(Lotus F1 Team)
The Lotus F1 Team head into this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix after Romain Grosjean secured the outfit’s first points of the season last time out at the Chinese Grand Prix last weekend after the Frenchman finished the race in seventh place.
The Enstone outfit who endured a difficult start to the season in Australia and again in Malaysia had Romain Grosjean start the Chinese Grand Prix from 8th place while Pastor Maldonado started the event from eleventh place. In the race, Maldonado was set to score points for the team but was forced to retire following an incident with McLaren Honda’s Jenson Button.
The Lotus F1 Team are currently in seventh place in the championship and speaking ahead of this weekend’s race Romain Grosjean was asked about the event to which he replied:
‘It’s a good track and I’m happy to go back there. I’m especially looking forward to being able to race in Bahrain at night with a fast and reliable car. It’s a really fun circuit and one I enjoy racing at. Two of the three times I’ve raced at the Bahrain International Circuit in Formula 1 I’ve been on the podium. It’s a good record and of course I’ll be pushing as hard as possible for the best result to get more points for myself and the team in 2015.’
As the Frenchman stated he has been on the podium twice in three starts that he has had with the Lotus F1 Team here. He was asked what he thinks of the circuit:
‘On paper it is not the most amazing circuit, but when you drive it’s pretty cool. I like the long straights followed by the hairpins and then the twisty middle section with a lot of G-force which makes it exciting. It gives the driver plenty to do behind the wheel and it gives you quite a lot to do in the debrief as well. It’s always rewarding when you balance all the different demands on the car to get the lap as fast as possible.’
Grosjean’s result in China was his first points scoring finish since last season’s Monaco Grand Prix and the team now have a package that is capable of scoring points. The Frenchman was asked about the new generation of cars and whether is he enjoys racing more now:
‘It means a later start, and the later schedule means a larger window for sleep which is always welcome! In terms of at the track, the daytime hot temperatures with a lot of sun made tyre degradation quite high. Temperatures are clearly lower at night which has an influence on tyre grip and degradation. Last time it was certainly an exciting event visually and I think people enjoyed it as a viewing experience on television as well as at the track where there was something more of a party feeling with the crowds.’
Grosjean was asked about why the circuit has been so kind to him to which he replied:
‘I wouldn’t say it’s been exactly kind, but certainly we’ve been able to perform well there in the past. It’s a track I knew from before Formula 1 and it has characteristics that I like in a circuit; some big braking into certain corners, some good change of direction with the double-left in the middle of the racetrack and it all flows quite nicely. With the E20 and E21 we were able to take advantage of the car’s good balance and kindness to tyres. Obviously we had much more of – shall we say – a challenge with the E22, but the E23 is definitely a massive step back to where we want to be, so we’re very hopeful.’
Last weekend, Grosjean sat out Free Practice One to allow Jolyon Palmer to drive the car and the Frenchman was asked about that:
‘As a Formula 1 driver you want to be in the car at every opportunity so of course I’m frustrated when I’m not in the car. Because testing opportunities are so limited I understand that sometimes you have to give up your car – after all I was given an opportunity through FP1 myself – but that doesn’t make it any easier standing in the garage when the session is live and you want to be in the car. I can’t wait for FP2 to start!’
Grosjean was also asked about his expectations for the rest of the season:
‘We’ve made our first deposit in our points account and I expect this to grow strongly through the season. I’m expecting some more good scoring in Bahrain and regular deposits to be a characteristic through the season. We were the fourth fastest car in China so fourth position in the Constructors’ Championship has to be the target. It’s a long season, but we’ll keep pushing. We’re only just coming into our stride with the new Mercedes power unit so there’s a lot of potential ahead. I think we’re a very good investment as a team.’
Pastor Maldonado heads into this weekend’s race hoping to bounce back from a disappointing weekend. He was asked what he is targeting this weekend.
‘The target’s the same as ever; to do the best job possible and achieve the strongest result. We know what’s achievable from the car so it’s a case of qualifying well then moving forwards in the race into a solid points scoring finish.’
Maldonado was asked to share his thoughts on the circuit:
‘Bahrain is a good circuit. I would say it is a ‘complete’ circuit because it has a mix of high, medium and low speed turns, plus good sequences of corners. It’s challenging over a lap and makes for an enjoyable race. The weather can get pretty hot, although this won’t be as much of a challenge as we’re racing at night now. The facilities for the teams are great and it’s one of the easiest circuits to work in as the paddock feels welcoming, there’s plenty of space for us yet it doesn’t feel like you’re at a massive venue like some tracks do.’
The Venezuelan is very keen to open his points account this weekend saying:
‘I’m very eager! We’ve had three frustrating races where the car’s had the pace to score yet for whatever reason we haven’t been able to make it to the chequered flag. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t go well in Bahrain so that’s the target.’
He was asked about his Chinese Grand Prix performance:
‘The start of the race and the early stints were good, but there were a few issues. I made a great start and we were running strongly early on however later I had a braking issue which made it harder to battle. I locked-up coming into the pits which really put my race on the back foot as I lost time and then returned to the track further down the order. I then had a fantastic fight with Jenson Button and we were passing each other very cleanly; a good, fun, exciting battle. Unfortunately, he got his braking point wrong and went into the back of me. Shortly after than I had to retire the car with a braking issue.’
Speaking about the incident with Jenson Button, Maldonado stated:
‘We bumped into each other in the paddock afterwards the first thing he said to me was sorry. The first thing I said to him was great battle! Jenson’s a very fair racer and a great guy and it’s easy to understand how the incident happened; we were both racing for position, both offline in our battle and he was braking after using DRS so all it takes is braking half a metre too late from high speed and you make contact with the car ahead. That’s racing.’
So how is Maldonado approaching the night race in Bahrain?
‘We now approach Bahrain a little differently technically in terms of tyre pressures and set-up. Otherwise we will treat it much like any other race and it’s similar in feel to Singapore and Abu Dhabi. At the end of the day it’s racing no matter what the time.’
The Venezuelan concluded by saying:
‘It’s been good so far. The car was strong straight away and then in Australia and Malaysia. China was a bit more challenging in the practice sessions but we were able to get it working much more as we wanted it for qualifying and the race. In the Chinese Grand Prix I was really able to push and it felt good to be able to pass people and set competitive race laps. I’m looking forward to pushing hard in Bahrain.’
© Ben Johnston