Lotus F1 Team Deputy Team Principal Federico Gastaldi looks to Formula 1’s return to a highly popular venue with the Mexican Grand Prix.
What are your expectations for the Mexican Grand Prix?I am expecting a fantastic event! I’ve seen the work that has gone on behind the scenes and I know the passion and enthusiasm there is for Formula 1 in Mexico. It’s a great country and a superb city with warm and welcoming people. We’ve been away from Mexico too long; it’s going to be fantastic to be back.What’s the team’s history in Mexico?Once upon a time we were called Benetton and we scored our first Formula 1 victory in Mexico in 1986 with Gerhard Berger. It was Gerhard’s first Grand Prix win, and interestingly he went on to score his and Benetton’s final Grand Prix win eleven years later, although that win was in Germany!What are your reflections on the United States Grand Prix?I am still drying my socks! It was an incredible build-up to what turned out to be a fabulous race. I can’t remember ever seeing so much rain as we did on Saturday. It’s a testament to all the professionalism of everyone at COTA and in Austin that everything was able to run as smoothly as it did despite the very challenging conditions. For us as a team it was good to see Pastor score points for the third consecutive race, but it was unfortunate that Romain’s race was effectively ended at the corner thanks to over-exuberance from another driver. As a former Grand Prix promoter what are your thoughts when you experience extreme weather like we saw in Austin?Certainly Hurricane Patricia unleashed a lot of water and could blow with some force too. You can’t change the weather but it’s definitely not something you’d want. I think the race itself was fantastic and quite some reward for the loyal fans who attended despite the weather. The conditions certainly gave everyone something new to work around, but we all got there. It was a weekend we’re remember for quite some time.How tight a turnaround is it for the team heading to Mexico?Fortunately the distance involved is pretty short and the timezones are very similar so it’s not as difficult as it could be. The second event of a back-to-back race combination does have less time to prepare, but everyone involved is professional and knows their jobs so we’re not expecting any surprises.Would you like to see further races in the Americas?There’s a balance between how many races we want to have during the course of a season and all the amazing venues we’d love to visit around the world. On a personal level I’d love to see Formula 1 return to Argentina and I know it would get a fantastic response there.
Can you give some insight into the selection process for Jolyon Palmer as race driver for the team in 2016?Jolyon’s a talented driver and a very balanced and measured young man, smart and focused both on track and out of the car. He’s done everything we’ve asked of him in his FP1 sessions during the course of 2015 and we’ve seen that he has a strong future ahead of him in Formula 1. Next year will be his rookie season, but we’ve every confidence that he will deliver on track and complete a strong pairing with Pastor.How many other pieces need to fall into place for the team for 2016?We’re working hard behind the scenes and we’ll have some good strong and positive announcements to make in due course.
ROMAIN GROSJEANLET’S GO TO MEXICO
After his United States Grand Prix was effectively over before it had even begun, Romain Grosjean looks to enjoy getting high in Mexico.
How are you looking forward to your trip to Mexico?It’s a new venue and it’s always nice to learn a new track. I can remember watching the Mexican Grand Prix when I was a kid, particularly with a memory of Senna going upside down at the last corner. It looks like the layout has more low speed corners now, but it still has a very long straight so there’ll be an interesting competition to see who can be the fastest there!Have you ever been to Mexico City before?It will be a first for me so I’m excited to be going there. I’m sure we will all get a great response and I’m looking forward to experiencing the culture and especially investigating the food which is what I always do when visiting a new city.Any special preparations for the high altitude?The city is very high but for me that’s a good thing as I was born in the mountains! I’m a big fan of skiing and cycling in the mountains too, so I think I’ll be pretty well prepared. I don’t think it’s going to cause the drivers any issues, but I know there are a few areas to give some different calculations to the engineers. It’s going to be different with the brake cooling and things like that, but every track has its characteristics so I’m sure we’ll get on top of it pretty quickly.How do you reflect on your United States Grand Prix?Short but not sweet. It was quite some event. I’m glad there was a decent race for all the fans to watch after so much rainfall, and I was pretty pissed off to get hit at the first corner like that as it ruined my race. Damage was done to the rear floor and crucially to the brake ducting. We changed tyres as my tyre was punctured but the brake temperature kept rising. We came in again to change to slicks and also see if there was any debris blocking the ducting, but it was more the case that there was no ducting! It wasn’t safe to continue, which meant I had to retire. I was gutted for myself, the team and all the fans. I think we had potential for a good finish, especially with everything that was going on elsewhere. The best bit of the weekend for me was actually away from the track where I went out on Sunday with all the guys who work on my car. Despite all the rainfall we’d seen in Austin, they were still very thirsty!The weather forecast for this weekend does show potential for rain; what are you feelings on driving in the rain?It’s something very different to driving in the dry. In the dry you can be very precise and you have a far better idea of the level of grip. You’re going faster in the dry and you’re pushing the tyres to their limits. In the wet, it’s a different way of driving. The level of grip can vary so much over the course of a lap, let alone over the course of a race. You’re more tentative, feeling your way around and you have to react very quickly as the car can start sliding very easily. You have to be wary of puddles and the risk of aquaplaning. Understeer and oversteer are much more present and evident on every corner when it’s really wet and visibility is a very big concern. A car out front or in clear track has an advantage over something in the pack. It can be a lot of fun but sometimes it can seem pretty crazy too.You’ve got just three races left with Lotus F1 Team; any special plans?I’m certainly aiming to finish as strongly as possible with them as they’re a great bunch of people. It would be great to have a strong result in Mexico.
PASTOR MALDONADOWRESTLING POINTS
With three consecutive points finishes, Pastor Maldonado looks to wrestle some more from the grasp of his rivals as Formula 1 returns to Mexico.
How are you looking forward to the Mexican Grand Prix?I think it’s going to be one of the most special races of the year. There’s certainly a lot of expectation and lots of great fans in Mexico. It’s a Latin American race so I think I’m going to enjoy it a lot. I think we’re all going to get a fantastic welcome and a lot of support. It’s a great country with great people. I love Mexico so I’m looking forward to it. Do you expect to get a lot of local support?It’s certainly very close to my home andthe Spanish language is used so I’m looking forward to meeting fans old and new. It’s a big city so there’s a lot of potential for many people tosupport the event and I’m sure they will.What do you think of the circuit?I’ve never been there so it will be a new experience for me. It’s always difficult to make a call on a track until you’ve driven it in the car. The layout looks good with some interesting corners with some low speed and also medium and quicker stuff, then a very long main straight which makes up a big percentage of the lap. We’re certainly going to get some high speeds along there! It’ll be interesting to explore our potential.Did you have a particular approach because of the altitude?There’s nothing particular other than your general conditioning and training. It’s the highest race of the year so the air will be a bit different but you adapt pretty quickly.How was your United States Grand Prix?It was an eventful one. The waiting for the sessions was something we see sometimes and you have to try to get some track time. To be honest the race itself wasn’t the most enjoyable as the car was quite a handful in the conditions we had and you never knew what to expect. I was struggling with the brake balance which made it tough to push hard. We also seemed to grain the wet tyres more than expected so that had to be managed. It was good to get the points, but we didn’t score them in the best way possible because you always want to be pushing hard all the way.There’s a forecast of rain when we get to Mexico…The weather will be the same for everyone and we showed we can have a good result when there’s lot of action going on elsewhere. It’s a different track and a new one for everyone so we’ll have to see how our car likes in then deal with the weather as we find it.What are your thoughts on Jolyon now he’s been announced as your team-mate for 2016?He’s a nice guy and he’s good to work with so I feel positive about next season. We’ve been working closely together in FP1 sessions this year so that gives me a good idea about working with him. He’s an intelligent guy so I’m sure he’ll do a good job.Are you a fan of Mexican food?I love tacos so I’ll be having a few there, but not too many, at least not before the race or qualifying! I like Mexican food, especially when it’s hot and spicy; although maybe not Mexican hot and spicy!
Trick or Treat?I’m hoping the race will be a treat for us.Will you celebrate with a tequila if it’s a good result?Yes, but it has to be a proper good result!
NICK CHESTER HITTING THE HIGHS
Lotus F1 Team Technical Director Nick Chester considers the challenges presented by the return of the Mexican Grand Prix at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez.
What are the technical and engineering challenges of the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez?There’s one very notable factor about the location of the Mexican Grand Prix and that’s the altitude. Mexico City is located at over 2200 metres and surrounded by mountains, some over 5000 metres. The altitude of the track means less dense air. Previously, with naturally aspirated engines, the air density would make quite a difference to engine power, but turbo-charged engines are less affected by this due to their forced induction. The current generation Formula 1 cars also have electrical power deployment, with the energy recovery and subsequent deployment not susceptible to air density variation. The altitude isn’t only relevant to engine performance however, there is also cooling and aerodynamics to consider. The less dense air provides less downforce and drag than we would produce at sea level. Because of this we could see some pretty fruity speeds along the start-finish straight. Less dense air also means you can’t cool everything you want to be cooled as well as would be the case at lower ground levels.
How do you approach a new circuit?We get a good set of information relating to layout which we can start producing simulations from. This gives us an idea of a baseline start set-up and downforce levels. Pirelli do their track surface analysis which gives us an idea of how much energy will be put through the tyres from the surface itself once Pirelli have chosen their allocation – which is medium and soft once more for this weekend. Once we get to the track itself we can get out and have a good look at things like kerb heights, specific bumps, camber and other elements. Once we’ve done all that, it’s up to Pastor and Romain to jump in their cars and get out there.Should the layout suit the E23 Hybrid?The start-finish straight is of a decent length which should allow the E23 to stretch its legs pretty well, then there’s a nice mix of different corner types over what is a relatively short track. The track is likely to be quite low grip and that coupled with reduced downforce due to altitude and a relatively conservative tyre compound selection will provide a challenge for getting the tyres in their working temperature range.
What other factors are relevant for this weekend?It looks like there’s a decent chance of rain again. This will make things very interesting as drivers and engineers could find themselves trying to learn a new venue with the moving target of a wet track. A wet track is a pain for finding car set-up at the best of times, but on a new track this difficulty is compounded. It’s a new track surface so we’d expect the surface to be slippery event when dry. Add in potential rainfall and the oils which usually emanate from a new surface and we might have to approach the initial sessions pretty gingerly.A topic for a few teams at the moment; what are the considerations regarding changing engine supplier when looking at development for next year’s car?We have experience of this as we changed manufacturer for this season. It is a big change but any change for 2016 is still to the same regulations. When we changed from the naturally aspirated V8s to the current V6 turbo configuration it was a substantial difference. With the current regulations maturing both the engine manufacturers and teams know more of what’s needed in terms of installation and cooling etc. Certainly for any team having a late call on engine change it’s a pretty intense timeframe for next yea