Deputy Team Principal Federico Gastaldi looks ahead to the United States Grand Prix.
The Mercedes power unit announcement was made recently. Is this the start of a renaissance for the team? That is the plan! Obviously it was something that was in the pipeline. Behind the scenes we realised it was time for a new direction and we are very happy we can finally confirm this publically. Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains have already made a positive impression and we believe that they will be a key ingredient for future success. It has become obvious this year that they have the most competitive package on the engine side. Their strengths, allied to ours, will form a potent combination in 2015 and create a special E23 Hybrid package. The partnership also forms a key ingredient for the long-term future of Lotus F1 Team.
Are we closer yet to know who will be driving the Mercedes powered E23 Hybrid next year? Romain is in pole position for that place and honestly it’s a case of us finalizing a few details. We expect to have an announcement very shortly. Like the technical package confirmation there has been a lot going on in the offices at Enstone, as well as the pits and paddock. It is all looking very good and exciting for the team going forwards.
Does the test for Esteban Ocon show a continued commitment to nurturing young talent at Lotus F1 Team? Yes it does. We have a rich heritage of giving young talent a chance at Enstone, like Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso and Romain. Esteban is part of the Lotus F1 Team Junior programme and obviously a very talented driver. He has shown this year that he can get the job done with a record amount of victories. It was his first year of F3, so to score fifteen wins and take the crown was a special achievement. This is especially true when you consider the calibre of his opposition in Max Verstappen. We recognised EstebanÕs feat by ensuring he got his first taste of an F1 car at Valencia this week, where he impressed everyone with his application and attitude. We are looking forward to working with him as he climbs his way up to the top. It shows clearly that the Lotus F1 Team Junior programme is one of the best in motorsport and delivers exceptional talent.
It is the third time we will race at the Circuit of the Americas. What are your thoughts on the facility and also F1 generally in the US? It is a tremendous location to race at. There are great fans from the US and Mexico mainly, but also from all over the world. The track is challenging, the drivers and fans love it and of course the US is a major, but largely untapped marketplace for F1. It will take momentum and many more US Grands Prix for F1 to be fully embraced but there is a great will from Lotus F1 Team to reach out to the US race fans and create a special relationship. We hope to put on a great show in Austin next weekend.
What about the provisional calendar for 2015. Mexico should be exciting? Mexico is a racing country through and through. Since the days of the Rodriguez brothers and of course the great Carerra Panamericana race it has the sport in its blood. F1 will be welcomed with open arms there and I am sure there will be a great atmosphere because the Mexican fans are very passionate. We see many of them at Austin and they make a big, big noise. Mexico is also a strong economic country and there will be great opportunity commercially for F1 over there. The race next year will be a big highlight for sure. Finally, Jules Bianchi is still very much in everyone’s thoughts as we head to the final races? Yes, very much so and everyone at Enstone as well as everyone in the world of Formula 1 is praying for him. We also had the recent terrible news about Christophe de Margerie who was a close friend of the team. Our thoughts are also with his family as well as those of the other three victims of Monday’s plane crash.
Is it true that you will ride to Austin on your Harley Davidson motorcycle? No. I do have a Harley and I will be riding one in Austin before the Grand Prix, but riding a Harley all the way to Austin is not part of my training programme. Though it does sound like fun! At home I have a custom Harley which is one of my favourite vehicles. They’re obviously an iconic US machine so it’s great to be able to ride one in its home country which is what IÕll be doing ahead of the Grand Prix. Maybe all the drivers should ride one for the drivers parade!
What do you think of the Circuit of the Americas? It looks great and the first time I walked around it in 2012 I thought wow! The gradient up to turn one is really something and it makes for a fun first corner when you’re in the car. It’s a really well presented facility with an interesting circuit layout.
What particular challenges does the Circuit of the Americas present? It’s quite a balanced circuit in that you don’t need one particular thing over another for the car to perform well. In the first year the challenge was finding the level of grip we want and we did see the same to a certain extent last year too. This year, we should be helped a bit by the race being a couple of weeks earlier, but we’re always wanting more grip!
What do you think of America? The only times I have visited the US are for the Grands Prix. It’s such a big place which I would love to explore more. Austin is a great city to visit and my crew have told me all about the great bars and live music on offer!
There’s been some recent positive news from the team for 2015? This is something we’ve known about internally for quite some time and I know the engineering department are very excited. For myself I can’t wait to get to testing next season as that’s when we’ll know if next year’s car is any good. Why haven’t you announced where you’ll be driving in 2015 yet? Maybe we think it’s fun to keep the media speculating! Honestly, we’re very close to having something to announce but there’s no pressure on when we say something. How are you approaching the final races of 2014? It’s amazing just how quickly this season has passed, even if it seemed a long, hard slog at times. We head to Austin, Brazil and Abu Dhabi determined to get the most we can from the race weekends and also using some of the practice time to evaluate different aspects of the car to gain more data for 2015.
Talking of which, there’s a different nose to be tested in Austin? The E22Õs nose is pretty distinct so it will be unusual seeing it with something different on the front. This is part of the team’s evaluations for 2015, and the nose is designed to gather information for next year. I’m looking forward to seeing what it looks like, but my main focus is the race weekend.
We received the sad news about Christophe de Margerie this week - he was someone you were close to? He was one of those men that you meet very rarely in a lifetime. I knew him for many years and he believed in me and helped me to achieve my motorsport dream. It was such a tragic accident and my thoughts are with his family, as well as the families of the other victims of the plane crash.
What are your thoughts of the Circuit of the Americas? Austin is a good track, it’s a challenging layout which is good to drive and it’s an enjoyable event. The first turn is quite something with its very steep climb and the rest of the lap flows well. The atmosphere at the circuit is really special, even for the first time we visited. It’s great to see the RVs at the side of the track and people staying at the circuit to enjoy the full weekend. The circuit can be a difficult one for tyres and we had some unusual delays and interruptions on the Friday last year so it will be interesting to see what happens this time. Certainly, there can be a variety with the weather and in the past we’ve seen it be quite cold at the start of the day. The race is earlier this season so let’s see how that makes a difference.
How about Austin as a place? It’s really a fantastic location with a lot to do. It’s certainly the type of city I’d like to visit even if there wasn’t a race there! It’s a really lively place with a lot going on. Great food, great music and great people are three things I think about when we go to Austin. The fans are superb too. It’s only the third time we will visit Austin, but already it’s one event on the calendar that we really look forward to visiting.
What’s your outlook for this race? Obviously we want to perform better than we did in Sochi. That was a difficult weekend for many reasons. We think the Austin layout should suit our car a bit better so that’s a positive. Hopefully we won’t have any more technical issues. I know we’ll have good support from the fans so we’ll be pushing for a good result.
How was the Sochi debrief? That was a tough weekend, for sure, but we are used to tough weekends in 2014! As always, there was a lot to learn, we gained a lot of information for how to approach Sochi next season. In Russia this year we lost too much time because of issues which stopped us running over the course of the weekend and that was especially bad for us when it was a new track. You don’t want to lose practice time at any track, but it really hurts at a new one. And no-one ever wants technical issues during qualifying.
How much are you thinking about 2015? We still have three races left in 2014 so that is our priority, but it’s no secret that we are all looking to 2015 with a lot of excitement. It will be my second season with Lotus F1 Team and we have worked well together in 2014. There will be a lot of changes to the car and the team is very positive about the potential of next year’s chassis. At the end of the season I will get some quality time with my family then I’ll return in 2015 fresh for the next challenge.
One back-to-back combo and Abu Dhabi then that’s this season done…Nineteen races seem to fly by, even when you’re not having the season performance you want. There have been so many changes for this year. Though the year has gone quickly, it still seems like Albert Park was such a long time ago! We have three races left to try to get some more points on the board. We know that won’t be easy with the strength of the competition, but it’s something we still try for. The final three races of 2014 are all great events so we really want to finish as strongly as we can.