Lotus F1 Team Management Spa preview

Lotus F1 Team Management Spa preview

16.08.2013: Eric Boullier: “We head into the next nine races on a real high” Eight podiums from ten races have given Eric Boullier plenty to smile




Eric Boullier: “We head into the next nine races on a real high”



Eight podiums from ten races have given Eric Boullier plenty to smile about in 2013 so far, and the Team Principal is hoping for more of the same from the back nine…


How would you sum up the first half of the 2013 season?


Overall I’d say it’s been a positive start. There have been a lot of high points, but also perhaps some less satisfying moments. We’ve taken eight podiums from ten races so far, which is a great achievement for the team and shows that once again we’ve clearly made a step forwards from the previous year.


Of course, amongst those highlights we’ve had three races – Monaco, Montréal and Silverstone – where we did not score as many points as we should have done, but the important thing is that we recovered from these small blips to challenge for wins at the Nürburgring and also in Budapest.


For me it’s a big positive to show that we have the capability as a team to bounce back and sustain a challenge against opponents with greater resources at their disposal.



If you could pick one moment as your highlight of the year so far, what would it be?


Well I think that one is quite obvious. We’re here to win, and the victory for Kimi at the opening race in Melbourne was a special moment for the whole team.



How do you rate the performances of both drivers at this mid-stage?


I would have to give Kimi ten out of ten. He’s done a terrific job right from the beginning of the season and his remarkable run of twenty-seven consecutive points finishes speaks for itself. No matter what happens he’s always there, as we saw in the final few laps at Monaco. He is playing a big part in pushing the team forwards, and of course having such a popular character in the seat has its advantages too.


 For Romain it was a more difficult start to the year coming off the back of a tough season in 2012, and it maybe took him a little while to settle down and start performing to the best of his ability. With that in mind, it gives me great pleasure to see him learn from those experiences and to start delivering the kind of results we’ve always known he is capable of.


In Germany and Hungary he really put together the complete package over two consecutive weekends, and this should now be his baseline. He knows that if he wants to be winning races and fighting for championships then he must deliver this kind of quality drive at every Grand Prix. If he can keep up this level, Romain can be a future contender for titles, I’m sure of it.



At the start of the season you stated P3 in the Constructors’ standings as the target; is this still the aim?


The championship is so close between ourselves, Ferrari and Mercedes at the moment that we really need to be aiming a little higher to make sure our goals are reached. I think therefore that to target P2 is a better ambition, and we will be pushing harder than ever to sustain that challenge.


We have an ambitious group of people at Enstone and a top three placing at the end of the year is very much possible, which would be a fantastic achievement for everybody involved. We head into the next nine races on a real high.



The 2014 calendar looks set to be pretty full… what’s your take on this?


I think we first need to wait for the full calendar to be confirmed before assessing the situation in too much detail, but it certainly seems like we’ll have some extra races next year and at some different venues too which is good for the sport.


We’ll also see the return of in-season testing, but we have the resources available here at Enstone to make sure the race team don’t get over-worked. Without doubt it’s going to be busy and we’ll need to make sure we achieve the right balance, but as a team we’re more than able to manage the schedule.


With major rule changes just around the corner, how do you see the remainder of 2013 unfolding?


I think we will see most of the teams – with the exception maybe of Red Bull – slowing right down in their development of this years’ cars in preparation for the challenge of 2014. With this in mind I think we are in a very strong position for the second half of the season, as our car is currently competing at the very front of the pack.


 We also have a strong upgrade package for Spa which will most likely form our baseline for the remainder of the year, so our aim should be to continue fighting for podiums right to the end.



Alan Permane: “I fully expect us to continue fighting at the front”


Describing the first half of the season as ‘pretty good’, Trackside Operations Director Alan Permane expects the team to be fighting for podiums right up to the end of year



We’re now entering the second half of the season; how would you rate the team’s performance in the first ten races?


On the whole I’d say we’ve had a decent start to the year. It’s frustrating to sometimes come away from a weekend knowing we haven’t quite got the most from the car, but at the past few events we’ve brought some successful updates that are working very well.


Out of ten rounds so far we’ve had eight podium finishes – including a victory at the opening round – so it’s been pretty good overall.



Of course, we always want to win more races – we’re here to fight for World Championships – but second in the Drivers’ Championship and a very close fourth in the Constructors’ battle – within touching distance of second and with a healthy gap behind – is a good position to be in. We’re battling with teams that have arguably got a lot more resources at their disposal, so I think we’re doing a very good job with what we have here at Enstone.



Hungary was our first race with the revised Pirelli tyre construction / compound combination; what have we learned from that?


From Budapest we’ve learned that the ‘new’ tyres seem to suit our car relatively well. We can only assess their effect on performance relative to the competition around us, and I’d say we’ve not done too badly on that front. Mercedes for example seem to be very well suited to them, but Ferrari perhaps not so much.


Although we were slightly quicker than them in both Germany and Hungary, ourselves and Red Bull look very evenly matched. I wouldn’t say they’ve changed our position too much.



Belgium presents a different challenge…



Yes; a total contrast to Budapest in pretty much every area. Similar to Canada, Spa is a much lower downforce layout than most venues we visit with significantly lower temperatures; usually between fifteen and twenty degrees ambient.


We will also be using the hard and medium compound tyres which – combined with the cooler climate – have not been our strength I think it’s fair to say. We have however been putting in a lot of time and effort to get the harder tyres working better in lower temperatures, and I’m fairly confident we’ll head into this race remaining equally competitive.



Spa is a circuit which should surely suit the Device; is it on the radar for this weekend?


Absolutely. We haven’t made a final decision yet as to whether it will be deployed, but we’ve been conducting a lot of simulation work with the concept to help clarify that decision and there’s a good chance we’ll see it make an appearance.



Coming off the back of the summer break, has there been any time for further upgrades to be prepared for this race?


Although we have had a decent gap of four weeks between races, two of those are eliminated by the enforced factory shutdown. This still leaves two weeks of course; a period of time sufficient to bring a few new parts to the table as we would normally do in such a gap.


The advantage we have with Spa being so close geographically is that we can be working on the cars back at Enstone right up until the Tuesday night before the race, and still have sufficient time to get them to the circuit ready for work on Thursday morning. We’ve got several updates coming up – both mechanical and aerodynamic – so we’re confident of making another step forward.



With 2014 and the associated regulations changes drawing ever nearer, do you anticipate a notable switch in development focus for the rest of the season?


I expect most, if not every team on the grid to be focusing the majority of their design and aero resources on next year’s cars by this stage. The changes are so significant that – without unlimited resources – you really have no alternative but to have switched your focus in this respect if the aim is to be competitive in 2014.


You may see a few small upgrades appearing as the races tick away, but I suspect we’ve witnessed the last of the major overhaul packages. If this rings true throughout the paddock – and I think it will for most teams – then I fully expect us to continue fighting at the front for the remainder of the season.



- Lotus F1 also photos

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16.08.2013 / MaP

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