31 October 2013
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Lotus expecting strong weekend
After another strong showing at Buddh International Circuit last weekend, Lotus is confident that it can be a factor in Abu Dhabi.
A third podium in as many races, and returning to the scene of an emotional victory in 2012, has Lotus in optimistic mood ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Although last weekend's Indian Grand Prix proved both problematic and contentious for the Enstone operation, it resulted in Romain Grosjean coming from 17th on the grid – the result of a miscalculation in first qualifying – to claim another third place after similar results in both Korea and Japan. Without an engine problem when well-placed in Singapore, the Frenchman could have been on a four-race run heading to Yas Marina, and trackside operations director Alan Permane is confident that both Grosjean and 2012 Abu Dhabi winner Kimi Raikkonen can be contenders this weekend.
“Kimi put in a fantastic drive [last year] and was able to capitalise on Lewis [Hamilton]'s retirement,” he reflected, “Similar to our current E21 chassis, last year's E20 managed its tyres extremely well and it happened to do so particularly well around the Yas Marina Circuit.
“With that in mind – added to the fact that Pirelli have been a step more aggressive in terms of tyre allocation this season – there's no reason to suspect we can't have a very strong weekend again here.”
Looking after the tyres has been a trademark of recent Lotus cars and, even though India provided an extreme situation for everyone – with the soft compound Pirelli suffering in particular – Permane is positive that there won't be a repeat at Yas Marina, despite the same tyre options being provided for the weekend.
“[Tyre management] is part of the entire design philosophy of the car,” he explained, “It's something we've worked very hard on over the past few years, but certainly not something we're going to be making common knowledge!
“Of course, the flip side of this comes at circuits where the tyre allocation is perhaps a step too hard, in which case we struggle to switch the rubber on and our strength becomes a weakness. The aim, of course, is to build a car that is effective in either circumstance, and I think that's where Red Bull are so strong.
“The Yas Marina circuit doesn't have the same style of long corners as seen in India or Korea, so we're unlikely to see the same levels of graining this weekend and it should be the same scenario in terms of blistering. The teams don't really have much to defend against graining. You can set the car up to be more protective of whichever front tyre will suffer the highest stress – the right front in Abu Dhabi's case – but that will simply delay the onset rather than completely eradicating the issue.
“Having the medium and soft compound once again – as last time out in India – will be a challenge, I'm sure. Making the soft tyre last in the heat of Abu Dhabi will undoubtedly be tough. You need a car which is capable of doing two things that aren't complimentary of each other, as you want a set-up which is fast down the straights and supple over the kerbs, but also gives responsive change of direction for the chicanes and good grip through the slower second gear corners towards the end of the lap. It's a fine balance to find.
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