Fernandes: We are not going to be challenging at Monza
5 September 2011
Team Lotus owner Tony Fernandes has conceded that he does not expect either of his cars to be threatening the F1 midfield at this weekend's Italian Grand Prix, despite the Monza circuit being among the more extreme on the calendar.
The Milanese circuit's current layout puts an emphasis on low downforce aerodynamic performance and, with two DRS zones active during the race weekend, can expect to see a huge amount of overtaking throughout every session. Temperatures are also expected to be very hot, with Italy having been subjected to an intense heatwave over the last few weeks, which will likely force teams to manage an increased level of tyre degradation. For those reasons, Fernandes does not expect either Jarno Trulli or Heikki Kovalainen to be as competitive as he would have liked as F1 bids farewell to Europe for another season.
“Monza gives us another chance to keep edging towards the teams ahead before we go back to the Far East, and what is really our third home race in Singapore," the Malaysian noted, "However, this weekend, we are not going to be challenging the teams ahead quite yet in [terms of] outright pace, [although] clever use of strategy and very strong drives from both Heikki and Jarno give us a chance to hold our own in the race.
"The target for Monza has to be to maintain the reliability record established at Spa, and look for another two-car finish at the chequered flag. That is a realistic target, and that is the approach we bring to everything related to our team."
With his various business and added football interests occupying for much of the middle part of the season, Fernandes is looking forward to being back on the pit-wall at Monza as his team consolidates another tenth-place constructors' championship finish.
"I am delighted to be back on track after having had to miss a couple of races due to what has probably been the busiest summer of my working career!" he confirmed, "Despite not being on track, I have been keeping up with everything that has been going on, both at the factory and the races, and it was very pleasing to see the team have such a strong weekend in Spa after a disappointing couple of races before the break.
"The factory staff were working right up until Friday night of the Belgian race weekend on reliability fixes, to ensure we did not see a repeat of the problems we had in Hungary and Germany, so the fact both cars finished well, particularly after being involved in the collisions at the first corner, is testament to a job very well done by the factory team.
"The plans for the future development of the team, and the group it sits in, are taking shape exactly as we want them to and we are setting ourselves reasonable goals that can be achieved through hard work, innovation and a little bit of luck.”
Team Lotus place in the championship pecking order currently hinges on the brace of 13th positions accrued by Trulli in Melbourne and Monaco, and the Italian is almost looking forward to racing on home soil this weekend.
“Monza's a funny one for me," he admitted, "As an Italian, everyone expects it to be the most special race of the season, but really it's not. I can't really afford to treat it differently to any other race as I want to make sure I can focus on the job every day I'm on track and, even though there's a lot of fans in the stands, and friends and family around the paddock, I always try and treat it like any other race.
"Obviously, the good thing for me is that it's close to my home, so I do get to catch up with lots of people who I don't normally have time to see but, ever since I started racing, I was nearly always abroad. So, while it's obviously my home race, it's not one I approach differently to any others."
With the new power steering system expected back on his car after missing out on it at Spa, Trulli is confident that Lotus can pick up from where it left off in the Ardennes.
“From a technical perspective, Monza's not the most technical track, but it's still critical to have the car balanced so you can attack the kerbs and be really confident under braking, particularly into the first chicane as that's the most obvious overtaking opportunity," he concluded, "The car felt really good in Spa, and I know we have the revised power steering system I used in Hungary back for this race, so I think we'll be okay. We had very strong race pace in Belgium and, if we can carry on like that in Italy, we'll be just fine.”