1 March 2014
Grosjean: Lotus could still be on back foot at Malaysia
Romain Grosjean has revealed that the checklist of problems facing Lotus is now so long that they will still be struggling to be fully up to speed even by Malaysia.
One of the teams most beset by technical problems heading into the 2014 world championship season is Lotus. A small internal fire for the E22 on Friday for Pastor Maldonado was followed by another problem-strewn day on Saturday that limited Romain Grosjean's time on the track to just 33 laps.
"This morning we had an electrical thing that was broken, but it was at the fan of the gear box," explained Grosjean. "By the time we came back here it was 11.30 in the morning.
"Then things were going pretty much okay [but] we had an issue with the MGU-K [energy recovery system] in the afternoon," he continued. "As it was half past three, with the time to change everything - the day was over."
Despite the frustration of hitting one problem after another, the French driver insisted that addressing each new glitch as it arose at least meant that the team were making progress in their preparations to be ready in time for the first race of the season in Australia in two weeks time.
"There are problems that we had that are solved and they are now getting much better, like the exhaust so that we can change those things," he insisted. "There's so many things working together that if one goes wrong then it brings to another one and then it can create a fire as we had yesterday ... It wasn't a big problem but it went altogether, so it needs some luck - and some work!
"There are different problems, they come one by one," Grosjean said. "It doesn't make it easy. The more we run, the more we discover things, the more we can solve them. Okay we lose a lot of time, it's not ideal, but at least if we can tick a few boxes in terms of reliability then it should be good.
"There were a few updates in the software overnight, things were going better tonight then they were yesterday, so there are improvements. But then we discover some new issues, like the MGU-K. Small things that don't want to go right. But I still have the faith that they can do it."
Grosjean pointed out that the turnaround time for fixing problems in the new-specification cars was also an issue: "The problem this year is that every time you break something it takes between two and three hours to solve the problem so if you have two or three issues in a day that's the end of the day, unfortunately."
That could have knock-on effects for race weekends, he added. "If you have a small leak on the battery or a connector goes away, changing the battery is three, three and a half hours - if it happens in FP3 then by the time they bring the car back to the pits then of course you're not going to go for qualifying."
But at the moment, the big problem for Lotus is that all these glitches are taking away from the meagre amount of track testing time available to the teams before the start of the season. As a result, the team hasn't been able to make the headway they need on some very fundamental aspects of the car's basic setup.
"We have to get all our system to work together which is quite hard to do," he said. "So far we haven't got many chances to do it, so I think we will focus on that tomorrow [Sunday.] It's quite hard to get the brake-by-wire right, to get the recovery and release and everything.
Lotus had initially planned to attempt a race simulation distance on Friday, but that was thwarted by the fire caused by a problem with the new exhaust design. Today's attempt was then similarly frustrated by electrical issues, and the team has seemingly now all but given up hope of trying a long distance run on Sunday, the final day of pre-season testing at Bahrain.
"I think the aim for tonight is to get the mapping and all the braking right. If we we do that we can release just a little more potential of the car," he said. "If we have a chance to so some race sim at the end of the day then we will."
As to where that left Lotus for the first race of the season in just two weeks time, Grosjean was bluntly honest.
"In terms of preparation we are not quite yet ready," he conceded. "There are plenty of things we would like to try and do before we head to Melbourne, but tomorrow's session is only a few hours and we will have to try to get on top of as much things as we can.
"The list is too long to have ticked everything [off] before Melbourne," the Frenchman admitted. "Even in Melbourne we won't have time to get to every single thing that we want to. At the moment this is the situation and the best we can do is try and take the most serious one, get that right
"It's not going to be perfect for Melbourne - probably not Malaysia, but we'll do our best. We'll try to do things as good as we can do them and try and try to steadily improve them."
"It's not an ideal situation and it's not going to be an easy first [few] races but you never know," he added. "If we can get a few points it would be nice, if we can get a lot of points then it would be wonderful! If we don't but we understand things and we can move forward, then that's good as well.
"Honestly, I don't think it's going to be a straightforward year for everyone where you score in the first race and then you're consistent and score 20 points in every race, so we'll have to see."
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