6 April 2015
F1 Chinese Grand Prix: Shanghai upgrades planned at Lotus
Pointless after two rounds of the 2015 F1 season, Lotus is hoping that aero updates set for this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix can help turn its fortunes around.
The new Lotus E23 may have Mercedes power but has been a noticeable absentee from the top ten at both opening races of the 2015 F1 season. With new parts due to be fitted for this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix, the team is hoping all that will change.
In truth, there has been a lot more potential on show from Lotus this season, especially when compared to its malodorous 2014 campaign, but luck has not been on the team's side. Nevertheless, technical upgrades are always welcomed, and technical director Nick Chester is hoping that the changes will not only bring improved performance but also better luck.
“We were quite pleased with the pace of the E23 in Malaysia - the car ran well on the Friday, with Romain [Grosjean] being well up on the timesheets, and our qualifying performance was pretty reasonable on Saturday,” he reflected, “In the race, balance and the handling of the car were promising and already a step forward from the first race of the season. We were compromised by traffic, but that's the nature of racing as it's seldom you have a clear track in front of you. The E23 coped well in the extreme heat and it was the first time that it ran in the wet. Again, the handling was pretty decent in those conditions, so we continue to see the potential of this package.”
After Pastor Maldonado was tipped into a first corner spin and Grosjean retired at the end of the opening lap in Australia, Malaysia was supposed to where Lotus opened its account, but again misfortune contrived to scupper that plan.
“Pastor had a puncture right at the start of the race after contact with Valtteri Bottas and then, later, an issue with his brakes,” Chester revealed, “We are still thoroughly investigating the matter and a solution will be in place by the time the car runs in FP1 in China.
“There was also a quite minor issue with Romain's car which, unfortunately, affected the power unit. It was a small bit of sensor misinformation which meant Romain wasn't getting absolute maximum power. Not a big issue, but it was something which meant he had to fight a little harder for his overtaking moves.”
As well as curing the gremlins, Lotus has also been hard at work ensuring that its latest development parts will be ready for China, although the unusual conditions found in Shanghai may still play a part in determining their effectiveness.
“We have bodywork upgrades at the front and rear of the car and, in combination, we have a reasonable upgrade package for Shanghai which mainly focuses on improving our downforce,” Chester explained, “The range of ambient temperatures can vary significantly in Shanghai from around 10-30 degrees Celsius so that's quite significant. We can't know for sure in advance what the weather will be like but, yes, it will certainly be cooler than the last race! As a result, we will put emphasis towards generating the right tyre temperatures. And we'll certainly pack our fleeces!”
With Sebastian Vettel claiming an unexpected victory in Malaysia, Chester is hopeful that the success can be a sign that 2015 will be a more open competition than many anticipated – although he admits that Lotus still has work to do if it is to challenge at the front of the field.
“It's a long season ahead and we're all trying to do exactly that,” he said of Ferrari's upset, “We've seen that Ferrari have improved significantly over the winter months and it seemed that the hot track in Sepang suited them well. They had an improving car, a good strategy and they put it all together to take the win. It shows that, with enough development, Mercedes can indeed be beaten - which is good for the sport. Rest assured, we're doing everything we can at Lotus to challenge Mercedes, Ferrari and every other team as best we can over the course of the year.”
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