(Lotus F1 Team)
What are the primary performance considerations for the Shanghai International Circuit?
It’s an interesting venue. The circuit has a mix of sectors: a very long straight in the final sector and some high speed corners in the second sector. It’s a balance between setting the downforce level so that you can be fast through the turns without compromising your pace on the huge back straight. It is a technical track for the drivers and hard work physically for them, particularly in turn one as it is is very fast before it tightens up in turns two and three.
What upgrades are planned for Shanghai?
We have bodywork upgrades at the front and rear of the car. In combination, we have a reasonable upgrade package for Shanghai which mainly focusses on improving our downforce.
It could be quite a relatively chilly weekend – does this hold any fears?
The range of ambient temperatures can vary significantly in Shanghai from around 10 to 30 degrees Celsius so that’s quite significant. We can’t know for sure in advance what the weather will be like but yes it will certainly be cooler than the last race! We will put emphasis towards generating the right tyre temperatures. And we’ll certainly pack our fleeces.
Jolyon Palmer will drive in FP1 – what type of to-do list will he have for that session?
It will be good to have Jolyon out in action in FP1. His to-do list will be the same as the race drivers’, so aero evaluation work, some set-up runs and then longer runs towards the end of the session. It will help with our weekend preparations as we always look at FP1 as being the development session.
How would you evaluate the E23 Hybrid’s performance in Malaysia?
We were quite pleased with the pace of the E23 in Malaysia. The car ran well on the Friday with Romain being well up on the timesheets and our qualifying performance was pretty reasonable on Saturday. Looking at the tyre performance, I think that it was tricky for everybody in Kuala Lumpur: we had never seen track temperatures that high as they were over 60°C! This meant that it was difficult to keep the tyre surface temperatures under control however we did a reasonable job of this. In the race, balance and the handling of the car were promising and already a step forward from the first race of the season. We were compromised by traffic but that’s the nature of racing as it’s seldom you have a clear track in front of you. The E23 coped well in the extreme heat and it was the first time that it ran in the wet. Again, the handling was pretty decent in those conditions so we continue to see the potential of this package.
It wasn’t perfect running in Sepang, what’s been done to put the early-season niggles to bed?
Pastor had a puncture right at the start of the race after contact with Valtteri Bottas and then later an issue with his brakes. We are still thoroughly investigating the matter and a solution will be in place by the time the car runs in FP1 in China. There was also a quite minor issue with Romain’s car which unfortunately affected the power unit. It was a small bit of sensor mis-information which meant Romain wasn’t getting absolute maximum power. Not a big issue, but it was something which meant Romain had to fight a little harder for his overtaking moves.
Does a win from a team other than Mercedes give faith to all the other teams that they can be beaten again?
It’s a long season ahead and we’re all trying to do exactly that. We’ve seen in this year that Ferrari have improved significantly over the winter months and it seemed that the hot track in Sepang suited them well. They had an improving car, a good strategy and they put it all together to take the win. It shows that with enough development Mercedes can indeed be beaten which is good for the sport. Rest assured, we’re doing everything we can at Lotus F1 Team to challenge Mercedes, Ferrari and every other team as best we can over the course of the year.
© Ben Johnston 2015