23 September 2015
F1 Japanese Grand Prix: Lotus ready to bounce back after difficult Singapore
After two scoreless races in Italy and Singapore, Lotus' Nick Chester is hoping that normal service is resumed as the F1 circus reaches Japan.
Lotus technical director Nick Chester believes that this weekend Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka should give the team an immediate chance to atone for its Singapore no score.
The Marina Bay race was the second in a row where Lotus left empty-handed, after its nightmare at Monza, but Chester believes that returning to a conventional circuit – even one as challenging as Suzuka – should give Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado the chance to return to the top ten.
“Street courses can often be pretty particular in their demands and that's something we saw in Singapore,” he reflected, “We knew it wasn't going to be one of the easiest races of the year for us, but we did have to really work hard to get to the best pace we could with the E23.
“We didn't get the tyres into their working window at the right time early on in the weekend and we also had all the usual street course challenges. Romain and his engineers, in particular, were able to make some subtle and positive changes to get him into the top ten for qualifying, which was rewarding for all, and both drivers did terrific jobs out on track, which is always very pleasing to see, even when you don't get the ultimate result you want.
“With the pace of the car and the starting positions, we had to try quite aggressive strategies. This was particularly the case with Romain after he lost positions at the start, meaning we brought forward his stops to undercut and gain track position. Unfortunately, this meant we missed out on a quick pit-stop under the virtual safety car at the first stop and then we suffered worse tyre degradation than expected on Romain's final stint, which cost us in the last few laps.
“Pastor made up positions from his start, but was compromised later on after the damage sustained from Jenson. It was certainly an interesting race and a challenging one on the pit-wall.”
Suzuka has its own challenges, but remains a favourite amongst teams and drivers for just that reason, and Chester is looking forward to trying to adapt the E23 to its exacting layout.
“The challenges are the high speed corners,” he explained, “You can't run maximum downforce in Suzuka as you will end up a little too slow on the straights, so you need to give the driver sufficient downforce to give confidence in the fast twisty bits whilst not clipping their wings down the straights.
“This is part of the reason why Suzuka is such a driver favourite, as they can be absolutely on the limit without the car totally stuck to the ground through maximum downforce. It's not just having sufficient downforce; it's ensuring that it is delivered in a balanced nature. Getting the suspension set-up spot on is essential here too, as you need to extract all the grip that's possible from the car.”
While the back-to-back scheduling of Singapore and Suzuka provides that immediate opportunity to bounce back from a poor weekend, however, the logistical demands imposed by the calendar have their own effect on preparations for all teams.
“It does make for a busy week with the added challenge of the crew changing their body clocks to local time after fighting the urge to do that for the night schedule of Singapore,” Chester explained, “Fortunately, both locations are relatively straight-forward to work in so there aren't additional challenges like you have in Monaco for instance. Our set-up crew is well versed at packing-up and building-up the garages and rest of the infrastructure we have, but certainly they have busy few days with the back-to-backs.”
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