23 May 2012
Q&A: James Allison, Lotus
James Allison: I'm quite optimistic for the rest of the season as the Circuit de Catalunya was another location where the car has been good and both our drivers have been strong
Lotus F1 team technical director James Allison reflects on Spain and looks ahead to this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix...
How good is it to have a strong points haul from the last two races?
I think we can be very happy with the number of points we've accumulated in the last couple of races and I'm delighted with the consolidation that's given us in the Constructors' Championship. I'm also quite optimistic for the rest of the season as the Circuit de Catalunya was another location where the car has been good and both our drivers have been strong. I'm happy that we haven't suffered - so far at least – the fluctuation in form that has hit many teams this year. Given the excellent results both in Barcelona and Bahrain it seems churlish, to say the least, to express disappointment at not yet having sneaked a win! But we're hopeful that will come in time.
Why weren't we so quick in the beginning of the race…
It is genuinely hard to tell. Perhaps we had overestimated our relative pace on Friday. Perhaps the lower track temperatures on Sunday had a small effect. Perhaps our car did not react so well to the green track that resulted from overnight rain on Saturday evening. These are impossible questions to answer. All we can say for certain is that while we were pretty quick in Barcelona, we were not good enough to win the race. It is worth mentioning in addition that Romain [Grosjean]'s wing was really quite substantially damaged after the first corner. We were not able to recover the lost downforce that comes with losing bits of your car, but we were able to re-balance the car by cranking the front flap angle up in the first pit stop. So although he was fighting with one hand behind his back, he was able to make progress from that point forward.
Looking ahead to Monaco, what's in store for the car?
We've got a bigger rear wing as you need more downforce at Monaco than you need anywhere else. If you look closer, or if you are a very keen fan of bodywork changes then you'll see that the area around the side pods and the rear drums will be different too.
Other than how the car looks, what about the changes under the skin for Monaco?
We have to make modifications to the suspension to enable the necessary lock to get around Loews Hairpin and Rascasse. We have also made some changes, for Kimi [Raikkonen] in particular, to make the steering a little more reactive for Monaco.
Last year's car didn't excel in slow corners – what's the evaluation of the E20 in this regard?
If you take Barcelona, we were really very strong in the first two sectors; which are more of the sweeping parts of the track, and less good relatively in the third sector, which is the slower, twister part. Perhaps if we look back, of the five races we've done so far, the race where we were least impressive was China and that's a track with relatively few sweeping corners and lots of lower speed traction events. So there is a train of thought that Monaco might not play to the strengths of our car. However there are other things about Monaco that are different entirely, which are much harder to gauge. For starters the corners are so slow that the strength we've seen in very fast corners compared with moderate corners is not really any sort of form guide for competitiveness around Monaco's twists and turns. Secondly, driver skill plays a relatively bigger part at Monaco than at most tracks, and we are fortunate to have a pair of decent peddlers. Finally, a large part of Monaco is confidence from the driver. Confidence that they can lean on the car and know that it's not going to misbehave. So far, the E20 has proved to be a very predictable, straight-forward car to drive – a quality it shares with the R30. So hopefully they will be able to lean on it to good effect. We'll have to see.
How happy are you with the performance of Kimi and Romain - both five races into their returns after two years away.
Well I'm really very happy that our drivers are breathing right down one another's necks! It makes a very welcome change to the last couple of seasons, or more, where we've only really had one car challenging. Having both of them able to score big points in every race is very valuable to us. The fact they are so close to one another will also mean they both have to keep right at the top of their game all year, which can only be good for the team.
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