12.03.2012: 2012 Australia GP Preview
Eric Boullier “We Have a Superb Driver Line-Up”
2012 Australia GP Preview
Eric Boullier “We Have a Superb Driver Line-Up”
With a new car, two new drivers, and a host of new resources being developed at Enstone, Team Principal Eric Boullier has a bright vision for the future
How do you think the season ahead is looking?
It looks positive. At testing you never know what people are doing but from the Lotus F1 Team perspective our drivers were happy with the car’s easiness to drive and overall performance. The E20 reacts well to driver input and engineer changes so the whole package is a decent basis for us to work from.
Of course, we don’t know where we are standing relative to the other teams. We certainly believe that this year the competition will be much closer and we hope we’re at the right end of that competition.
The team has two new drivers which could be seen as something of a risk?
Continuity is certainly good sometimes but we also have to make some decisions. Our two drivers are fantastic. Kimi, is a World Champion. His return is good for Formula 1, good for the fans and fantastic for our team. His experience is definitely valuable and his commitment is better than ever.
He is leading the team in a positive direction. With Romain we have a very talented driver who has already shown that he is embracing the opportunity he has. He’s developing very fast and I think he will do a very good job this year too. We have a superb driver line-up.
How do you view the team’s pre-season testing?
Our designers and the whole team did a very good job this year. Testing showed that the whole car is clearly a step up in terms of fit and finish, and it was reliable straight out of the box. We’ll never recover the four days we lost at the first Barcelona test, but that is behind us.
We completed great mileage in Jerez, and a decent mileage in the second Barcelona test. The E20 is reliable, and we made the best of what we could do with the eight days before heading to Melbourne.
What are the goals and objectives for the team in 2012?
We want to be seen and performing as one of the top teams in this highly competitive sport. For me this year will be monitored by the progress we make during the course of the season. That will be much more encouraging than any expectation of results or particular figures.
If we can finish higher in the rankings I will be very happy and that would be the best reward for our sponsors and for our team. That is clearly a target. We want to do better, we want to be better, we want to score more podiums and if we have a chance to win any races we’ll be more than happy. The way we progress over the course of the season is the main goal.
Were you encouraged by the way the team reacted so quickly and positively to the chassis problem?
It was an unexpected issue and we would have been pleased to avoid this kind of drama, however it’s clear that the way the team handled this problem showed us in a very good light. Everyone pulled together and focused on the solution rather than what went wrong.
We and the right approach to solve the problem and everything was turned around very quickly and to the same high quality we see in the rest of the E20. We leave this issue behind us now and that should be it for surprises.
2012 is the building block for 2013 and beyond – what’s the longer term plan?
We have an efficient and strong organisation. We now want to reinforce our strengths and ensure that we are capable to use the best of our resources to develop more concepts and a more efficient car with every subsequent year. Every year if you set your targets and objectives higher you will continue to improve.
The team has been building its assets well – bolstering the CFD facility, upgrading to a 60% wind tunnel and with a simulator due to come online very soon… We have a great selection of assets to assist us in our goals and everything required to be a top team. Investment is the key and it’s a constant in our organisation. By the end of this year we will have further new projects to further our objectives. These are the next steps to enable us to be even stronger.
How do you feel personally on the brink of the start of the 2012 season?
After a difficult 2011 season – my second year in Formula 1 – I certainly feel much more positive and encouraged by everything I see in the team. We are headed in the correct direction. Last year was a tough experience from which everyone involved learnt a lot. Let’s get racing.
James Allison “The Car Has Been Very Good Out of the Box”
Regulation changes and the rollercoaster ride of winter testing have kept Technical Director James Allison very busy. But in the E20, he sees a lot of potential
What were the main challenges of the 2012 regulations?
By far the most significant is the fact that we are no longer allowed the exhaust blown diffusers. That single feature really dominated last season on everybody’s car, and it was felt by the governing body and by the Teams that this avenue of development needed to be reined in.
The 2012 rules still offer the opportunity to gain a residual downforce effect from the exhaust, but it is really very small in comparison to what we had in 2011. This means that the big challenge for 2012 was to re-invent the layout of the car without the exhaust blown effect which was so central to the 2011 designs.
How has it been working with Kimi Räikkönen?
I have to say he’s been an absolute pleasure to work with in testing. He was able to bang in a race distance from the first day he drove with us with absolutely no sign of physical exertion.
It was immediately clear that he has returned to the sport very fit and extremely enthusiastic to succeed. He’s a real pleasure for his engineers to work with, giving very clear feedback in a civilised manner.
How has Romain stepped up to the challenge?
Romain is a young, fresh-faced talent. He showed in Jerez that he is capable of setting very respectable lap times. He clearly took on board all the feedback we gave him from that first test and applied everything when we were next out in Barcelona.
It was a very pleasant surprise to have a driver so receptive to input and one who is able to react and apply the lessons so quickly and comprehensively.
Regarding the front suspension chassis mounting, how big a setback was it?
It was a proper setback; we lost four days of testing. The good thing is that our car was very reliable in the first test so the base of the car was already strong. This meant we didn’t really have great doubts about whether we could run lots of kilometres once the specific failure of the chassis was addressed.
However, it was lost set-up time, a lost opportunity for our drivers to get more kilometres under their belts and lost opportunities for us to learn more about this year’s tyres. All of these were extremely unwelcome, but it was not a mortal blow.
How quickly were you able to solve the issue?
The diagnosis was very rapid. We had a redesign to solve the failure by the end of the day. The challenge then became managing the implementation of the repair sufficiently quickly to be ready for the second Barcelona test.
All the media focus was on the chassis issue, but have there been any other areas of concern in the testing of the E20?
We saw some minor water leaks in Jerez but we had a quick and easy fix for that – so it’s all better now. We had an issue with one particular power steering rack at the second Barcelona test, but other than that the car has been very good out of the box.
What are your thoughts on the 2012 tyres from Pirelli?
They seem to work well with the E20. We’ve been able to achieve reasonable lap times and seen good warm-up. The degradation looks like it will make for the kind of races which the public will enjoy;
the tyres don’t destroy themselves so quickly that the race would become a meaningless blur of pit stops, but there is sufficient difference between the performance of the different compounds to make it an interesting racing spectacle.
Will the car in Australia be exactly as it was at the end of the Barcelona test?
We have the odd little tweaklet planned for Australia if you look closely.
A lot has been noted about the aesthetics of the stepped noses. What are your thoughts?
I’d agree it’s not a thing of great beauty, but you get used to it.
In terms of the potential of the E20, do you think you can challenge the top four?
That is our target and we believe we have a good shout at being able to do this. However, the precise order of the grid is notoriously hard to read from winter testing.
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