21 November 2012
Q&A - James Allison, Lotus
James Allison looks at the final race of the F1 season from Lotus' point of view
What are your thoughts on Interlagos?
It's a track that puts a premium on horsepower. The car has to be dragged up a long hill to the start-finish straight with engines that are already breathless by virtue of the altitude of the Interlagos circuit. We are pleased to have used our more powerful incarnation Coandă exhaust system in anger in Austin as it will serve us well in Brazil.
Although Interlagos is one of the older circuits on the calendar, and we have been there countless times, it throws up many challenges for engineers and drivers alike. It tends to be pretty bumpy, but the severity and the location of the bumps vary from year to year. It's also a track where it can rain suddenly, literally out of the blue from a seemingly clear sky. The long range forecast is showing a high risk of some serious downpours.
Is there anything we learnt in Austin that has relevance for Brazil?
After our rather dismal experience on the dirty side of the track in Austin, hopefully we'll be fortunate enough to qualify on the clean side of the grid in Brazil! Our car has been pretty useful since Korea, so with a trouble free Qualifying and Race we could well be contenders for a podium to wrap up the season.
Without the grid penalty, could Romain have potentially achieved more in the last race?
It's difficult to make those kind of judgements, but I think he would probably have given Fernando [Alonso] a decent run for his money and would certainly have had a stronger result than he eventually achieved.
Overall, how do you evaluate the first race at the Circuit of the Americas?
Although there were elements of the race that were quite positive, overall I have to admit it was a pretty joyless experience. Romain had to start further down the grid than he qualified due to a penalty for a gearbox change, then had an off-track moment early on in the race to compound the task ahead of him. These issues were a real shame as he clearly had good pace in the race and put in a very spirited drive to recover from there. After a tricky start from the dirty side of the track, Kimi did a good job of clawing his way forwards and was on course to jump Fernando [Alonso] in the pit stop battle. Unfortunately we had a bit of home-made drama with our tyre change which put paid to that.
What would you say have been your highlights of the year?
While there have been ups and downs, the overall feeling has been pretty positive for the whole year. I'd say my first highlight was the opening qualifying session in Australia; being able to show everyone that our pace in pre-season was genuine and also finding out for ourselves that this was the case! Another high was the first time the car properly stretched its legs in Bahrain. That was really terrific even though we did not quite make it to the top step of the podium. Finally, of course, I would say that the Abu Dhabi win was tremendous.
Looking at our technical developments through the year with the benefit of hindsight, should the Coandă system have been implemented sooner?
The Coandă exhausts are definitely better than what we were running before, but we weren't really in a position to run them prior to when we did. We put them on as soon as we were ready to put them on, with a layout that's worked for us. It would have been nicer if we had arrived at that point sooner, but we didn't do too badly in any case.
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