Lotus Renault GP has served notice of its intent in F1 by confirming that John Wickham has been appointed as the new team manager, with chief engineer Alan Permane taking on greater responsibilities in a streamlining and shake-up of the upper hierarchy.
The reshuffle was prompted by an efficiency study conducted by former A1GP head of operations Wickham that led to the resignation of erstwhile sporting director Steve Nielsen – and Lotus Renault GP managing director Eric Boullier is convinced that the changes represent a decisive shift in the right direction.
“I think it is just another step in maybe bringing some new ideas, and to go for the next step where I want the team to be,” the Frenchman is quoted as having said by AFP
. “For what I want to achieve with the team, John has great experience of where I want his job to be. It is not about replacing a sporting director; it is more splitting responsibilities. Alan Permane will have more responsibilities on the sporting side, and I need more focus on the race team itself.”
Permane, for his part, pointed to a positive opening day's practice for the Enstone-based outfit in Valencia ahead of this weekend's European Grand Prix, with both Vitaly Petrov and Nick Heidfeld featuring inside the top ten on the timesheets throughout, and indeed placing respectively second and fifth in FP1.
“The track was very 'green' to begin with,” he reported. “We used flow-viz paint on both cars to assess the performance of our new DRS, and we also practised using KERS in both sessions. The track was very dusty this morning but steadily improved, and we ran both the medium and soft tyres in the second session.
“The new rear wing is working well, and it should be bringing the gain we expected. Both tyres worked reasonably well, with no warm-up problems and the soft tyre looks between a second and a second-and-a-half quicker over a flying lap. All other new aero parts are working well, so we will work tomorrow with all of the upgrades. Vitaly tried quite a major set-up change in FP2 but was not convinced with it, so we changed it back.”
“Today, we ran on both high-fuel and low-fuel to get a feel for the car on this circuit, and it was running well on both loads,” concurred the young Russian, a winner in the GP2 Series around the streets of Valencia in 2007, 2008 and 2009. “We haven't faced any mechanical difficulties, so that was also a positive to be taken from today. Both cars finished in the top ten, so there's every reason to be positive and to look forward to making some more progress tomorrow.
“I enjoyed the new medium tyres and they weren't performing badly. It's clear the soft tyres are, as expected, around 1.5 seconds quicker than the mediums, so we will have to perform well on these tomorrow in order to have a successful weekend.”
“It was a good day,” echoed Heidfeld. “I have to say that I had my best long run ever in the afternoon session in terms of not encountering traffic; it was amazing, and very good for learning about the car. I could make some changes from the steering wheel which was possible with having such a long run, and also it was good for learning the tyre characteristics of the new medium compound. The new medium tyre feels good, and I'm really happy with the results from it as it has not been tested that much.
“I think the times at the end of FP2 give the best indication of our pace relative to our competitors. In this morning's session, I think some other teams were running different programmes to us, so their times might have been a little misleading.”