8 September 2011
Q&A - James Allison, Lotus Renault GP
Renault's James Allison looks ahead to the Italian Grand Prix at Monza
Overall, how would you evaluate the team's performance at Spa?
The team performed extremely well on Saturday in very challenging conditions. Our race engineers gave us every opportunity to maximise our performance by ensuring we were always out on a clear track when the circuit conditions were at their best. Our drivers did a fair job of turning that opportunity into good grid slots. The race was less satisfactory in terms of points garnered, but in terms of competitiveness this was our strongest race for some time.
How did Bruno perform?
I don't think anyone needs insider information from the team to know that Bruno had a remarkable weekend. The current regulations place a very high hurdle in the path of any driver coming in mid-season, as there is no opportunity to get up-to-speed in the relatively unpressured environment of the test track. On top of that Bruno had to make his debut for us at Spa, a circuit which definitely separates the men from the boys. Finally, he had to manage qualifying in exceptionally difficult track conditions. To face all these challenges and to place the car P7 on the grid is a fantastic achievement on any scale. I know Bruno was kicking himself for the incident at the first corner in the race, but my view is that it was a completely understandable error; it was the first time that he had ever felt the R31 on full fuel and he was surrounded by competitors already 11 races into their season. His subsequent race was run at a very respectable pace and I'm looking forward to seeing him in the car again.
What impact did the upgrades to the car have?
We looked much more on the pace in Spa than in the previous four Grands Prix. Neither driver had an unimpeded race, but the underlying pace of the car was capable of earning P5-P6 given a freer run to the flag. We will know for sure whether we have turned the corner once we have a couple more GPs under our belt, however I am taking some heart from the fact that our competitiveness looked fair throughout the weekend whether on wet, dry or intermediate rubber. We have been plagued with extremely poor wet performance in recent races, and to have seemingly put this behind us gives me faith that the upgrades brought to Spa will continue to deliver at other circuits.
Monza is a pretty distinct circuit on the calendar – what changes will be on the car?
Like everyone, we will have a low downforce package (little front and rear wings). We will also bring upgraded bodywork, which hopefully will help us build on the gains we made at Spa.
What's the relationship between downforce and drag? Does less drag directly mean less downforce?
There is not a one line answer to this question. It is impossible to produce downforce without producing drag, but the job of the aerodynamicists is to produce as much downforce, for as little drag, as possible. At a given circuit, all the cars on the grid tend to set their drag levels to very similar values (by altering the rear wing angle). However, at this same drag level, the front of the grid may have more than 30% extra downforce compared to those at the back of the grid.
Monza is the last European race – how much development will be made to the R31 when we enter the final fly-away phase of the season?
We have an upgrade package to deliver for Monza and then one more at Singapore. After that it will reduce to a trickle as we focus all of our efforts on next year.
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