Lotus F1 Spa preview: Riding the Rollercoaster

Deputy Team Principal Federico Gastaldi looks ahead to the Belgian Grand Prix

What is the feeling in the team as we head to Spa? It is a feeling of huge motivation to keep pushing and to try and turn our season around as much as we can. We now have just two more races in Europe with the rest all flyaway races, so we need to make sure we gain some good momentum. Hopefully that will be triggered by some points at Spa and Monza. It won’t be easy because these two circuits are power tracks but as ever we will be fighting for the optimum result. Although we had the enforced summer shutdown, our team will not have stopped thinking and visualising the races ahead. F1 never stops, especially in the talented brains at Enstone. I can guarantee that all our team had a long think about the season so far and then resolved to ensure we do as much as is humanly possible to extract the maximum from the second phase of 2014.

What makes the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa so special? Simple, the track. The atmosphere is unique as well, but ultimately Spa is all about the challenge that it presents to the drivers. Just watching them attack the classic corners like Eau Rouge and Pouhon is a thrill. It must be amazing to drive this rollercoaster in the forest; it is like the track reflects the ups and downs of everything in F1. Spa also has a good feeling in the paddock too because everyone is refreshed from the summer break and there is a sense of renewed energy for the rest of the year.

The ‘silly season’ traditionally starts here too. Expecting lots of paddock waffle in Belgium? Something like that! Seriously though you learn to just focus on what is happening in your own corner of the paddock and doing what is best for the team. Of course sometimes it is fun to hear the stories and as everyone re-groups after the summer break it is natural for stories to start circulating. I have been around F1 for a long time so I know what to expect off the track.

How important is it for F1 to race at circuits such as Spa? In my opinion it is vital. These tracks are the lifeblood of F1. There wouldn’t be a tennis season without Wimbledon or a golf season without the Masters at Augusta. These circuits need to be maintained in F1 because the fans identify with them so much and they nearly always create excitement. I think we have a good balance of tracks in F1. Some traditional like Spa, Silverstone and Monza, some great street circuits like Monaco and Singapore and then newer F1 markets like Russia, the Middle East and the US. F1 should be about variety in every context while at the same time being relevant to partners, fans and teams alike. There are many challenges ahead for the remainder of the season. What are the key ones? The big one is to make sure we unlock as much performance from the E22 as possible and also ensure that we get greater reliability in all areas. Without this we are limited to what can be achieved. We know that the E22 can be quick and can get points when a stable platform is provided. The aims and objectives are clear for us as a team. We are targeting a strong end to the season that will give us the momentum to carry through to 2015 where we fully intend to climb back to the sharp-end of the grid. It will not be easy but what I know as fact is that our people at Enstone will make it happen. This team has had tough seasons before and always come back stronger. This will be the case once again. We will make sure of that.

Are there any announcements incoming about 2015? We will make any announcements when we are ready. 2015 looks very exciting indeed and we will have a great mix of new relationships to enjoy while also keeping some good continuity in the team which is important. ROMAIN GROSJEAN RACE DRIVER #8Positive Vibes

Romain Grosjean looks forward to the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix

Did you have ‘des bonnes vacances’? Yes, very nice. I spent time with my wife and baby son (Sacha), who celebrated his first birthday just after the Hungarian Grand Prix. We had a great time with our families and holidayed. It is nice to switch off even just for a short time. I come back to the paddock refreshed and with energy restored for the next phase of the season. What is your mind-set as we go into the second part of the season? Despite the difficulties so far, I feel positive for the rest of the season to come. We have seen that there have been many issues since the start of the year and even before, but as with everything in life you have to look forward and this is exactly what I am doing. This is now my third full season in F1 and although the disappointments always hurt, I am also mature enough to know that when things get tough you are able to learn more and to try and work toward being successful again. I really hope we can do that together as a team for the remainder of the year. That is the aim.

Spa is a great place to start afresh for the second part of the 2014 season isn’t it? Yes it is. Spa as we all know is one of the best tracks we go to, if not the best of them all. As a driver it is like a dream circuit with elevation change, quick corners, medium speed technical corners and some good straights for overtaking. It’s a circuit with a soul. I always enjoy racing here, as do most of the drivers. What I find memorable about Spa is not only the track but also the beautiful surroundings in the Ardennes forest. From the cockpit you get a very real sense of being at a living, breathing track at Spa and the fans are really close to the action. You can almost smell the frites! There is no hiding from the fact 2014 has been tough so far.

Going forward what can be achieved in the remaining races? Well, at the end of the day, all we as drivers can do is to do our best every time we get in the car. It has been a very hard year so far but you have to keep looking ahead and hoping that all of the bad luck, issues and tough times get paid back through our determination to make things better. Ever since I have been at Enstone I have seen this determination to succeed and it will help us. When you match these qualities to the skill of the technical team then we should get some rewards in the remaining races. We need to build some momentum and I will be going all out to make sure we get more points and exploit the best of the E22 for the rest of the season.

Is the target to add more points at Spa?

As always, yes. Since Monaco we have had a succession of really hard races where for many reasons we have not been in the position to claim any points. For Spa I am hoping that there will be some improvements so we can show the potential which has been seen on a few occasions, like at Barcelona. We have to reverse the problems that have held us back and I believe that if we get that then we can post more points on the board. Pastor Maldonado RACE DRIVER #13Hungrier Than Ever

What have you been doing in the summer break? Relaxing as much as possible by spending time with my family and friends. The F1 season is intense with travelling, and time seems to go so fast. It is a much needed break but at the same time my brain is always thinking about the team and the car, so part of me is always focusing on the second half of the season, starting at Spa. It is important to have this break and to refresh ourselves as a team. I think that being away from the track for a short time is healthy and actually helps get some perspective of where we are and hope things can improve for us going forwards.

Is there a sense of re-focusing now on a strong end to 2014 after a tough first half? Yes there is. It has been a very hard season and one in which there have been lots of issues. But now that is behind us and we have to believe that we can get some points on the board and complete the season strongly. That way it will give some good momentum to start afresh in 2015 with a whole new exciting package.

What are you targeting now for the rest of the season? It would be difficult to give a clear aim other than improvement and fighting for points every race. We have seen flashes of big promise from the E22. If everything is running right and the team continues to push then we can get more points for sure. As a team we will stay together with a clear mission to achieve the maximum. That way we will come back stronger and become a force in 2015. But first we are hungrier than ever to get back in to the mix for points again in 2014. Spa is a legendary place.

What makes it so special for you the driver? Where do you start with Spa? It is an amazing circuit and for sure one of the best on the planet. The sensations a driver experiences at corners like Eau Rouge/Raidillion, Pouhon and Blanchimont are not like you feel anywhere else in the world. It is unique in every way and to think you are competing on parts of the track that were used back in the first Grand Prix season in 1950 makes it very special indeed.

What are your favourite memories of Spa? Spa is the type of track where you get great memories whenever or whatever you are racing. But of course the ones that really stick in the memory are the victories and I am lucky that I have won here a few times. I first raced at Spa in 2004 in Formula Renault. In 2006 I won in World Series by Renault at Spa, taking pole, fastest lap and the victory. Then in 2008 I won in the GP2 Series for the first time. Then I took another win in my championship year in 2010 which was a sweet moment. In Formula 1 I qualified sixth in 2012. So all in all I have great memories of the track and feel that I have a special relationship with it going back many years.

With a vast variety of corners at Spa how do you think the E22 will perform there? We hope it’s good there. If we can have a clean weekend technically, without any power unit or other issues, then we will be in a good position to challenge for points. Spa always throws up some variables with the weather being the obvious one. It would be nice to be higher up than the last few races. If we can achieve this and we have a good package then I believe we can come away with something very positive from Belgium. NICK CHESTER TECHNICAL DIRECTORBack to Work

Technical Director Nick Chester outlines that there’s plenty still to come from the team’s E22.

Will we see new development parts on the E22 at Spa? We have a fair amount of new development parts for Spa such as new bodywork and some smaller modifications centred around the front of the chassis which should give some good downforce benefits for us. We will still have plenty of developments to come as the season goes on. Front and rear wing developments are planned for Spa. The rear wing upgrades may be tight for Spa due to the time lost in manufacturing during the summer shutdown but we are pushing for it to be in Belgium. The key thing is that we are continuing to push development of the E22 in the coming races with some fairly substantial upgrades. We know that there are some very sensitive areas of the car where we can make some good gains so we will be focusing on these areas too.

What are the secrets to getting a good set-up at Spa? Like most things in F1 there are no specific secrets just hard work and good engineering. Because there is so much time spent at full throttle at Spa you need a reasonably light downforce level, so it is a tricky one because this has to be countered with what you face in sector two, which is a relatively slower section. This means there is a reasonable compromise to be made but ultimately you need to have a car that provides confidence for the drivers in the high speed corners. You also need good mechanical setup to get through the high compression sequence at Eau Rouge and Raidillon, which is still very demanding on the car.

Spa and rain are two words often heard together. How will we fair should the weather revert to type this season?

Spa always throws up the possibility of wet or damp conditions. We have seen some promise with the E22 in these conditions already this season but most recently at Hungary that really wasn’t the case. We struggled to generate good grip on intermediate tyres but then so did many others so it looked like a function of the track surface.

How are we adjusting to life post interconnected suspension? We have made some progress in reducing the deficiency from losing the interconnected suspension but we are still hurting a little bit. We have some revised mechanical parts for Spa including some new springs and enhanced suspension settings which should help. It was a highly developed system on the E22 beforehand so it is hard to claw all of the performance back straight away.

Is the summer break a help or a hindrance for the team? There are two sides to this really. As an engineer you actually want to keep on attacking and extract the maximum you can out of the package you have. On the flipside, the F1 season is very demanding so actually in the long-term and throughout the whole season it is probably a benefit in terms of human performance.

Spa and Monza are two legendary tracks and they are really popular with the fans. How about engineers? Of course we love going to these ‘spiritual’ tracks. They are part of the fabric and history of F1 and indeed racing in general. You feel the drama and excitement at both Spa and Monza despite them being very different in nature. As an engineer Spa is a massive challenge but a satisfying one. Monza is totally unique as it is the quickest track of the year. This year will be tough for us as we are not the quickest on the straights but as ever we are up for the challenge.


FRONT WINGWe use comparably more front wing here compared to lower speed tracks to help diminish understeer in the high speed corners. REAR WINGIn lots of ways Spa is the ultimate challenge for the aerodynamics.You need good straight-line speed, however good levels of downforce are also needed for the combination of fast and medium speed corners, particularly in sector two. Although very different in nature, we run a similar level of rear wing to Montreal. SUSPENSIONThis is primarily a high speed circuit and there isn’t much use of the kerbs, so suspension is tailored to high speed balance rather than low speed travel. BRAKES Spa is not hugely demanding on brakes. The temperatures are rarely high and there are just three major stopping points (La Source, Les Combes and Bus Stop). TYRESSpa is a big challenge for the rubber. Apart from the notoriously fickle weather in the Ardennes region the loads on the tyres are significant. Supplied by Pirelli for this weekend are the medium (white) and soft (yellow), the same combination as at the last race in Hungary.

POWER UNITSpa is perhaps the biggest challenge of the season for the Power Unit. With long periods of flat out throttle, including the 25secs from La Source to Les Combes, the demands on the power unit are significant, as is the fuel consumption which will be perhaps the highest of the season to date. Energy recovery will be relatively routine at Spa with the abundance of fast, sweeping corners.