Interview with Lotus' Nick Chester
5 June 2014 – Lotus F1 Team Technical Director Nick Chester looks ahead to this weekend's Canadian Grand Prix...
Nick, will Canada suit the E22?
It's probably going to be a bit of a tricky one. On the one hand we're going to have the soft and super-soft tyres, which should be better for us. On the other hand Canada's got long straights, which we feel might not be great for us. There are also some big braking points and at some races this year we have felt our braking isn't as good as it should be. So for the E22 it is a balance between performing quite well on the softer tyres and maybe losing out on power and braking. We are going to do all we can to improve those areas before we go.
Tell us more about the braking?
With such long straights followed by big stops into low speed corners, getting the braking performance right is critical in Canada. Obviously this year with all the energy recovery systems there is quite a lot of tuning that can be done to enhance performance. It's definitely an area we are looking at and we've got some things we want to test on the Friday to hopefully improve the braking.
Why did the E22 not perform in Monaco?
Honestly we expected to be pretty quick in Monaco. The bottom line is that we were off the pace in the low-speed corners. So we feel we were losing out on mechanical grip, which may be a function of suspension - including how the car rides over any bumps - or of us not getting the tyres in the right operating window. Part of our response has been to do work on the suspension rigs before we go to Canada, to see if we can rectify this.
How much do aerodynamics play a part in low-speed corners?
In low-speed corners you still need to be generating sensible downforce on the car. Even though you're not going to feel it as much as the medium and high-speed corners it still plays a part. The conditions that the car operates in for downforce in low speed corners are quite different to medium and high-speed corners. For example the ride height is different, the steering, the yaw angle. So it can be that you lose some downforce in a low-speed corner, but when the car has less steering, less yaw and different ride heights it is better in the medium and high-speed corners. There are a few areas that can cost you in low-speed corners and rest assured we are looking at all of them!
Did the weather at Monaco have an impact?
It was a bit cooler on race day, but in qualifying the track temperature was quite good and we were not quick enough. So I don't think the weather had a huge effect in terms of our issues.
What happened to Pastor [Maldonado]'s car?
The fuel pump stopped working. It worked initially on the way to the grid but when they tried to fire the car up again the pump stopped. We are still investigating to be absolutely sure, but we are confident we know what the problem is. It is unrelated to the power unit.
What new parts are planned for Montreal?
There's a new medium downforce package and we've also got a few new mechanical parts, one of which will hopefully improve the grip of the chassis. There's also a small update to the cooling package which will give us a little more downforce.
How about the power unit?
We will continue to run with the latest fuel from Total as we did in Monaco so many power unit improvements will be focussed around modifying the mapping to get the most from this specification fuel. Mapping has brought significant progress this season.
How do you manage some of the technical frustrations in relation to the drivers?
To be honest both our drivers are now sufficiently experienced not to let frustrations impact upon their performance. Both Romain [Grosjean] and Pastor have been extremely professional as you would expect and can see that the team and our suppliers are all pulling in the same direction. Pastor has gone through two races this season where he has not started, which has to be one of the toughest things a driver can go through. His resolve and fighting instinct have been notable. Romain has shown incredible spirit and fortitude as well. His performance in all the races have been fantastic, especially considering the relative lack of mileage in the first four races.
Canada has historically been an unpredictable race. Will Romain and Pastor be in a good position to take advantage should it be so again this year?
That is the plan, yes. There can be a lot of variables at Montreal like rain, reliability and incidents. Romain and Pastor are exactly the kind of drivers you want on your side to exploit any opportunities. However, we hope to be able to challenge for a good points finish irrespective of any of these variables.