Kimi Räikkönen: “Our day will come”

After a frustrating Monaco Grand Prix weekend culminating in a ninth position finish, Lotus F1 Team’s Finnish driver Kimi Räikkönen looks forward to the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal.

Kimi, are you looking forward to the Canadian Grand Prix?

I have always liked the Canadian Grand Prix. I won there in 2005 so  Montreal has good memories.  The city is one of the best places to visit on the calendar. I really enjoy the stop-start nature of the circuit layout and the challenge of the track.

What challenges in particular do you like?

It’s an interesting place. Qualifying is important, but not essential to get a good result as there are a few places to overtake. To do well in Canada the car needs to be good under braking because it’s very tough on brakes at this circuit. You also make use of the kerbs and our car has been pretty good in this area. It’s also a circuit with different track surfaces and sometimes the surface itself can change over the course of the race weekend. This is interesting as it means different grip levels, so another challenge there.

It’s another street course – are there any changes to your approach because of this?

It’s a street course, but there are still places to overtake so you don’t have to change all of your focus to qualifying like you do in Monaco. It is a race that sees a lot of safety cars; there has probably not been a Canadian Grand Prix without having a safety car. Most likely it will happen again. A safety car makes it difficult for the strategy as you can’t predict when it might come. If the safety car is employed, then you have got to hope that it happens at the right time.

Do you think the track will suit the E20?

We’ve been competitive in most places and we expect the same there, but like always it’s easier to say after the first day of running…

Monaco didn’t go quite to plan…

That’s racing. Ninth was the best we could do on the day. I didn’t start in a great position and I had some difficulties during the race so it wasn’t the easiest weekend, but at least we got a couple of points. It’s better than nothing but not exactly what we wanted. If we can have a bad race like that and still take two points it’s not the end of the world. Picking up points like this when we’re not at our best could make a big difference at the end of the season.

Does the disappointment of Monaco change your focus looking to the rest of the season?

One race doesn’t change the fact that we have been pretty strong everywhere – even at Monaco during most of the weekend. Monaco is completely different from any other track and I don’t think we should worry too much about the fact that it wasn’t our best weekend.

How is your progress working on the steering set-up with the team?

We tried something different for the special challenge of Monaco and it didn’t work for me. It’s impossible to test how something will work at Monaco without going to Monaco. We’re not allowed open testing and the roads would be too busy for a Formula 1 car anyway. I’m happy with the basic setup, though it’s still an area I’m working on with the team.

There have been six winners from six races so far this season. Can you make it seven from seven?

We’ve been quick everywhere and we’ve been on the podium. It’s difficult to get everything exactly right at the right time, which is what you have to do to win a Grand Prix. I’ve won races with other teams and I have a good feeling that Lotus are capable of strong results. Our day will come.

Romain Grosjean: “I want to jump back in the car for a proper race!”

After a weekend where he showed fantastic pace but endured a cruelly short race in Monaco, Romain Grosjean looks to Canada as a chance to make amends. 

How are you approaching the Canadian Grand Prix?

It will be my first time in Canada so it’s another new experience for me this year. Obviously this means it’s also going to be my first time driving the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. I’m looking forward to it because it’s a track which many drivers have told me they like. It’s also a track which can bite you, and we’ve seen that over the years with the champions’ wall. Even though I’m not a Formula 1 champion, I’ll be giving that part of the track some respect!

How do you bounce back from a disappointing Monaco Grand Prix?

Up until the race itself the Monaco Grand Prix was very promising. We had strong pace all weekend, even if qualifying wasn’t quite as good as it might have been. It certainly could have been worse, but we were slightly disappointed with qualifying in fifth. The race itself was very short for me. I didn’t get the greatest start, and it’s so crowded off the line in Monaco that sometimes there just isn’t enough room. In this case there wasn’t and my race ended. After a difficult day like that you want to jump straight back into the car and have a proper race! Let’s hope that is the case in Canada and we can show what we are capable of!

How did you feel when you joined the engineers whilst the race was still running?

For sure it was frustrating. In fact, it took me a couple of days to get rid of my disappointment from Monaco. It was such an early exit and it was my home race where I really wanted to go well in front of all the fans. We had the car to be able to be challenge for a strong result. Everyone knows this, but that’s motor racing sometimes.

You don’t seem to have had too much difficulty coming to terms with new circuits this year. Is there any secret to this?

Over the last few years I seem to have always been learning new circuits so I guess I must have a pretty good approach to it! This season it helps that the E20 is such a forgiving car and we have a very good baseline setup which means we can quickly look at refining it and finding more pace rather than trying to compensate for any chassis imbalance or difficult handling characteristics from the car. I work very closely with the team and my engineers to understand all the requirements of a new circuit, and there are always aspects of one track which can be likened to another. Ultimately, you just have to get out there and drive fast.

What do you know about the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve?

It’s a street circuit and normally I enjoy street circuits – I was right on the pace in Monaco. I enjoy the sensation of being close to the walls. There are really long straights and some big braking moments. The track surface can also present challenges as we’ve seen in other seasons, so it will be interesting to see what the grip level is like for myself. Finally, the weather in Montreal can be quite changeable, as we saw last year. I’m sure it’ll be a challenging and exciting Grand Prix

Does Canada present any particular challenges being a long haul amidst the European season?

I arrive on Monday to beat the jet lag. Sometimes that challenge in itself and getting decent sleep can be as hard to solve as finding the right setup for the car! I’m looking forward to discovering more of Montreal, learning the track, and hopefully getting some good sleep at the right time too!

Eric Boullier: “Anything can still happen and the championship is wide open”

Following a weekend in Monaco which promised much but delivered little, Lotus F1 Team Principal Eric Boullier puts Monaco behind him and focuses on Montreal. 

How are the team approaching the Canadian Grand Prix?

We approach the Grand Prix as any other. We have a car which has shown good pace all season and two drivers who have both shown they can deliver podium performances in this highly competitive season. Yes, we are coming off the back of a disappointing weekend in Monaco, but we’ve shrugged off worse setbacks than that.

What went wrong in Monaco?

Put simply, we didn’t achieve the results we wanted, or the results it looked like should have had. It’s difficult to achieve a good result if one car doesn’t make it to the first corner, and that’s what happened to Romain. It was a racing incident, but that doesn’t make it any easier for us to stomach as it was clear he had good pace all weekend. Kimi never quite got everything hooked up, and in the race he was unable to push as he struggled for grip. We can’t get too hung up on this: it was one weekend in twenty. Hopefully we deliver better in the remaining 14 races.

How does the team bounce back from a difficult weekend like that?

The positives we have are the same as we’ve had all year. The E20 is fast, strong and reliable. Our speed on Thursday and Saturday in Monaco was easily unlocked and both drivers felt comfortable with their cars. We all know that Monaco is unique in its requirements, so it’s far better to have problems with the distinct needs of Monte Carlo than with the more normal circuit layouts.

Does the result in Monaco change the battle plan for the Canadian Grand Prix?

Everyone in the team knows their job and we are all focused on achieving the best results possible. We don’t approach any event differently from another. We know there are areas where we are strong and we know there are areas where we need to improve, and these are areas where we focus our efforts. Setbacks and successes are both part of this sport, but we are hoping for more of the latter this year.

How are the team’s championship prospects?

This season has been interesting as no-one has been able to dominate, in either the drivers’ or constructors’ championships. We have the same number of points as Ferrari in third position in the constructors’ championship, while Kimi is 25 points away from Fernando Alonso who’s leading the drivers’ classification. Anything can still happen and the championship is wide open.

How do view the strength of Formula 1 as a sport at the moment?

I think it’s in good health. It’s difficult to speak for other teams, but from our perspective we have been signing new sponsors at a pleasing rate this year, and we are still talking to other potential partners. There is a lot of interest in Formula 1, and the sport is growing in many areas.

Six winners from six races; can the team make it seven from seven?

Let’s hope so. Both Kimi and Romain are capable of winning and the E20 has shown race winning pace. Winning a Grand Prix is not the easiest thing in the world to achieve however, and I don’t imagine that we’ll have a different winner for every race this year; a pattern should begin to emerge before too long. We’re looking forward to Montreal. It’s the first low downforce track of the season, where the E20 should be strong. Our 500th race may not have been one of our best, but I hope the 501st is!

James Allison: “If we can continue to have five good races for every one bad race this year we’ll be in good shape”

A race of puzzling frustration in Monaco last time out left the team trying to figure out just what went wrong. Technical Director James Allison helps to shed some light on a race to forget in Monaco and looks to Montreal’s challenges.

Now we’ve had some time to reflect on Monaco, what do you think went wrong for the team?

I think the most difficult thing to judge from the last race if whether what we saw from Kimi would have been mirrored by Romain had he not retired so early in the race. Nothing we saw on Thursday or Saturday seemed to suggest that it would have done, but if he had suffered similarly with tyre degradation then it would have been a difficult race for him too.

Kimi missed the first session due to a steering change – is this area a concern for the team?

Monaco demands a specific steering setup which entails different suspension components to enable sufficient steering lock to be employed. In addition, we tried a higher geared steering setup for Kimi. You can’t try this in advance so the practice session was used with this new setup, but it was evident very quickly that this setup was not suitable. The change takes sufficient time to mean we started it immediately in the first practice, but he knows the track well. We could also see Romain’s pace despite a lack of F1 experience in Monaco. Kimi struggled with both the car and the tyres throughout the weekend and I would think it would have been a troublesome event for him with or without having run in every session. Our base steering set-up has got Kimi on to the podium, but we’re still working on refining it to get it exactly to his liking.

Was track and tyre temperature a factor in the race?

It’s genuinely hard to say. The track temperature for most of the race was in the low 30s which is not unusual; we’ve been to several circuits throughout the course of the year with similar conditions and have had no issues keeping our tyres within a good operating window. Probably the most unusual thing about Monaco is the smoothness of the surface – which is more noticeable than at any other venue – and the E20 has generally performed best at circuits with rougher tarmac.

Kimi seemed to suffer more than others from tyre degradation. Previously the E20 has looked very good on its tyres…

It was a bit of a surprise. Every team seems to have had a bit of yo-yoing with tyres this year but we’ve certainly had less than most up to this point; in fact we’d had none at all until we came to Monaco. Taking a positive outlook, if we can continue to have five good races for every one bad race this year we’ll be in good shape over the season.

From one street course to another – can we expect more of the same in Montreal?

Montreal is a total contrast to Monaco, however it’s another circuit which is further towards the smoother end of the spectrum in terms of track surface, so it will give us a chance to see how much this may have affected performance in Monaco, and whether we can get the business done under these kinds of circumstances.

How different will the car be?

We’ll be taking a smaller rear wing with a front wing set up to balance that. One of the key factors is to make sure we have our braking configuration correctly set up with good levels of cooling to survive what is a very arduous race for the brakes. Luckily the car has been quite good on brakes throughout the year to date with no real issues to report.

How much of a concern is braking in Canada and what can you do because of this?

There are several high speed straights into low speed corners so the brakes receive repeated extreme use over the course of a lap. Canada is the most challenging circuit of the year from the point of view of the brake wear. Brake wear is largely a function of brake temperature, and so a lot of work must be done (using tools such as CFD, the wind tunnel and a brake dynamometer rig) to ensure adequate aerodynamic cooling of the disks and pads.

Tech Talk: Montreal

1. REAR WING

A different family of rear wing is unleashed for Montreal as the layout requires a low to medium downforce package, away from the higher downforce configurations of previous circuits so far this year. The effect of DRS on lap time here is larger than at the higher downforce tracks.

2. BRAKES

The demands on brakes are far higher here than at any other track, and a lot of Friday running will be dedicated to monitoring brake temperatures to evaluate and simulate race performance.

3. SUSPENSION

The track layout means a compromise of running the car as soft as you dare to be able to ride the kerbs, without making it too soft to be able to change direction quickly for the many chicanes.

4. TYRES

This will be the second race where we see the combination of soft and super soft Pirelli compounds. The track surface is smooth, though not as smooth as Monaco. There are relatively low energies going through the tyres, although the potential ambient temperature can range from 15C to 35C which affects performance.

5. FRONT WING

As with the rear wing, lower downforce is required than at previous venues as part of the low to medium downforce package.

6. ENGINE

It’s quite a harsh circuit for the engine, with long periods spent at full throttle accelerating out of the slow corners and along the straights. It is not a particularly severe layout for the gearbox however.

Montreal Circuit – An Engineers View: Alan Permane

TURNS 1 + 2

Braking from over 300kph into the slow combination of turns 1 and 2 has seen some great wheel to wheel action over the years. A crucial corner, especially on the opening lap.

TURNS 3 + 4

A fast right-left chicane, where the drivers need to ride the kerbs for the quickest line.

TURNS 6 + 7

Another chicane, this time left-right and much lower speed than the first, with the drivers needing to ride the kerbs once again for the fastest route.

TURN 8

A 300kph+ straight leads into a third chicane, right-left once more, which requires quick direction change and good kerb riding capabilities from the car.

TURN 10

Famous for brave moves, in some cases too brave, turn 10 provides another heavy braking area from around 300kph to around 100kph.

TURN 13

The fastest section of the track with maximum speeds of around 330kph followed by heavy braking, and a need to ride the kerbs heavily through the chicane. The exit of the second part of the chicane is bordered by the famous ‘wall of champions’ which has caught out many championship winning drivers over the years.

IN NUMBERS – Montreal

3          Highest g-force experienced for 1.3 seconds at T5

15        % of the lap spent braking

53        Number of gear changes per lap

56        Total straight per lap (%)

58        % of lap on full throttle

60        Lowest apex speed (kmh) at T8

150      Distance in metres from start line to first corner

300      Highest apex speed (kmh) at T12

318      Top speed (kmh)

950      Longest full throttle burst (sec) between T10 and T13

THE DRIVERS A-Z… 

Kimi

– Motocross: Kimi has founded his own Motocross World Championship team, Ice 1 Racing.

Romain

– Multiple Champion: The Frenchman is the only driver to have won the GP2 Asia and the GP2 Series in the same season (2011).

OUR HISTORY: CANADIAN GP

– Lotus F1 Team made its Canadian Grand Prix debut in 1981 under the Toleman name, with British drivers Derek Warwick and Brian Henton at the wheel.

– In its various guises the team has achieved three Canadian Grand Prix victories to date; the first in 1991 (Nelson Piquet, Benetton) and the most recent in 2006 (Fernando Alonso, Renault).

– Including the three victories, the team has taken twelve Canadian Grand Prix podiums; the first in 1988 (Thierry Boutsen, Benetton) and the most recent in 2006 (Fernando Alonso, Renault).

– The team has also claimed a total of three pole positions for the Canadian Grand Prix; the first in 1994 (Michael Schumacher, Benetton) and the most recent in 2006 (Fernando Alonso, Renault).

– Under its various banners, the team has set five fastest laps during Canadian Grands Prix; the first in 1993 (Michael Schumacher, Benetton) and the most recent in 2010 (Robert Kubica, Renault).

– The Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve is one Kimi knows well, having taken one win (2005), two podiums (2005 / 2006), and three fastest laps (2005 / 2006 / 2008) from his eight Canadian Grands Prix.

– Romain meanwhile will be making his first visit to the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, but will be confident of getting up to speed quickly after managing to do so at a number of circuits previously unknown to him this season.

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