately after a terrible first run in Q2 we were forced to use up all our new sets of soft tyres before the final session. This meant there was no point trying to set a competitive time in the pole position shoot out which is a real shame, as our pace in Q2 was good. I feel much more comfortable with the car and I think that shows in the lap times today. The team did a great job to turn things around and get us back towards the top where we should be. I still have some fine tuning to do but 56 laps in tomorrow’s race will certainly help that!”

Alan Permane, Director of Trackside Operations:
“It should be interesting...”

Both drivers in the top ten again, are we happy with today’s performance?
“Kimi is where the car should be and I think he’s reasonably happy with his performance. He did an excellent job through qualifying and considering the build up of this weekend I think we can be reasonably happy. Romain’s absolute pace is very similar to Kimi’s but qualifying is hungry for tyres if you can’t get the pace straight away. Kimi got through to Q3 with just one set of soft tyres, but Romain required three sets, meaning he then didn’t have a fresh set for his Q3 lap. Romain’s got the pace, we just need to unlock that pace on the hard tyre in a qualifying situation.”

Why didn’t Romain set a time in Q3?
“As he didn’t have a new set of soft tyres, it was always going to be a tough ask to get a blinding lap in the final session, especially as everyone else who got through to Q3 did have a new set. It was unrealistic to expect Romain to qualify higher than tenth in this scenario, but we sent him out anyway. We soon saw from the split times that there was no possibility we brought him in to save a lap on the tyres for the race.”

What’s the assessment of the weekend so far?
“We brought a new update package for the car and we weren’t convinced by a large part of it yesterday. This meant we reverted almost entirely to our Malaysia specification which is why we have missed out on potential pace from the car. We hope to get all the new elements working soon.”

P4 on the grid is Kimi’s best starting position, what can be done from there?
“We have to take every race as it comes, but we’ve certainly seen that we’ve raced more strongly so far than the two Mercedes ahead of us, but that said we were a long way off the pole time, so they are clearly looking very strong. I’d like to think we can take the race to the other cars around us. We’re confident in our starts and our tyre wear and race pace. It should be interesting.”

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Romain Grosjean benefitted from an aggressive tyre strategy whilst Kimi Räikkönen ultimately lost out in a fast-paced and exciting Chinese Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit. Romain went from tenth on the grid to finish in sixth, whilst Kimi ran strongly in second place until his tyres could no longer deliver sufficient performance, finally finishing in 14th.

Both cars started on the yellow-marked soft Pirelli P-Zero and used a further two sets of mediums.
Romain pitted on laps 11 and 32.
Kimi pitted on laps 10 and 28.
Kimi ran in P2 for laps 41-47. Romain ran in P2 for laps 29-31.
Kimi Räikkönen, P14, E20-03
“We tried to run two stops as it looked to be the fastest strategy and up until the last ten laps it was looking good, but we ran out of tyre performance at the end. I was stuck behind Felipe (Massa) for quite a while and couldn’t get past as I wasn’t fast enough in the right parts of the track to make a move. Even if I’d got past I don’t think it would have made the greatest amount of difference to the final result. We had good pace in the race, we tried a different strategy and it didn’t pay off today; it’s as simple as that.”

Romain Grosjean, P6, E20-04
“It was a very good race, I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately I made a little mistake fighting with Mark (Webber) but overall it was a good performance. The car felt great and the team did an amazing job to give us such a big improvement from Friday, so I’m especially happy for the guys to be able to finish the race and get some good points on the board. To be up there fighting with McLaren and Red Bull is a great feeling and I’m happy to have got my season started properly. We’ve had high hopes since P3 on the grid in Melbourne, and now after a few setbacks it’s time to aim higher. There’s always room to improve and hopefully from here we can aim for the top five and eventually podiums. We’ll take things step by step but I’m feeling confident for the rest of the season ahead.”

Eric Boullier, Team Principal
"It is getting more frustrating for us as we are clearly very close to achieving a very good result. Twelve laps before the end of today’s race we had one car in P2 and one car in P5 with no more pit stops to go. Unfortunately, we were a little bit too aggressive with our strategy. As soon as we understood some cars were doing three stops it was clear there was potential for us to finish on the podium, but we were not expecting the tyre wear to be as high as it was. For Romain the strategy worked; for Kimi it did not. The positives from this weekend are that we continue to show good qualifying and race pace with the E20, and we were capable of fighting for a podium finish with Kimi. Also, it was a very good first full race for Romain. One slow stop and one mistake when fighting with Mark (Webber) for position meaning he ran on the marbles cost him two positions. He recovered very well from this and his pace was very consistent."

Alan Permane, Director of Trackside Operations
“Ten laps before the end of the race, Kimi’s tyres were nearing the end of their life and unfortunately he got on the marbles when Sebastian (Vettel) passed. That was the end of his race effectively as he lost ten places over the course of a lap. We’ll dissect the data and see if a three stop would have been better for us, but everything before the race suggested a two-stop was the way to go, and this approach benefitted Romain. Without the gamble we took with Kimi we wouldn’t have been running in second position so that was the risk we took. I’m happy for Romain to finish his first race of the season. To go from tenth to sixth - racing with the cars of the calibre he was - showed a measured performance so it looks good for the future. We’ve learn a lot this weekend and hopefully we head to Bahrain with an improved car and better understanding of this year’s tyres.”

Ricardo Penteado, Renault Sport F1 Team Support Leader
“Congratulations to Romain on his first points of the season. It was a shame that Kimi could not get a double points finish, but the speed of the package is fundamentally there. Engine-wise we’ve had a trouble free weekend, which is always positive at this type of track where the unit gets a workout over the entire rev range. Driveability through the slow corners was good and the top speed was reasonable, which allowed Romain to defend his position in the closing laps from the Williams and get some decent points for the team today.”