If you seek a genuine insight into the world of Formula 1 and you’ll be hard pushed to find a more straight-talking source than Lotus F1 Team Technical Director James Allison. Here, the man himself gives us his view on some of the big stories flying round the paddock this week.
What are your thoughts on the current debate concerning engine maps?
James Allison: As far as I’m concerned the situation was clear at the beginning and it’s clear now. It’s our responsibility as a team to stay within the rules, but at the same time to push the limits as far as possible; to do otherwise is to needlessly throw away performance. There are a set of rules governing engine maps and Renault have been exploring the boundaries of these in the same way as any other engine manufacturer. During the final day of running at Barcelona last week we ran an experimental engine map and made the FIA fully aware of what we were doing. As it turned out they were not happy with what we had proposed and as a result we will not be using it at any of the races.
Much was made of the ‘DDRS’ system trialled towards the end of last season; where do we stand with that currently?
JA: As everyone is aware, we experimented with this concept late last year but chose not to run with it outside of free practice. It is a fiercely complex system and to get it working correctly is certainly a challenge, but there are tantalising gains to be made should we achieve this. We conducted a bit of intermediate work with it at the last test and will be doing the same this week. However I don’t anticipate having it working at full capacity before the first race. We are expecting to be a good step closer by the time we leave Barcelona and hopefully we’ll see it make its full debut later in the year.
Speaking of innovative solutions, there has been a certain degree of media coverage surrounding teams ‘spying’ on each other’s cars in the pit lane this winter…
JA: Every team on the grid is shameless in copying developments pioneered by their rivals if they feel there is an advantage to be gained. There are many photographers in the pit lane during testing and racing and part of their living is made through taking shots of the design details of all of the cars and hawking these to the technical departments of each team. The Teams then compare these images from race to race and team to team to allow them to follow the development path that emerges. If it becomes public knowledge that another team has come up with something rather clever then it is a good idea to start exploring your own variation as quickly as possible. Having said that, any team that relied on such a strategy as their principle source of inspiration would quickly fail. The majority of your concept and your detail design must be home grown to stand a chance of being competitive.