23 March 2014
Malaysian GP: Lotus will be podium contenders very soon – Maldonado
Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado is convinced the Enstone-based team can recover and do well this year, despite an extremely troubled start to F1 2014.
Pastor Maldonado has said he was 'inspired' by the work put in by everyone at Lotus F1 during the season opening, Australian Grand Prix, and he is convinced the Enstone team will be podium contenders again 'very soon'.
Lotus missed the first winter test and have been playing catch-up ever since and while Maldonado and team-mate, Romain Grosjean both retired in Melbourne, it wasn't all bad, and both got passed the half-distance marker - doing far more laps than managed during the Bahrain tests.
“A lot,” Maldonado replied, when asked what he learned last weekend. “It was the longest stint I've done so far [with the E22] and that's very important for the engineers who can now work through the data and find improvements. Naturally, our immediate priority is to finish the races, but in F1 you never stop searching for more pace as well.”
“We made clear improvements during the weekend,” he continued. “The team has shown it is ready to do whatever it takes. This is good because my philosophy to racing is the same and I will do whatever it takes as well. Now we can go through the data and improve step-by-step. It is a long season and we need to be positive because we saw one Renault-engined car finish on the podium after the race. So we know our engine can fight for the podium and now we need to work harder than the other teams. This gives us a lot of motivation going forward.”
“The whole weekend was pretty incredible,” he added. “To be honest I've never seen anything like it. We started nowhere and we kept on having problems. With these cars, even little problems can take a very long time to fix. Some of the problems are very difficult to diagnose as they are electronic or software related. These all require so much time and focus. The efforts put in by everyone at Lotus F1 Team were amazing. Especially from the mechanics at the track, who worked all day and night, more than 24 hours straight, then still did really fast pit stops in the race. It was inspiring and makes me very proud to be part of this team. The season has not started the way we want, but I know everyone is working tremendously hard to ensure we get the team back to the top end of the grid.
“We'll keep pushing and the hard work will eventually pay off. The E22 has a lot of potential and is feeling better to drive every time we go out. I'm impressed every time I look at the packaging of the car and I know that the work going on at Enstone and with Renault Sport F1 will make the E22 into a podium contender very soon indeed.”
Looking specifically to Malaysia, Maldonado noted that it is, in his view, one of the toughest events on the 2014 F1 calendar and as yet he hasn't got to the chequered flag, although he was classified 19th in 2012.
“Sepang is a good track and I really like the challenges it presents us with. It's very interesting from the car point of view, especially the aerodynamics, but also the tyres because the asphalt is very aggressive. Hopefully this event will go more smoothly for us compared with Australia. We know we need to work very hard to achieve our aims and objectives for the E22. We know where our main focus lies and as a team we are determined to get there.
“We know the weather at Sepang can change a lot though; in fact it is usually either extreme heat or extreme rain, so very tropical and we'll need to be ready for everything.
“Also the extreme temperatures are hard on the cars in terms of reliability and from the driving point of view it is quite stressful as well. All round, I would say Sepang is one of the toughest races of the year. We'll need to be strong in all areas,” he concluded.
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