Deputy Team Principal Federico Gastaldi takes stock of the underlying issues for F1 right now and looks ahead to the eighteenth race of the season, the 2014 Brazilian Grand Prix.
The Latin spirit is apparent everywhere at Interlagos. The Brazilian Grand Prix is always a carnival of colour. Is it one you especially look forward to?
Absolutely. Interlagos is always a pleasure because the passion of racing runs through the whole place. The close proximity of the city and all the fans makes it a very unique atmosphere. I think there is a really special vibe around the Brazilian Grand Prix. The Latin spirit is apparent everywhere at Interlagos. Traditional in the sense that there is natural undulation and a great variety of corners. From the team sense we are always welcomed very warmly here. As a proud South American it gives me a lot of pleasure to showcase our great team to some of the best fans in the world.
It is also a big race for Pastor as it is the closest event to his home Grand Prix?
Yes, Pastor is looking forward to it because he gets a lot of support for this race. I am sure that he will take the recent positive momentum he has gathered to please these fans in Brazil. It is certainly the type of circuit that Pastor likes to attack and extract the maximum from especially after the positive of points in Austin.
How do you sum up Austin last weekend?
It was a very good, positive weekend. It started out with some interesting objectives achieved with the evaluation of the new-look development nose. Our engineers and production guys back at Enstone are working hard on the E23 and this was a valuable data gathering exercise for our 2015 programme. We also had a few updates for the current car and these seemed to work well. Pastor was able to qualify just outside the top ten, and could have even been in Q3 if he was only a tenth faster. In the race, both drivers performed very well and we saw some great racing!
It was a shame for Romain to lose out after being hit by a somewhat ambitious move from Jean-Eric Vergne, but we are very pleased for Pastor to finish in the points for the first time with us. It was also a fitting reward for all the guys at Enstone. The team have deserved better this year. Everything is there - the skills, experience and attitude. We just need to put the right package together. I was also happy that the American fans got to see an action-packed race. Everybody is so friendly and welcoming there wherever we go. We are pushing to build a new era for the sport in the US and it was also a good reminder of the positive side of Formula One after a lot of negatives recently.
The future of the sport is very much in the headlines at present. Where do you stand on the current debate on the structure of F1 in regards to commercial affairs?
Well, I think everyone has known for a long time that there are big issues with the way revenue is distributed in the sport. It finally looks like things are going to be addressed on this and with the full co-operation of the teams to actually get things changed, and quickly. The teams know changes need to be made, the fans can see it and now it looks like Bernie can see it too and is going to address it. To me and in particular to the team’s shareholders, it just seems wrong that some teams get a significant amount of money for just arriving at the track whereas other teams get nothing. Like any global business there are issues that need to be addressed and of course because F1 is so visible they come to light very publically when teams hit trouble. The commercial part of racing is always a hot topic and we need to make some big decisions because F1 cannot afford to lose more of its participants. One thing is for sure, the level of spending just to participate in F1 is way too high at present, so it has to be addressed and tough decisions have to be made. Hopefully something positive will come out of the difficult times being faced by Marussia and Caterham recently.
Is Romain’s immediate future with the team close to being confirmed?
We are still finalising things at present and an announcement will be forthcoming shortly. As I have already said,Romain is a very important member of the Enstone family and we want to keep it that way. The discussions we have are very open and progressive and we hope to be in a position to get everything out in the open very soon.
Romain was somewhat miffed to be biffed out of the points in Austin so he’s gunning to score
How are you looking forward to the penultimate race of the season?
I can’t wait to go to Brazil because every year we have a fantastic team dinner at a churrascaria where the team who travels around all year can let their hair down a little and share some laughs. It’s been a really tough season – the toughest ever for me and many of the team – so it will be good to enjoy a drink together well before the preparations for the race weekend are underway. I will be raising a caipirinha to everyone in the team in São Paulo, then another to everyone back in Enstone too!
Tell us about Interlagos; is it a track you like?
It’s a fantastic track and there’s no part of it that isn’t great. It really suits my driving style so I’m really looking forward to it. Certainly, the E22 is getting more enjoyable to drive and the soft and medium Pirelli tyres – particularly the softs – seemed to work well for us in Texas so there’s good potential.
Is there a specific part of the track you like the most?
Everything! It’s a fantastic challenge of a track which never seems to have a part where you relax. Even the main start-finish ‘straight’ isn’t boring as it starts uphill with some interesting camber, then gradually turns before finishing at the downhill turn one, where it’s so easy to out-brake yourself. If I had to pick favourite parts of Interlagos, I would say the first and last corners; the first corner is really technical and punishes you if you get it wrong, and the last corner is so fast and really puts quite a strain on your body. As a driver I really enjoy these corners. It’s an old style track, so very hard to pick out a single element; I’d say everything is pretty good in Interlagos; I love it!
On a scale of 1-10 how annoyed were you after being displaced from a points scoring position by your countryman in Austin?
About 842! Points have been so very hard won by the team this season so it was really, really frustrating. I think Jean-Eric was trying to launch his car into space using the hill up to turn one as a launch! I didn’t have anywhere to go and he had all four wheels locked-up going sideways. The contact broke my front wing and also some of the floor at the rear too. This made the car quite a handful to drive for the rest of the race. Part of my front wing broke off and was caught on JEV’s car until Toro Rosso returned it afterwards!
With just two races left, are you looking forward to the 2014 season being over?
In many ways, yes. But that said, we’ve made good progress with the car recently so if we can continue as we have been doing then Brazil and Abu Dhabi should be positive races for us. In São Paulo anything can happen – especially as you never know what the weather will do – and in Abu Dhabi it’s double points so we’ll want to end the year as strongly as possible.
What’s your approach to the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend?
I’m on the hunt for the points I lost out on in Austin. It’s been a really long, hard season and scoring any points is such a great reward for all the hard work that everyone puts in. There have been lots of long hours at Enstone this year, and it’s a lot more difficult when there’s no reward in terms of points at races. I really want to give something good to the team in Interlagos and also in Abu Dhabi so we can end the year with a positive vibe as we look to 2015 which we know will be a far better proposition for us in many ways.
Fresh from a great race weekend in Austin, Pastor is already fully focused on the Brazilian Grand Prix.
How did it feel to score your first points of 2014 in Austin?
Like a weight was lifted from my shoulders! But as soon as you reach one milestone, it’s straight onto the next. So our focus is already to try and do better this weekend in Brazil.It’s important to remember that we were competitive for most of the weekend in Austin - even though we dedicated some time to trying things like the 2015 evaluation nose in practice - and we need to continue like that for the next two races. The car has felt better and better to drive and we’ve been able to get more from it over the last few races. We’ll discount Sochi as we struggled so much to get the tyres to work there, but apart from that event, when the car was reliable we’ve been able to push quite well on different circuits so that’s been a real bonus.
What made the difference in Austin?
Together with the team we have been learning quite a lot about the car and have found a setting that gives me the confidence to really push, but also stay consistent and manage the tyres. We are continuing to develop in that direction so I’m really excited for the remaining races and especially next year’s car. We are going from one of the newest circuits on the calendar to one of the oldest,
what do you think of Interlagos?
Interlagos may not have the most impressive infrastructure but it is a great, historic circuit. I really love the track, the atmosphere and the people - there will be a lot of Venezuelans there! Hopefully we can have a great race and put on a good show for the South American fans.
What are the challenges of the layout?
Technically it’s always tricky to find a set-up balance between the twisty parts of the circuit and the long straights. In an ideal world you’d want Monza-spec for the start and end of the lap and Hungaroring-spec for the rest!Different drivers and teams will make different compromises, which all adds up to an interesting race. Some will go for greater straight-line speed to help them pass and defend in the race, others more downforce for a better lap time and less sliding. Bumps can also be an issue and there are several overtaking opportunities on the track which reward late braking, both to go on the attack and keep rivals behind. Last but not least the unpredictable weather is sure to keep us on our toes. There has also been some resurfacing at the track so we’ll have the challenge we are faced with any new surface of understanding the grip levels and how they change over the course of the weekend.
Given the competitive Austin weekend, are there any similarities with Interlagos?
Well firstly the tyre allocation will be the same and I would say that Interlagos is a similar kind of track in terms of its characteristics. The temperature could also be similar, which would be another positive factor too. When we get the tyres working and don’t have low speed corners at a circuit we’re capable of pretty decent performance. We’ve seen some epic races inInterlagos where wet weather has been a factor, and thunderstorms are present. We all know the amount of rain which can fall in São Paulo and the Interlagos track even has grooves cut into it to help the water flow off the track! It’s a challenging circuit in the dry and even more so in the wet, but there have been some amazing races over the years because of this. Whatever the weather, we’ll be pushing for the best result possible.