Friday, 26 September 2014

Lotus F1 Team Japanese Grand Prix Preview

Singapore Grand Prix
(Steven Tee for the Lotus F1 Team)

The Lotus F1 Team head to the Japanese Grand Prix at the Suzuka circuit next weekend aiming to score their first points since the Spanish Grand Prix back in May. Last time out at the Singapore Grand Prix, Pastor Maldonado finished the race in 12th place while Romian Grosjean came home in 13th place respectively. The team remain in 8th place in Constructors championship 19 points behind the Scueria Toro Rosso team.

The Lotus F1 Team's deputy team principal Frederico Gastaldi was asked if his outfits performance in Singapore will lead to more of the same in Japan and that is competing for points to which he commented:

'Yes. Singapore showed we could be in the hunt for points on merit. It was satisfying to get a second consecutive double finish of course, but ultimately we want points. 

I am sure we will get more chances and we just need that final push to ensure we capitalise on these positive situations. For Suzuka we’re pushing to get back in to the top ten. For sure, the team’s efforts deserve this reward and we are doing everything we can to get back there.'

The Argentinian was impressed by both Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado's performance over the course of the race and when asked how he rated them he said:

'Very good. I was impressed by the way that Pastor bounced back from the incident in free practice. He showed again his strong characteristics and that he is very confident in the car when things are running well. 

He was on the edge of the points and looking, even after four pit stops, which shows that when everything is right he is a very competitive proposition. Romain was typically excellent too, and did the maximum with what was available to him in Singapore. 

Again, I state that our drivers are racing with exceptional motivation and desire, which is reflecting the philosophy of the whole team.'

Gastaldi was asked to give his opinion on Romain Grosjean's comments during qualifying to which he replied:

'Well, in the heat of the moment passions can boil over. Sometimes they can do so when things are not going your way and this is exactly what happened. After all, sometimes people say the drivers are too boring or don’t have opinions or show their human side. It happens sometimes under extreme circumstances and this is what happened last Saturday. 

We were all tremendously disappointed but of course Romain was the one who got hit by the disappointment first and he reacted. Sometimes it is difficult to stop human emotion coming to the surface. 

It was quite ironic that radio communications was the hot topic in Japan for the things that were not meant to be said and then they become the headlines for something else that is said under difficult circumstances!'

Gastaldi was asked about the commercial strength of the team in markets such as Singapore and Japan to which he replied:

'Yes, we are strong in this area which is satisfying. We have several new partners in 2014 and we have lots of them signed for 2015 as well. 

I think that this reflects the confidence the team has as a commercial entity even though it has been a tough season on the track. As has been reported, we are due to post much reduced losses as a company very shortly. The immediate future looks very bright and everyone is pushing extra hard to prepare for 2015.'

Gastaldi was asked what is the most appealing aspect of racing in Japan to which he replied:

'There are several. Firstly there is a huge appetite for motorsport in Japan. This is both in the sporting and technical context. Everyone knows that the fans in Japan are among the most special in terms of their knowledge and devotion to the sport. 

So it is very important for us to be racing here and also to have a good weekend on the track. The whole nation of Japan gets tuned in to the F1 groove and it is good for the country and for F1. 

Suzuka is also a great challenge for the drivers and they will be hungry to deliver. Like Spa, Monaco and Silverstone, I don’t think anyone dislikes going to Suzuka. It has everything that makes F1 great; an incredible track, great fans and somewhere that the drivers and engineers really learn a lot about the car.'

Romain Grosjean is a big fan of the Japanese Grand Prix saying:

'Suzuka is probably my favourite track in the world and for many, many reasons. Of course last year holds a great memory as I led the race for a while. 

Also, my engineer (Ayao Komatsu) is Japanese, so it is nice for him to be in his home country. But mainly I love it so much because the track is a massive challenge and also the spectators are so passionate about F1. 

There is not a single corner on the track that is not a big challenge. When you finish a lap at Suzuka you really appreciate it because you know both the car and you have been really tested. You can be proud if you have got the maximum from everything.'

The Frenchman was was asked about the specific challenges of the Suzuka circuit saying:

'It is the kind of track that you find time and improvements, however small, all of the time. 

It is a very special race track in this respect. Sector one is unbelievable and after you have finished it you can breathe a little bit…but not for long. 

There is no margin for error with very little run-off area and the track is quite narrow, especially at the top of the hill. I love it. Every metre of the Suzuka track is special and every metre a challenge. The Spoon Curve is especially fantastic, a real thrill to drive in an F1 car.'

Grosjean, who has secured all of the Enstone outfit's points so far this season was asked where is the best place to overtake on the circuit:

'There are a few good areas like the first corner, but only if you get a good exit from the last chicane. But probably the best one is in to the chicane itself, after the long back straight and 130R. If you get a tow here you can get inside under braking. 

There is also a small chance at the hairpin and maybe in to Spoon Curve too, but you have to be brave and usually rely on the guy in front to co-operate. Suzuka is quite a narrow track so it is not that easy to overtake, but it is a great challenge and very satisfying when you manage to execute one.'

Grosjean was also asked about Japan saying:

'You have to mention the fans. They certainly are special and unique. Suzuka is probably the only place we go to where you arrive at the track on a Thursday and the grandstands are almost full! They replay the race afterwards once, twice, three times and the fans stay at the track until we have gone home. They are brilliant fans, very loyal and knowledgeable about the sport. 

It is in their culture now and you can’t imagine a Grand Prix not happening in Japan. We have to have a race there anyway because I like to receive my mini-Romain every year from the fans. Fantastic!'

Grosjean was asked how he is feeling following the Singapore Grand Prix to which he replied:

'Things were better for us in the race. Once the frustrations of qualifying were out of the way I was able to focus on aiming for the points. We were on schedule to have a good fight for this outcome when the safety car came out and this lost us momentum. The soft tyres took too long to come in. It was a shame but another finish was something positive.'

The circuit in Japan has similar down-force levels to the circuit in Barcelona where the team scored their strongest finish of the year in May and Grosjean was asked he feels they can repeat this performance in Japan.

'I would love that but we will have to wait and see. Suzuka is a track that highlights the good aspects of a chassis. I hope that we can be in a position where we have a realistic chance of some points positions. At Suzuka the driver can make a difference to some extent, especially through sector one, so I will be hugely pumped up to make sure we are in the best position possible to add to our points tally.'

Pastor Maldonado heads to the Japanese Grand in search of his first points for the Lotus F1 Team and when asked if he is looking forward to racing in Japan the Venezuelan commented:

'Very much indeed. It is always nice to know you are going to be challenged by a circuit. If everything gets hooked-up then Suzuka is a pleasure. 

I really hope we can have a good weekend because at Suzuka it makes it even more of a pleasure to get it right. I think that for a driver it is at least comparable with Spa, maybe even better on some corners. I just love racing at Suzuka and indeed in Japan as a whole.'

When asked what are the highlights of the circuit, Maldonado stated:

'There are so many. The start of the lap is incredible with the sweeps up the hill, right-left-right-left. It is really fast and you need a very good and nimble car to change direction quickly. They are really challenging corners where you need maximum concentration and bravery. The run-off is quite small, so it is really satisfying to get them right. 

When I first drove this track in 2011 it was a big deal for me because I knew that I could find a lot more time in the car. The corners are like this because you never get them 100% right the first time, you learn and learn which is what a great race track should be like I think. 

Then you have the Spoon Curve which is magnificent and 130R which is still challenging despite being flat-out now. All in all a great, great circuit and with some really steep gradients too. Almost a perfect track!'

He was asked what is his best memory from Suzuka saying:

'Well apart from the first time I actually drove the circuit, it was when I had a really good race in 2012. I qualified down in 14th but managed to overtake quite a few and get some points for eighth position. I remember having a good fight with Nico H├╝lkenberg in the Force India all race long.'

The Venezuelan was asked to describe how the team are feeling after the promising Singapore GP:

'Yes, the race was good. We had a decent race but again we were a little unlucky. At the end of the day to be fighting for points consistently and on merit is much better than some of the races we have had this year. The potential is there for us to add to our points tally, so I am confident we can achieve this soon.'

He was asked to describe how he is feeling as the sport reaches its climax:

'On the whole good. I am confident we can finish the season off in a good way which will give us some great momentumfor the new season in 2015. 

Obviously it has been a difficult year but the important thing is that we are still united as a team and emerge stronger. From what I see and learn the 2015 car looks like being a very good package. 

There is a lot to look forward to for sure. The team at Enstone are more determined than ever to succeed and I can say 100% that I have the same outlook. We will have very high motivation for the winter in terms of preparation and then testing in the New Year'.

Finally he was asked which he prefers, nooodles or sushi to which he replied:

'Both for me! I love Japanese food. Very tasty, very healthy and fresh. Almost made for a racing driver. Delicious.'

© Ben Johnston 2014

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