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18 November 2013

Lotus F1 Team comments on the 2013 United States Grand Prix

Friday, 15 November 2013

Heikki Kovalainen ended the first day of practice for the United States Grand Prix with the fifth fastest time at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. Team-mate Romain Grosjean was eighth fastest during an afternoon of glorious blue skies; contrasting the delayed and interrupted morning session.

Technical programme notes:
Both drivers ran the long wheelbase configuration E21.
Pirelli’s hard [orange] compound tyre was used in the morning session, the hard and medium [white] in the afternoon.
The morning session was initially delayed by fog preventing the medical helicopter from taking off, then due to issues with the helicopter’s communications once it was in the air.

What we learned today:
The E21 demonstrated strong potential using both tyre compounds.
Heikki was quickly up to speed.

Heikki Kovalainen, E21-05
Free Practice 1: P13, 1:39.487, 18 laps
Free Practice 2: P5, 1:38.073, 41 laps

Heikki: “It’s been a pretty smooth landing, joining Lotus F1 Team. We’ve had no major issues on track today and we just need to keep chipping away to see how good we can get the car for tomorrow and Sunday. We lost a bit of track time in the morning, but the car balance was reasonably good straight away. I was able to settle in and work immediately on the setup and tyre work. All the procedures and routines are quite similar up and down the pit lane, plus I’m familiar with all the systems from driving with a Renault engine already this year and previously, so it was a pretty straight-forward day.”

Romain Grosjean, E21-04
Free Practice 1: P11, 1:39.238, 13 laps
Free Practice 2: P8, 1:38.255, 33 laps

Romain: “It was an interesting start to the day waiting to see what the helicopter would do. After that the morning was about finding grip in the cold conditions. The afternoon was much warmer and we were able to complete some good work. We struggled a bit to get the brakes exactly as I want them on low fuel, but once that’s sorted we should be well placed for tomorrow. Certainly the car feels good on the long runs so it’s a positive start to the weekend.”

Alan Permane, Trackside Operations Director:
“Obviously our programme was interrupted somewhat in the morning which deprived Heikki of some vital track time to get used to the E21, but this doesn’t seem to have hurt his day and we’re very happy that he was immediately comfortable with the car. Romain had a couple of issues with braking on his lower fuel runs which we’re working on improving for tomorrow. It’s difficult to draw conclusions from the cooler morning practice, but in the afternoon we were happy with the pace from both drivers; particularly on the long runs.”

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Romain Grosjean ended the day third with Heikki Kovalainen eighth during qualifying for tomorrow’s United States Grand Prix. Cool, dry, misty conditions prevailed during the morning’s final practice session, with rising temperatures and sporadic gusts of wind the feature of qualifying at the Circuit of the Americas.

An unpredictable Q1 session saw varying grip levels and wind speed make a significant impact on the latter stages of proceedings. Romain Grosjean benefitted to progress in tenth position without the need for a run on the medium compound tyre, having topped the times with his initial effort on hards. A comfortable start for Heikki Kovalainen meanwhile saw him move through to the next phase in seventh place after a solid medium-shod run.

Q2 by contrast was a tightly fought affair. A single run on medium rubber for Romain clinched fifth spot on the time sheets; the Frenchman setting a competitive first lap before aborting his second attempt after a big lock-up. A solid opening effort from Heikki was followed by a last-gasp second stint, in which the Finn soaked up the pressure to reach the pole position shootout by the narrowest of margins in tenth.

A single, medium tyre run apiece in the final showdown brought a strong finale to Saturday in Austin for the boys in black and gold; Romain making his third top-three qualifying appearance from the last six races, with Heikki impressing in eighth.

Heikki Kovalainen, E21-05
Q: P8, 1:37.715
FP3: P13, 1:37.879

“I knew yesterday that we had a good car, but I didn’t really set myself a target for qualifying. I felt that I got pretty much everything I could from it today, as I struggled a bit compared to yesterday with the cooler temperatures this afternoon. Overall, everything’s been positive so far and we got into the top ten. I’m not making any predictions, but we’ve seen that Kimi could do pretty well working forwards from similar grid positions so hopefully tomorrow we can have another good day.”

Romain Grosjean, E21-04
Q: P3, 1:37.155
FP3: P5, 1:37.345

“It’s not been the easiest weekend in terms of finding the right balance with the car, so to be third on the grid is a good result. We managed to go through Q1 on the hard tyre which was not the plan initially, but it was a nice surprise and gave us options for the two following sessions. It’s great for the team to have Heikki [Kovalainen] in the top ten too – especially with Mercedes and Ferrari struggling a little bit – as we’re still fighting them hard in the Constructors’ Championship, so hopefully we can score good points with both cars tomorrow. Sebastian [Vettel] and Mark [Webber] were very quick today, but of course we’ll do our best to round up the bulls in the race; we are in Texas after all!”

Alan Permane, Trackside Operations Director:

How was qualifying for the team?
We’re very happy with today’s performance from both drivers. Romain is once more leading the charge against the Red Bulls after a reasonably straight-forward progression through the qualifying sessions. Heikki has come in and demonstrated that he’s certainly got the ability to deliver at the front of the pack; progressing through to the top ten with no real dramas despite his limited experience with our car.

How impressive has Heikki been so far this weekend?
He’s jumped into the car and delivered exactly what we’ve wanted from him. He qualified solidly in the top ten and has a realistic opportunity to score good points tomorrow. As we’ve seen this year, our car is often stronger in the race than it is in qualifying so he has great potential tomorrow; especially as he’s learning the car more with every lap.

Considerations for the race?
Our long run pace looks good and there are overtaking opportunities here. The track has evolved well since last year, so there isn’t such a hunt for grip and that should help tyre performance. We’re feeling quite confident.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Romain Grosjean produced a superbly controlled drive to take second place in the United States Grand Prix from third on the
grid, whilst a difficult afternoon for Heikki Kovalainen saw the Finn drop to fifteenth from his eighth place grid slot.

A lightning start from Romain saw the Frenchman leapfrog Mark Webber for second place at the first corner, with Heikki
dropping to twelfth as the safety car emerged for an incident involving Adrian Sutil. Both drivers maintained position at
the restart; remaining as such until the first round of pit stops.

Managing his pace and tyre degradation perfectly, Romain held off a strong charge from Mark Webber immediately following a
single pit stop each, and again in the latter stages of the race. Heikki rose as high as tenth after the opening batch of
stops, only to suffer a loss of front downforce which forced the Finn to pit for a new nose having dropped two positions in
quick succession.

Romain crossed the line to clinch a fourth podium finish from the last five races – his sixth overall in 2013 – to see the
Frenchman ranked the second highest points scorer since the Singapore Grand Prix behind World Champion Sebastian Vettel.
Heikki came home fifteenth at the flag.

Kimi Räikkönen’s absence from the race sees him fall to fourth place in the Drivers’ Championship on an unchanged 183
points; four behind Lewis Hamilton in third. Romain remains in seventh position with 132 points; trailing Nico Rosberg by
29. The team remains fourth in the Constructors’ Championship on 315 points from Ferrari’s 333, with third spot remaining a
firm target heading into the final round in Brazil.

Heikki started from eighth on the grid with a scrubbed set of medium tyres; pitting for new hards on lap 17 and fresh
mediums on lap 31. The Finn’s second stop included a nose change after the Finn reported a loss of front downforce.
Romain started from third on a scrubbed set of medium tyres; making a single stop for a new set of hards on lap 29.

Heikki Kovalainen, P15, E21-05
“My start wasn’t great but then it was going okay until the first pit stop as I was racing with the pack with the car
feeling quite good. After the pit stop I started to have a few problems, but it was difficult to know exactly what was going
on. We had issues with downforce so we changed the front wing and after that it was much better, although still not as good
as it’s felt previously this weekend. There was a KERS issue too, though not enough to account for my lack of race pace.
We’ll have a good look at the data and hopefully be on top of things far better for the race in Brazil.”

Romain Grosjean, P2, E21-04
“That was a really tough race. I had to have probably one of my best ever drives to keep Mark [Webber] behind and it’s a
great feeling to have tamed at least one of the Bulls in Texas as they clearly had the fastest package today. We knew a good
start would be the key, so making up one place in the first corner was really important and the car was just fantastic from
there onwards. The whole team here and back at Enstone are doing an amazing job. Every day I see them working hard together
to keep us at the front and when you look at the gap to the next nearest challenger, it’s clear that we’re the second best
team after Red Bull right now. I think this place must bring me luck; this time last year I found out my wife was pregnant
and now I’ve equalled my best finish in Formula 1, so I can’t wait to come back again and see what happens next year!”

Eric Boullier, Team Principal
“It’s been another positive weekend for the team. We scored more points than our championship rivals through a perfect drive
from Romain. It really was his best Grand Prix ever and another excellent performance to add to his recent run of great
form. The only way we could fight the Red Bulls was if Romain made a great start and that’s exactly what he delivered. It’s
disappointing that Heikki couldn’t convert his eighth place on the grid to a points finish, but we had issues with his front
wing and KERS which we will investigate before Brazil.”

Alan Permane, Trackside Operations Director
“We congratulate Romain on an absolutely faultless race of 100% perfection lap after lap. He was under enormous pressure
from Mark Webber in what was clearly a faster car and he did exactly what was asked of him at every turn of the race. It was
a shame for Heikki as he didn’t have a great start, then he had an issue with front wing and then KERS. On the plus side, he
ran to the end of the race so has gained valuable experience in the E21 ahead of Brazil.”

Ricardo Penteado, Renault Sport F1 Team Support Leader
“A great result for Romain and awesome to see our package beating one of the Red Bulls on sheer pace. At this stage in the
season – and in the fight for the Constructors’ Championship – these points will be very important. Heikki did a good job
all weekend but unfortunately could not challenge for the points after a change for a new front wing and then a KERS issue
when he rejoined. It seems to be a mechanical issue and we’ll check after tonight to see how to prevent a reoccurrence in
Brazil.”