In Davide Valsecchi's latest exclusive column on Crash.net, the Lotus F1 Team third driver and 2012 GP2 Series Champion reflects on the final two European grands prix of the season, talks about Kimi Raikkonen's departure and looks ahead to Singapore, F1's only night race...
So it is official - Kimi [Raikkonen] is leaving Lotus F1 Team. I know everyone at the team was working hard to convince him to stay and everyone wanted him to remain simply because he is a brilliant driver and a World Champion. He will be missed. But it was his decision and we have to respect that.
Of course speculation now will focus on who will replace him and of course I hope Lotus will promote me! It is my hope – and dream – to get a race seat in F1. I know it is not going to be easy, but I will continue doing all I can in my current role to impress and then it is up to the team to decide.
We will see...
Back to the racing itself, after Kimi's podium in Hungary and Romain [Grosjean]'s sixth place, Belgium and Italy were both rather disappointing.
At Spa-Francorchamps the team scored only four points after Romain finished eighth. Morale was not so high after that weekend. We were all a bit disappointed. Our speed was not strong enough and there were quite a few teams and cars that were faster. It wasn't such a good situation.
Kimi of course failed to finish as he had that brake problem and had to retire while he was going quite well and recovering positions. We were optimistic that he might have finished in fifth or sixth position.
The brake problem was there right from the start – as most people could see from the TV pictures. He was struggling to keep going and finally he had to give up when he was trying to overtake [Felipe] Massa on lap 26. Luckily he could avoid him and he then came back into the 'box to retire.
We were really unlucky because the problem was caused by a visor tear-off. One of these got in the brake duct on Kimi's car – in the cooling system, just in front of the disc and it warmed up the disc too much.
Generally speaking however, we were not incredibly competitive when it was wet at Spa and we were just 'normal' when it was dry. We were hoping for more. But sometimes it goes like that. The track and the conditions – not really hot and a really long straight – didn't suit us so much.
Heading to Monza the team was keen to turn things around and initially it looked promising and we finished Friday practice third and fourth fastest. After Spa we thought that our maximum speed on the straight was not high enough and so at Monza we tried to recover that and used less downforce. It seemed that our speed was not bad. But we ended up qualifying quite badly and we suffered a lot because of that. It was a strange situation.
Then in the race, Romain finished eighth, which was okay, while Kimi came home in P11. He was really unlucky and without the incident at the start with Sergio Perez he could definitely have been in the top-five.
Sergio changed direction very quickly on the run down to the first corner and Kimi had to take avoiding action. He put one wheel off the track and as there had been rain before the start the grass was a bit wet. Then when he came back on and the people in front started to brake, he was in trouble. He locked up the front tyres and went into the back of Perez. That broke the front nose and meant he had to come into the pits. After that he was 37 seconds or so behind the leaders, but in the end he finished the race just 38 seconds back. That was remarkable and shows he had very good pace. Definitely a case of what might have been...
After those two races the gap to P3 and P2 in the Constructors' Championship has opened up. It is not going to be easy now to get back ahead of either Ferrari or Mercedes. They scored a lot of points at both races and showed that their speed was very competitive. Ferrari was strong enough almost for the victory at Monza and while Mercedes weren't so good there and had a bit of an off weekend, they still scored more than us.
We of course won't give up, however. We are ready for the remaining races and encouragingly we now come back to circuits where usually the temperatures are really hot and warm. I think we can deliver some good results over the remainder of the season. We will keep fighting until the end.
On a personal note, the Italian Grand Prix weekend was great for me – for obvious reasons. I live close to Monza and had a lot of support. I was really busy during the event. But that's normal. I was at home - there were Italian journalists, Italian TV, Italian fans, everyone was asking for me! I didn't have the luck to race. But next year I really hope too...
Now it is on to Singapore and the first of the seven flyaway events that will conclude the 2013 F1 season.
Singapore is a great event and I really like it. I have some great memories from there and of course last year it was the scene of my last race in GP2 and I went there looking to sow up the title. I finished fourth in race 1 and fifth in race 2. It was great, because after race 1 I became World Champion of GP2. I have some great memories from that day. Then after I won it, I had three days of holiday with my girlfriend. I really enjoyed the weekend.
Obviously it is a night race and for the drivers that makes it a bit more interesting. You go to bed late and wake up really late in the morning. It is something different in that respect. It makes it a great show too for the fans. Generally speaking though, it doesn't change much for the team and the mechanics. The lighting system is perfect too and the drivers can see the circuit very well without any problem. Everyone stays on European time too, which is a bit odd, but at least it means we all avoid jet lag.
I think it should be a good race for Lotus F1 Team. There are not long straights there, like Monza and at Spa and that is an advantage to us. There are chicanes, low-speed corners and hairpins - the type of corners where we are usually strong. The higher temperatures in Singapore should suit us too. I really hope we will be competitive and can get back on the podium.
Until next time,Davide Valsecchi
To keep tabs on the Lotus F1 Team's progress in 2013, simply follow this link: www.lotusf1team.com