F1 'new boy' Andre Lotterer admitted to taking a cautious approach to his first day in a grand prix meeting, with his late confirmation as Kamui Kobayashi's replacement giving him little time to prepare for driving the Caterham at Spa-Francorchamps.
In the end, the German acquitted himself well, beating team-mate Marcus Ericsson in FP1 before only narrowly failing to repeat the seat in the afternoon session. He admitted, however, that there had been a lot to learn, and had taken a methodical approach to ensure that he got the most out of the two 90-minute sessions.
“I think it ran pretty smoothly,” he claimed, “I had to learn a lot in a short time, step-by-step, finding the driving style of the car and the tyres, and how to handle the power, so I'm still a bit behind in understanding all the functions and everything, but I'm getting there. I tried a few launches and things like that but, in terms of speed, I'm building it up.
“It doesn't look like I'm miles off so, for the first time on the option tyres, it was okay. The good thing is that I feel there is more to come and we can improve the car as well.”
Lotterer, a three-time Le Mans winner with Audi, revealed that he had been more impressed by the amount of grip generated by the CT05 than he had by the power it put out, and was pleased to report that he was 'not far from flat' through the fearsome Eau Rouge.
“I didn't want to try it first lap out on the options,” he smiled, “Hopefully it will be flat tomorrow…
“The first practice session was obviously only on the prime [tyre], and there was not that much grip. I expected more speed through the corners but, in terms of set-up, we increased the downforce which, of course, helps us. On the option, you go out and, on your first lap, you don't really know what to expect in terms of grip, so I took it step-by-step and, for sure, there is more to come. I think I'm quite pleased with everything.”
Having not driven an F1 car for more than ten years, when he was briefly part of Jaguar's development squad, Lotterer has made a home for himself in sportscar, albeit supplemented with outings in Japan's single-seater Super Formula category. Switching back to the top flight was therefore something of an eye-opener for the 32-year old.
“The cars we have in the WEC are more complex, but also more special for the engineers as you can program more profiles for the car to do things itself,” he explained, “We have longer meetings but probably a little less to do in the car.
“What we're really busy with now in WEC is monitoring fuel limit per lap, whereas here you are only busy with activating the DRS or pre-set set-up settings to activate and deactivate for harder braking. They are things I have to get used to, and it's a very steep learning phase, so I'm trying not to get too stressed out.”
Asked whether he might benefit from simulator work with Caterham after the Belgian weekend, Lotterer confessed that his immediate F1 future was not clear.
“At the moment, it's just this race, so I've tried to approach it day-by-day,” he revealed, “It was a good first day today and, hopefully, it will be the same tomorrow and Sunday.”