4 July 2013
Q&A - Alan Permane, Lotus
Lotus Trackside Operations Director Alan Permane looks back at the British Grand Prix and previews what to expect at the Nurburgring
What's your analysis of the British Grand Prix?
Ultimately we finished P5 from a P8 grid slot with Kimi, so it wasn't the end of the world. However, we'd been looking much stronger and our race was actually going very well right up until the last safety car period, which left us with a dilemma; bring Kimi in for fresh tyres or run to the end. With hindsight, it's obvious we made the wrong choice.
What were the circumstances leading to the strategy call?
Having stopped moments beforehand, Fernando [Alonso] was extremely fortunate with the timing of the safety car. Mark [Webber] was on options that were fading fast, so the timing of Sebastian [Vettel] parking his Red Bull in a place where a safety car was needed was most fortuitous for Mark. Nico [Rosberg's] lead was such that he had a free stop. Of the cars, like us, who were on hard tyres and planning to go to the end, Daniel [Ricciardo] and Adrian [Sutil] stayed out just like us. Based on the information we had at the time and what we believed the pace difference to the medium tyre would be, the call was made to stay out because we believed that our tyres were in good enough shape to run to the end in that position. Had we pitted for options and seen Kimi stuck behind Daniel and Adrian for the remainder of the race we would have been equally criticised, so it was a risk either way.
Moving on, tell us about the Nürburgring...
It's a good track and one that the drivers really seem to enjoy as it has a real mix of everything. The opening sector is really quite technical, with good traction and a strong front end needed for some of the longer radius low speed turns. Then of course there's a couple of swooping, medium speed downhill turns towards the hairpin, followed by the high speed kink which – despite the gradient – is taken flat out in 6th or even 7th gear at around 280kph and really pushes the drivers. Next, you have a couple of medium / high speed corners leading onto the long back straight, followed by a tight chicane and the last corner, where a good front end is again required to counter the understeer inducing nature of the turn. In terms of chassis setup there's a little bit of everything required; good change of direction for the medium speed corners, decent traction and front end for the tricky first sector and good top end speed for the long straights.
Are there any further upgrades for the E21 this weekend?
Having only just been to Silverstone there won't be anything major, as the crew will be driving straight down to Germany to rebuild the cars without stopping at the factory. That said, we still have a new wing which we haven't used yet and we still have to try various permutations of the latest upgrades on both cars. If it's good weather and everything goes to plan, we could unlock quite a bit of speed this weekend.
What about the Device?
At Silverstone, Kimi ran with the Device and Romain rain with the new slimline bodywork package. The gains from both were roughly on a par with each other, so once we've confirmed everything on the data, combining the two – which have been developed on parallel but separate development paths – could well be the way forward. That won't be for Germany, where we've yet to determine which package we will use. Watch closely when the garage doors open for first practice.
Tyres are a talking point yet again...
We're supporting Pirelli, as we have all year, with any information and data they require. Obviously, no-one wants a repeat of the situation we saw in Silverstone and Pirelli are trawling through the data and analysing the tyres to establish what went on. From our perspective, we would never block any changes required on safety grounds. Pirelli have always stated that their tyres are safe. If it's the case that they believe the best way forward – in the interests of safety – is to change the tyres to, say, a Canada development specification – or even last year's specification – then we'll be behind it. As regards a change for any reason other than safety, we have been performing well on the original specification tyres this season and are reluctant to lose that advantage based on the preference of our rivals. That's only natural in a competitive sport; but safety is an entirely different matter.
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