(© Ben Johnston 2015)
The Lotus F1 Team have seen a complete turnaround in their on track performances since the end of last season after making the switch to Mercedes power units.
The Enstone outfit had a fantastic qualifying session in Australia last weekend and go into the next race in Malaysia confident of scoring points. Speaking in a Q and A before the race Lotus F1 Team Technical Director Nick Chester was asked:
What are the particular challenges of Malaysia?
It is hot and humid and there is a good chance of a heavy downpour, particularly late in afternoon, meaning it can be at the end of qualifying or halfway through the race. Traditionally the drivers have always liked the layout of the circuit. It has a good mix of corners – hairpins onto long straights and then in the middle part of the track, there are high speed sweeping turns. Sepang has an interesting layout and we shall look forward to racing there again this year.
What’s your review of the Australian Grand Prix?
The build of the car went fairly smoothly at the beginning of the weekend getting both chassis ready for Friday’s practice sessions. The performance of the car was pretty good from the onset: the drivers were happy, the car was good to drive and we were able to work the tyres quite well. Into Saturday, the performance was definitely there as we got both cars into Q3. The race was disappointing as without retirements both drivers would have scored a good chunk of points.
What are your initial thoughts of the relative performance of the car?
We are reasonably happy. We look like we could be regular Q3 contenders but there is more that we want to be doing such as closing the gap to Williams and moving away more from the group behind us. There is more to do!
What were the technical issues experienced over the weekend and can they be rectified?
There was a problem with the charge air system where a leak developed and this happened to both cars on Friday. With a bit of work and a few changes we had the initial problem fixed, however unfortunately we saw something similar on Sunday on Romain’s car. We had done over 4,000kms in winter testing and that issue hadn’t occurred so it is a bit strange that it happened now. When you are at the track it can be challenging to solve such an issue rapidly nonetheless we are now rectifying the issue at the factory. We have a couple of different approaches and we’re doing extensive testing to ensure we have a robust solution.
How much work was required to Pastor’s car after the impact?
The left hand side suspension, the floor and the front wing were damaged so quite a reasonable amount of work was required but it will be ready for the first practice session in Malaysia.
What could have been possible in the race in Melbourne?
If we didn’t experience the unfortunate crash and the charge air system leak, we could probably have been looking at fifth and sixth positions. Both drivers had qualified ahead of Felipe Nasr who ended the race fifth and our long run performance on Friday looked good so there is no reason why our drivers could not have achieved that.
How much is there yet to come from the E23?
A fair bit I’d say. It’s a brand new car and there is quite a lot of aero development work to do; we will be pushing developments all through the year for it. We are happy as we have a good platform to work from. The drivers enjoy driving the E23; they find it is a consistent car they are able to push to the limit quite well. It’s great to have this basis to work from as it means that we can focus on adding performance.
© Ben Johnston 2015