17 May 2015
F1 Monaco Grand Prix: Lotus hoping for quiet weekend
After a sometimes manic Spanish Grand Prix, the Lotus F1 team is hoping things run a little more smoothly on the streets of Monaco.
The Monaco Grand Prix remains the jewel in F1's crown, and provides some of the best networking opportunities in the sport, but one team will be hoping for a less dramatic weekend on track after a hectic few days in Spain.
Right from Friday practice, Lotus faced a multitude of challenges, starting when Romain Grosjean lost his engine cover in explosive fashion on the main straight. Throw in a collision between team-mates that left Pastor Maldonado with a jaunty endplate and drama at the pit-stops and it is easy to understand why technical director Nick Chester quite fancies a low-key Monaco Grand Prix.
“Barcelona was a busy weekend - with a lot going on!” he confirmed, “On the Friday morning, we had a gearbox problem on Pastor's car, although; it was a fairly minor one that we fixed for FP2. In the afternoon, we had some fixings break which caused the bodywork to come off Romain's car, but it was repaired and then the bodywork was fine. In the race, there was a bit of a tangle between the drivers and, as a result, it weakened the end-plate on Pastor's car – which then broke. We decided to continue to run until we were sure that there weren't going to be opportunities for points and then it was sensible to retire the car. Romain also had a gear problem during the race - which he managed very well – so we are currently investigating what caused the issue. And then both drivers stopped long at their pit-stops on Sunday…”
Confirming that the various pit crew members caught up in those stops are largely unhurt – 'Harry had his foot trapped slightly during Pastor's stop, Jason took a bit of a hit when Romain stopped long and Craig was also caught in the action during Romain's stop - there are some bruises but they are all good' – Chester was quickly able to turn his attention to the most difficult weekend on the calendar, both in terms of racing and logistics.
“It's a bit more challenging as everything is a lot tighter – the garages are small, the offices are tight, the tyres are kept at the back and everything is narrow – but it isn't that bad in reality compared to years ago, when we used to work at the harbour and move the cars and all the kit into the pit-lane for each session!” he reflected, “Yes, the venue is different to anywhere else but we are well used to it.
“It's a real one-off compared to any other track we visit. It is a slow speed track, extremely narrow and very bumpy and this means that the car set-up is significantly different. We will have a high downforce package specifically for Monte Carlo and we will take with us some of the work we've done at the Barcelona test, specific set-up work focused on Monaco.
“It's a track where the drivers have to build up through the Thursday sessions as it takes a little bit of time getting back into. The surface evolution is massive and, even through the two practice sessions on the Thursday, it easily picks up a couple of seconds. The grip is improving very quickly and the drivers have to adapt to that as well as adapting back to a circuit that is so narrow and rough.”
With Monaco's reputation as being notoriously difficult for overtaking, Chester knows that Saturday will be the key to a good result, meaning that both Grosjean and Maldonado need to return to Q3 form after missing out on the final cut in Spain. However, even if they make it through, the pit-wall still appears to be in for a busy time on race day…
“With very few overtaking opportunities, qualifying position is key, but the particularities of the track are an extra challenge on race day,” Chester added, “The track evolution during the race is such that, when you are working out how much the tyres are degrading, it can be tricky as the track is getting quicker and the tyres are getting slower. This may look quite odd, but it's a real challenge that we must carefully take into consideration when making strategic decisions.”
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