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25 March  2012

Malaysian Grand Prix 2012 - comments from Lotus F1 Team

MALAYSIAN GP, FRIDAY 23 MARCH 2012

Kimi Räikkönen and Romain Grosjean took to the track for the first practice sessions of the second round of the 2012 Formula 1 World Championship at Sepang in hot and humid conditions today.

Alan Permane, Trackside Operations Director - Technical programme notes

In FP1 we completed general set-up work followed by race set-up work in FP2.
We ran solely with Pirelli’s hard compound in the first session.
Kimi concentrated on the medium tyre in the afternoon session; Romain concentrated on the hard.
This was a ‘standard’ Friday programme, distinct from the rain-interrupted first day in Melbourne.
We evaluated a new steering rack set-up for Kimi in both session.
Romain had an isuue with an incorrectly seated rear wheel nut in the morning and a cut rear tyre in the afternoon.
Kimi’s KERS was not operating perfectly in the afternoon session.
What we learned today:

The E20 worked well on the Sepang circuit with a good baseline set-up.
Our initial impressions are that we are in good shape for Sunday’s race.
Kimi reported a small improvement from the latest steering specification, which we will use for the rest of this weekend.


Kimi Räikkönen, E20-03
Free practice 1: P7, 1:38.919, 17 laps
Free practice 2: P15, 1:39.696, 22 laps

Kimi: “It was an okay day but we still have work to do on the set-up. The steering was a small improvement but we are still working in this area. I feel fine in the car in the hot conditions, and the race will take place later in the day so I don’t expect that to be a problem. I hope we will make some progress tomorrow as the car is quicker than we’ve shown. Having an issue with the KERS in the afternoon was frustrating but I’m sure we’ll have it fixed for tomorrow. The track is exactly as I remember it and I hope for a better qualifying than we had in Australia. I’m looking forward to racing here.”

Romain Grosjean, E20-01
Free practice 1: P5, 1:39.128, 22 laps
Free practice 2: P9,1:39.311, 29 laps

Romain: “Today went pretty well with a couple of small interruptions to my sessions. In the morning there was something not quite right with the rear of the car which was soon sorted, then in the afternoon I picked up a cut on one of my tyres. Neither was a major issue. We looked at dealing with the heat and finding a good set-up for the high track temperatures here. This track feels fantastic in a Formula 1 car. We’re not quite there with the set-up, but we have plenty of data to work through. I think we’ve got a good idea of where to go for qualifying tomorrow.”

James Allison, Technical Director: “In some ways it was a somewhat scrappy day after losing a tyre set on Romain’s car in the afternoon due to a cut which meant he lost some laps in the second session. He also had an incorrectly seated wheel nut in the morning. Kimi’s KERS was not playing ball for most of the second session which meant his pace was not fully representative. Those were today’s nuisances, but the positives are that the E20 is working reasonably well. We have good base set-ups for both drivers. Tyre management looks OK despite the hot conditions. The pace of the car on high fuel loads looks promising.”

 

MALAYSIAN GP, SATURDAY 24 MARCH

Kimi Räikkönen set the fifth fastest time whilst Romain Grosjean was seventh quickest in qualifying for tomorrow’s Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang International Circuit. Kimi will start from tenth position on the grid for the race after a penalty for a gearbox change on his car. This moves Romain up to sixth place.

Kimi Räikkönen, E20-03.
Q: P5*, 1:36.461.
FP3: P4, 1:37.356.
*Plus five place grid penalty.

Kimi: “The car was working well today. Unfortunately, I made a couple of mistakes on my fastest lap which probably cost a couple of tenths. Without that, we were in with a shout for pole today. I got a little bit sideways at the exit of turn nine and we lost some time, but that’s how it goes sometimes. We had some issues with KERS yesterday, but there was no repeat today; the car worked exactly as it should and it felt good. It’s a shame we have a penalty on the grid but the car works well. Today was definitely a positive day. Tomorrow we start from tenth and will try to improve from there.”

Romain Grosjean, E20-01.
Q: P7*, 1:36.461.
FP3: P7 1:36.658.
*Starts from P6.

Romain: “It’s great to have both cars in Q3, and I’m really pleased to have been part of the top ten in both of my first two races. The team has done a great job to get the most out of the car, and we can be really pleased that we’re fighting for the top positions. It’s going to be an interesting race tomorrow, and hopefully we can move up even further. You never know what will happen with the weather here, our pace is not too far off the leaders and it will be a long race, so anything is possible. In these conditions managing the tyres is crucial. Qualifying is one thing, but the race will be a whole other matter. I’m looking forward to the race, if we can finish in the top five that would be great, but the most important thing is to get my first points of the season."

Alan Permane, Director of Trackside Operations: “We always want more...”

Two drivers in the top ten. That’s a bit more like it…
“Obviously we’re happy from today’s performance, but as ever in Formula 1 we always want more. Kimi felt he made a mistake in a couple of corners, and with a perfect lap he could have certainly done better, but overall to have the fifth and seventh fastest cars in qualifying was encouraging.”

What can we expect from the race tomorrow?
“Looking at all the data, we should expect a strong race. We have a good handle on the tyres in these conditions. We have good set-ups which both drivers feel very happy with. Weather permitting, we should expect to have both cars in the points tomorrow.”

We changed Kimi’s gearbox. Are there any concerns going into the race?
“None at all. We saw high temperatures on Kimi’s gearbox in Australia after the cooler was blocked by grass and debris. It completed most of the race like this. We checked both gearboxes thoroughly and there were no concerns with Romain’s gearbox. Kimi has a new ‘box on his car – for which we receive a five place grid penalty – but this was necessary.”

Sepang is notorious for its variable weather. How do you plan a race strategy for this?
“We plan for a dry race and the fastest strategy possible given our grid positions. We monitor the weather reports and satellite information as well as looking at the skies in the build-up to the race, and we have a plan in case it rains. It’s almost impossible to make a concrete wet race strategy in advance as there are so many variables involved. It’s a time when all of us on the pit wall really have to earn our salaries with our strategy calls. It’s a time for cool heads and calm decisions.”

 

MALAYSIAN GRAND PRIX, SUNDAY 25TH MARCH 2012

Kimi Räikkönen led the charge for Lotus F1 Team in the Malaysian Grand Prix; translating a tenth place starting slot into a fifth-placed finish in a rain-affected, red flag-interrupted race. He also set the fastest lap of the day as the track dried in the run to the chequered flag. It was a different story for Romain Grosjean, with an early exit from the slippery Sepang circuit on lap four.

Both cars started on the green marked intermediate tyres. Kimi made three stops with an intermediate, wet, intermediate, hard tyre strategy.
Kimi set a succession of fastest laps on the hard tyres as the track dried, culminating with a 1min 40.722secs on lap 53. It was the 36th Grand Prix fastest lap of his career.

Kimi Räikkönen, P5, E20-03
“It was a bit difficult today. It was my first time on the wet weather Pirellis and I didn’t know how the intermediate or wet tyres would react – I had only completed one installation lap on them before. I just tried to stay on the road and push as much as I felt comfortable with. When I changed to the dry tyres it took a couple of laps to get heat into them, and my visor was pretty dirty so seeing the dry line was difficult. Once I found my way I could push much harder. It was difficult to have another mixed weather weekend. The conditions changed a lot today so it was always a case of adapting and looking for grip. Overall, we seemed to have a pretty strong package again this weekend, so I’m relatively happy. A fifth today was okay, but we’re always looking for better results.”

Romain Grosjean, DNF, E20-01
“It felt like a perfect start off the line; I got a good jump on the others and with the KERS I managed to weave through the cars in front without touching anybody. Coming out of the first two corners I was up to third, which was an amazing feeling. In turn four Mark (Webber) managed to carry a bit more speed through the corner and edged in front. Michael (Schumacher) tried to follow him through but there was not enough space so we touched and I spun. From there things became really tough. The visibility was so poor I couldn’t see anything in front of me. We made the decision to stay out on the intermediate tyres but the rain got heavier and there was far too much water. I had massive aquaplaning into turn five and unfortunately ended up going backwards into the gravel.”

Eric Boullier, Team Principal
"Today’s result is a bit frustrating. Whilst it’s good to have a car finish in the top five after starting from tenth in conditions which were very tricky, we can’t help thinking that we could have achieved more from this race. Obviously, it’s disappointing for Romain, as it’s another DNF for him in the early laps of the race. He had never driven in the rain with these intermediate tyres so we have to take that into account. He had a very good start off the line, but the contact with Michael ruined his race. At the restart, we recovered well from our position and on the plus side, the car looked strong again. Kimi had a flawless race. He was very consistent in all conditions and his best lap shows what could have been without his grid penalty. I’m sure when we have a ‘standard’ weekend - without bad weather, penalty or interruption – we will do very well."

James Allison, Technical Director
“What we would give for a normal race! We had to fight back from a grid penalty for changing the gearbox on Kimi’s car. We also had two drivers learning Pirelli’s wet tyres for the first time today. This made for a difficult time here at Sepang. Our pace at the end of the race on dry tyres looks extremely promising from the perspective of both degradation and pace. Give us a normal race, with two clean getaways from the good qualifying positions of which we have shown we are capable, and I think we’ll be able to collect a good reward.”

Ricardo Penteado, Renault Sport F1 Team Support Leader
“Another points scoring finish for Kimi here. Again it was a shame for Romain but over the course of the weekend we confirmed the pace seen in Australia of the Lotus-Renault package. The changeable weather made it very difficult to manage fuel consumption. We burned a lot of fuel at the second start, which allowed us to be lighter towards the final laps. This played out well as Kimi set the fastest lap of the race on lap 53. Overall the engine has worked perfectly and we’re now looking forward to China, which presents a very different challenge.”