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Kovalainen heads up Lotus Nurburgring debut
21 July 2011
Though there will be plenty of attention heaped onto his new team-mate Karun Chandhok for the weekend, Heikki Kovalainen will continue to take charge for Team Lotus in its first visit to the Nurburgring.
With the German Grand Prix being held at Hockenheim in 2010, this will be Team Lotus's maiden outing around the legendary circuit and will be a chance for Kovalainen to build on his encouraging pace over the last few rounds.
The Finn has regularly bridged the gap between the established competitors and the 'new' teams, but he is hoping he can get closer to the mid-field pack this weekend, particularly if the weather proves unpredictable.
“From the old to the new. This is our first visit to the Nurburgring as Team Lotus as we were are Hockenheim last year, so I'm looking forward to taking the green and yellow to the new Nurburgring which has a good mix of elevation changes and high and low speed sections.
“Finding the right downforce level takes a bit of work as you don't want to compromise your speed on the straights, particularly from T11 to T13, but you also need to have as much grip as possible through the tight sections, especially into T1 and the chicane at T13 at the end of the lap where there you have the best chances of overtaking other cars.
“The weather is also usually a pretty big factor at the Nurburgring. It's almost exactly like Spa in the way it can be hot and sunny one minute and then heavy rain the next, and I personally love racing in those sorts of changeable conditions. Going from a dry track to a wet one on the same lap is the what racing drivers should have to deal with as much as possible, so, while it's not great for the spectators sitting in the stands, I hope we have exactly that sort of mixed up weather!”
Lotus technical director Mike Gascoyne is also expecting weather to play a factor this weekend, but in the event it is dry, he believes the advent of DRS and the Pirelli tyres should alone create an exciting race.
“Looking at the track, the Nurburgring is one of the typical modern F1 circuits, among the first of the modern era to introduce big run-off areas and, much like Spa, a track that is subject to huge variations in the weather conditions. It can be blisteringly hot, especially in July, but you can also have local showers building up with almost no notice so the weather always plays a big part over the whole weekend. When the track was constructed they attempted to make it a small version of the legendary Nordschleife, and while it has elevation changes and a couple of quick corners it obviously can't replicate the fearsome challenge of the old track next door.
“Having said that I think it will be a good race. Overtaking has not been too easy there over the years but we have already seen this season that DRS and the behaviour of the tyres has meant overtaking is now possible at a number of tracks where traditionally passing was only really possible in the pits. Pirelli are bringing a medium and a soft tyre as the choices in Germany, so the performance differential between the two compounds won't be as pronounced as it was at Silverstone, but I think we will still have an interesting race right across the grid as degradation levels will need to be managed as the grip levels improve throughout the weekend.”