22 July 2013
Hungarian Grand Prix: Alan Permane, Lotus F1 - Q&A
Alan Permane: This circuit doesn't get a great deal of use and it can get pretty dry and dusty out there, so it generally improves steadily throughout the weekend
Lotus trackside operations director Alan Permane looks back at the German Grand Prix and previews what to expect at the Hungaroring...
Alan, now you have been able to go through all the data and simulations, was a win possible at the Nurburgring?
Reflecting on that race and having run the possible scenarios through our strategy analysis software as per every weekend, we firmly believe that both Kimi [Raikkonen] and Romain [Grosjean] would have had a far superior chance of catching and passing Sebastian [Vettel] were it not for the emergence of the Safety Car 36 laps from the end. We would have been much more comfortable with the idea of running Kimi on a two-stop strategy; sending him deeper into the race on his second stint rather than being forced into an early change by the Safety Car. There has been a lot of debate over whether we should have left Kimi out in his final stint, but it's very clear from our simulations that – had his tyre degradation level continued at a steady rate – Seb would have quite easily been able to reel him in. While we are in no doubt about that, what is questionable is what would have happened if the degradation level had increased towards the end of the race. This was certainly the case for a number of other drivers who opted for that strategy, who we then saw being passed quite easily in the latter stages; something that would likely have happened to Kimi and subsequently dropped him back to fourth behind Fernando [Alonso] rather than a comfortable second with a fighting chance of victory. Taking all that into account, we're very comfortable that the decision taken was the correct one.
We've seen a change in tyre allocation for the Hungaroring; what's your view?
As I've said previously, we believe the original allocation of medium and hard compounds would have been a very conservative choice for Budapest. Of course, the situation is still somewhat different as – for the first time this season – we'll see a combination of the 2013 compounds with 2012 construction used in a race scenario. This has brought something of an unknown into the equation with this year's car, as the tyres are of a slightly different shape and will react differently to camber, toe in/out and so on. We've had the opportunity to get a better understanding of how they'll behave at the Young Driver Test so there are no concerns on that front. On top of that, our knowledge of this construction from the 2012 season carries over quite well to this new configuration; giving us a good baseline in terms of such considerations as ride height, camber and toe sensitivity.
What's in the upgrade box for Budapest?
We had a tightly packed schedule over the three day test at Silverstone, to the point where even with a few extra days and sets of tyres we would still have had more than enough development work to keep us occupied. This has given us plenty to think about heading to Hungary and indeed the second half of the season. Some of those developments will be carried across into this next race; wait and see when the cars roll out on Friday morning…
Track evolution has traditionally been a hot topic at the Hungaroring; how do you see it?
This circuit doesn't get a great deal of use and it can get pretty dry and dusty out there, so it generally improves steadily throughout the weekend; not to Monaco levels, but notable enough to be worth factoring into our preparations for qualifying in particular. We saw Nico Rosberg getting caught out by an evolving track during qualifying at the Nürburgring – a circuit that is far more frequently used – so it'll keep us on our toes on Saturday afternoon.
Speaking of qualifying; how important is a good grid slot in Budapest?
Qualifying is crucial. It's a track where passing opportunities are few and far between, making overtaking very difficult even with a reasonable pace advantage, so we'll be doing our utmost to qualify further up the field than we have been. Mercedes have proven themselves to be the class of the field in terms of single lap pace so it will be very difficult to qualify in front of them, but we'll be looking to at least get very close to them on the grid to give our drivers the best chance possible of overhauling them in the race. We've seen in the past that they have struggled with tyre degradation on a Sunday which should work to our advantage – particularly in hot conditions as we often see in Hungary – with the medium / soft compound allocation also potentially giving us a broader scope in terms of strategies.
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