8 May 2012
Q&A - James Allison, Lotus
James Allison looks ahead to the Spanish GP
Looking back, how close do you think the team came to taking the win in Bahrain?
When Kimi got past Romain he was clearly faster than Sebastian (Vettel) thanks to having new tyres vs. Vettel's scrubbed set. It was very exciting watching him close the gap, and he came very close to pulling off a pass, but it was not quite enough. With slightly better grid slots and no front wing damage for Kimi then the victory could well have been ours. As it was we had to settle for a really dominant P2 and P3. We will have to wait for the E20 to score a maiden win, but I think we can do it.
What's in store for Barcelona?
We will bring the first tranche of gains from our Windshear programme in addition to some parts from our conventional wind tunnel development. There will be modifications to the front and rear drums, to the front wing and to the floor.
What did the team achieve in Mugello?
We saved for Mugello certain tests that are too elaborate to do on a Grand Prix Friday, because the modifications take too long. On both of the dry days we ran one fundamental configuration in the morning before switching to a different fundamental configuration in the afternoon. Then, within each morning or afternoon session there was a constellation of smaller tests, that could be made independently of the major morning to afternoon assessment. This has allowed us to answer some questions which have been bugging us for a while and it gives us a good direction for our future campaigns. That's the benefit of an in-season test compared with a pre-season test. At the start of the year you are so focused on reliability and getting all the bits ready for the first race that you don't have the breathing space to contemplate a more elaborate comparison of different configurations.
Tyre performance seems to be a topic of the moment; what are your thoughts?
All you can try to do is to have as wide an operating window as possible in which the car performs well, to make best use of the tyres available. All tyres have an operating range and if you are lucky, or if you've got a good car, then it's possible to get the tyres in their operating range most of the time. The type of things that allow you to be in the operating range are: having good usable downforce, having a mechanical suspension package that's not abusive to the tyres, and having drivers who are very sympathetic to the needs of the tyres and don't damage them unnecessarily. Every team is trying to achieve all those things, and we're no different. I take some comfort from the fact that in the first four races this year, with the exception of Friday morning in Shanghai when it was really quite cold – we seem to have been sensibly inside the working range of the rubber. That's four quite different tracks with a range of track temperatures and roughness's - so we're fortunate that the window seems quite broad for the E20.
Every team knows Barcelona so well – does this have an impact on how we approach the weekend?
Although we know it like the back of our hand, the race is always a little bit different from winter testing because of the change of temperature from February to May. The tyres will behave a little differently with more than ten degrees added to the asphalt temperature. In addition, the car has come on quite a lot since we last tested there, so the race team will still have a busy weekend to make sure we get the most out of the car.
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