Lotus' form in the Belgian Grand Prix
was in direct contrast to its podium performances in each of the preceding races, but trackside operations director Alan Permane has no concerns heading to Italy this weekend.
With Kimi Raikkonen
suffering his first retirement in 39 races and Romain Grosjean
only managing eighth place as the E21 struggled for pace on the long Spa-Francorchamps circuit, Lotus posted its worst results since Canada, but Permane is confident that Monza, while holding its own challenge for the teams, should hold no fears for the Enstone squad.
“It's a circuit that teams and drivers understandably enjoy visiting, and the character and challenge are there for everyone to see,” he said, “But there's certainly nothing which jumps up and causes us any great concerns. You need an aerodynamically efficient car – which we have – and a powerful engine, which Renault
supplies us with.
“You also need a car that has good change of direction for the interruptions to the straights. Some of the challenges have diminished over time; an example being the kerbs, which are not as aggressive as they once were. You still need to have the suspension sufficiently compliant to enable kerb usage, but it's not as much of a consideration as before.
“Of course, Monza requires a unique approach, targeting minimal drag so you can make the most of the long straights. This means we have Monza-specific rear wings while utilising the front wings in a complementary configuration. As well as what you can see on the car externally, there's also the challenge of getting the gearing right to make the most of the circuit's unique flavour.”
Confirming that there was a good chance of seeing a longer wheelbase version of the E21 in Italy, Permane discounted the use of Lotus' experimental 'Device', which was tried and discarded in the midst of practice in Belgium, as it has been on several other occasions over the past year.
“Monza is precisely the sort of circuit where 'the Device' would not offer any real advantage as the rear wing is running in low-downforce / minimal drag configuration, so the difference it could make at different speeds would not be so great,” he explained, “For the same reason, the impact that DRS makes here is not so significant.
“Although the long straights can lend themselves to slipstreaming, overtaking at Monza is not actually that easy – not least for the diminished effect of DRS – so drivers still have to work hard to seize any opportunity.”
The frustrating Spa weekend proved to be a setback in terms of the team's championship challenge, particularly with a DNF dropping Raikkonen to fourth in the points table.
“Our brakes were running hot in Spa, but everything was pointing to there being sufficient durability to get Kimi to the end of the race once we were on top of the situation,” Permane explained, “What we didn't realise initially was that a visor tear-off strip had become lodged in the brake cooling duct of his front left-hand wheel. This meant that the brake disc was never able to cool sufficiently and ultimately we saw a component failure.
“It was a hit for both Kimi's and our Championships, but we'll fight on. It was a frustrating weekend and we simply weren't fast enough in qualifying or the race. Neither car was in a great position at the end of the first lap and we were fighting a difficult battle to try to move forwards with both. The speed simply wasn't there from the car.”