17 September 2012
Allison optimistic of Lotus return to form
Technical director James Allison is confident that the Lotus team can be a factor in this weekend's Singapore Grand Prix.
Although Kimi Raikkonen salvaged fifth on the road to move up in the F1 drivers' championship, Lotus was not as competitive as it would have liked at Monza, but technical director James Allison is confident that the Enstone team can be a factor in Singapore for the first of the season-ending 'flyaways'.
Neither the Belgian or Italian grands prix allowed the E20 to show its full potential, with Raikkonen admitting that fifth at the latter probably transcended the car's true performance, but Allison is confident that the general characteristics of the machine, allied to another development package, could help propel the Finn - and returning team-mate Romain Grosjean - to the front of the pack. Neither driver has found the top step of the podium so far this season and, while Allison stops short of predicting a win, he is optimistic that a podium could be on the cards.
"Singapore really is an entirely different kettle of fish," he claimed, "We go from minimum downforce to maximum downforce in two weeks, we use the soft and super soft [tyres] instead of hard and medium, the track has low power dependency and is high downforce. It couldn't be more different [to Monza].
"The E20 is pretty good over the bumps and kerbs; it has been all year, so we're quite lucky in that respect. At a bumpy circuit, you make more of a compromise towards the mechanical set-up over the aero set-up of the car than you do at a smooth circuit. Singapore's bumpiness was extreme in the initial years, but it has been considerably improved in subsequent seasons."
The low downforce characteristics of Monza, and Pirelli's decision to bring the tyres it did, may have hurt Raikkonen's chances of challenging for a podium, leaving Allison looking forward to more favourable conditions in the Far East.
"We weren't as competitive at Monza as we have been for most of this season, but I don't think this represents the beginning of any bad trend," he noted, "It just reflects something of the particular nature of Monza. In common with Spa, the tyre allocation from Pirelli was conservative on two fronts; namely the combination of a harder
compound rubber than we would have anticipated and a construction which is different from that used at the other tracks we've visited. Combine those two factors and we weren't able to play our usual trump card, which has been better tyre management in the race. Both Monza and Spa could be comfortably completed with a one-stop strategy, or even conceivably with no stops if the rules allowed it. This means we couldn't enjoy our traditional advantage. Happily, the tyre allocation reverts to the previous policy from Singapore onwards."
Like its rivals, however, Lotus continues to work on improving its car and, with Raikkonen still in the hunt for the 2012 title, sitting just 28 points off leader Fernando Alonso, will bring another phased development package to Marina Bay.
"We have a new floor and a new rear wing," Allison confirmed, "The new rear wing operates at the same downforce level as our Monaco-spec rear wing, but with a
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