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Alan Permane, Lotus F1 - Q&A

Lotus trackside operations director Alan Permane looks ahead to the Singapore Grand Prix
Q:
What is the main challenge of Singapore?

Alan Permane:
It's the longest race of the year in terms of running time thanks to the low-speed nature of the circuit. Unlike Monaco, it still reaches the full 300km race distance which makes it quite tough for the drivers physically. Being a street circuit, there's also a reasonable amount of track evolution as the weekend progresses; again not to Monaco levels, but enough to be a consideration.

Q:
Does a night race throw a different dimension into the mix?

Alan Permane:
Racing at night is of course a change from the norm, but it's one that the teams and drivers really enjoy and it certainly doesn't cause any problems. Track temperature will remain constant at around thirty degrees once darkness has fallen, so while it's not excessively hot it will equally never get too cold during the sessions that count; i.e. qualifying and the race.

Q:
What's required from the car here?

Alan Permane:
We run maximum downforce here to cater for the stop-start nature of the track layout, with a good all-round package required. Traction is important, as are good change of direction and agility. You also need a car which is good over the kerbs, although turn ten – where the most severe kerbs have traditionally been located – has been changed for this year, meaning that this may not be such an important consideration given the relatively smooth nature of the remaining kerbs.

Q:
Brakes have traditionally been a hot topic here, so to speak...

Alan Permane:
Singapore is not actually particularly tough in terms of brake wear, but more so in terms of managing temperatures. There aren't many heavy braking zones around the track, but the frequency with which the brakes are required combined with a lack of straights to aid cooling means that the system inevitably runs quite hot. It's something every team needs to pay attention to, but it doesn't give us any particular cause for concern.

Q:
Overtaking has always been a challenge at Singapore, but this season sees the introduction of a second DRS zone; what impact will this have?

Alan Permane:
The additional DRS zone along the pit straight is very short so we wouldn't expect that to have much of a bearing on overtaking. It may help a driver close up to the car in front through the opening sequence of corners, but even the original section from turn five to seven is quite a tricky place to make a move so it's unlikely to have a major influence.

Q:
How much emphasis does this therefore place on qualifying?

Alan Permane:
As with places like Monaco or Hungary, there's no doubt that this is a circuit where qualifying is of higher importance than at most other venues. The allocation of super soft and medium compound tyres will potentially add to this too. We'll likely use the supersoft for qualifying and the medium for the race, but with the stiffness of this year's medium tyre being relatively similar to last year's soft, plus the additional knowledge the teams now have in terms of managing degradation, we would expect overtaking to be difficult at best.

Q:
Will we be seeing anything different on the car this weekend?

Alan Permane:
We return to a high downforce configuration, with some of the front wing developments brought to the car for the recent low downforce races being carried over. Aside from that it's business as usual with a package which we know works well from our performances in Germany and Hungary. We didn't have the greatest of weekends in Spa or Monza, so we're looking forward to a return to the higher downforce tracks that arise in the next few races where the aim is to get back on the podium.

Q:
With the European season done and dusted it's a busy schedule of back-to-back flyaway races between now and the end of the season; how does this affect the team?

Alan Permane:
I think it depends on the individual. Personally I very much enjoy the flyaway races and the back-to-back element which comes with them, but some might prefer the short-haul events. Everyone is looking forward to Singapore that's for sure; it's one of the highlights of the year and we have a few races in Asia soon afterwards which are always interesting too. It's quite a long season, and by mid-November we'll all be looking forward to a break I'm sure, but for the moment we've had a couple of well-spaced races off the back of a decent break in August and are raring to go in Singapore.


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