Although clearly not happy with the frustrations of getting his race car where he wants it to be in the shortest possible time, Romain Grosjean is quick to see the positives and potential as Lotus F1 Team heads to the second race of the 2014 season in Sepang, Malaysia, this weekend.
How different is the driving experience in a grand prix now after the technical changes?
Grosjean: It is not quite as pleasant as before to be honest. There is a lot of energy recovery to deal with and optimise. You cannot drive most of the grand prix at 90 per cent as before, sometimes now it is only 30 per cent. We just have to get used to it. When you win you love it and when you retire [from a race], you don’t. At the moment it feels a little frustrating as a driver but these are the rules, we will adapt and make the best of them.
What will be the main challenges at Sepang?
Grosjean: The first challenge in Malaysia will be the heat, humidity and usual rain storms at 4pm! For us as a team, the target is to move forwards and improve. The race in Melbourne was basically a good, long test. It wasn’t easy for the guys but I’m happy we did a lot of laps in the race. We gathered some useful data and we will now improve, using that data. The aim now is to have a straightforward weekend at Sepang, working through our proper schedule in Free Practice, then carrying the benefits from that over to Qualifying and the race. Sepang is one of my favourite circuits and I’m looking forward to it.
There was a big step up on race day in Australia. Does that give you faith that more progress could follow?
Grosjean: Whenever we solve a problem we make a big step forward, whether it is with set-up, the engine or any other developments. We’ve seen this happen with other teams too. We are feeling greedy at the moment. We want to keep making big progress like in Australia, not just one or two tenths, but big chunks of time, and of course better reliability. We’ll prioritise and work as hard as we can to achieve that. The mechanics definitely deserved a rest after Australia though. They worked long hours all weekend and still did some of the fastest pit stops in the race. The guys were excellent and with a work ethic like that there is no reason why we won’t get on top of this car soon and exploit the huge potential of the E22.
We saw quite a bit of drama in Australia, how do you think the season will progress?
Grosjean: It will not be easy for anyone. We have seen some of the favourites going out or having problems and others that we were not expecting to be up there make an impression. It’s a bit unpredictable at the moment and not easy to know where everyone stands. I think Mercedes is looking good, as is McLaren. Our task is to get up there and amongst them.
What did you learn in Australia?
Grosjean: That we still have a lot of work to do! Other than the early finish, the Australian Grand Prix was positive. We learned more about the car in 44 racing laps than during the whole of winter testing! The team has done so much work and each of the changes have been in the right direction. It was looking good in the race and then we had the same problem as Pastor: the MGU-K shaft. But at least there is no mystery about what happened and we are working with Renault Sport F1 to solve the problem. Overall we are happy with the chassis, the aero balance for the changing fuel load, the driveability of the engine and the fuel economy. Of course there is work to do with energy management and recovery and we know Renault Sport F1 is responding to this. On our side we know more about the set-up and the direction we must go in order to make the car better. Braking for example was not perfect, but that is also to do with the tyres. The new tyres are really hard and their handling characteristics have changed. We are not getting the best out of them yet, but we will. There are plenty of areas for us to play with, but we now have a clear base set-up for Malaysia.
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