Friday, 26 September 2014

Q&A with the Lotus F1 Team's Technical Director Nick Chester

Hungarian Grand Prix
(Alastair Staley for the Lotus F1 Team)

The E22’s relative performance looked to have improved in Singapore, what can we attribute this to?

There are a couple of things that helped us look more competitive. Singapore isn’t a ‘power’ track, so that helped us. We also took aero improvements and it contributed in making the car easier to drive and both Pastor and Romain felt the E22 was more consistent. 

I think we have a good chance for more points this season. The car has improved since Hockenheim when we took our front-rear interlinked suspension off and lost a chunk of performance. We have gradually fought back since then so we are in a position where we think points can be scored, if the races go the right way.

Both Pastor and Romain had turbo wastegate issues in qualifying, what light can be shed on this and what can prevent a reoccurrence?

We changed the wastegate and engine hydraulic manifold for the race and we didn’t have a problem. This is something that us and Renault Sport F1 are investigating thoroughly to ensure there is no repeat of the same scenario. 

There is already a clear diagnosis for Romain’s problem and appropriate measures have been taken. Pastor’s issue was actually different and all parts related to that issue have been thoroughly tested for Japan. 

Suzuka is a very distinct circuit – what are the challenges?

The challenges are the high speed corners. You can’t run maximum downforce in Suzuka - as you will end up a little too slow on the straights - so you need to give the driver sufficient downforce to give confidence in the fast twisty bits whilst not clipping their wings down the straights. 

This is part of the reason why Suzuka is such a driver favourite, as drivers can be absolutely on the limit without the car totally stuck to the ground through maximum downforce. It’s not just having sufficient downforce, it’s ensuring that this is delivered in a balanced nature. Getting the suspension set-up spot on is essential here too. 

You need to extract all the grip that’s possible from the car. Looking at the E22, we think that it should be reasonably matched to all of these challenges especially as we’re generally quite good in high speed turns.

Looking to the E23, how different is it likely to be to this year’s car?

It will be quite different. There are rule changes to the front of the chassis and the nose, so all the cars will look different next year. On top of that, our engine installation and cooling layout will change quite a lot meaning that the car will be significantly different under the bodywork.

What are the various considerations between a small or large display steering wheel?

On the positive side, you can get a lot more information to the driver with a large display and that’s very helpful with complicated cars. The downside is that the wheel will be heavier, which is one of the considerations for staying with the smaller display. Next year we will likely go for a larger display steering wheel. You would be at a disadvantage if you stayed with the smaller display with the radio communications changes planned for 2015.

What are the implications for the future of diminished radio communications and even a potential ban on telemetry?

I think telemetry won’t be banned; it would be tricky to know if for example the car has a puncture or something is about to fail. You would have no way of telling if the car is safe or not. To make that move would be a step backwards. In terms of the radio communications changes we will have to adapt to the FIA guidelines.

Looking at the remaining five Grands Prix, where could be a challenge and where could we fare better?

Japan gives us nothing to fear and we should be competitive. Russia is probably the same but it’s hard to tell when it’s a new track on the calendar. I think all of the remaining circuits offer opportunities for us being more competitive. Brazil is possibly a little bit more challenging because of the power hungry nature of the uphill exit from the last corner, and the long straight combined with the altitude, although we won’t be too bad in the twisty sections.

 Nick Chester was speaking as part of the Lotus F1 Team's Japanese Grand Prix preview.

© Ben Johnston 2014

No comments:

Post a Comment