Kimi Räikkönen: I’ve never won in Valencia, so it’s a good target

After a frustrating Canadian Grand Prix where grid position and traffic hampered what could have been a good result for the Finn, Kimi Räikkonen is focused on getting a strong result on the streets of Valencia.

What’s your view of the Canadian Grand Prix?

It wasn’t a straightforward weekend for us, even though the result was not too bad in the end. It was cold on Friday for practice and we expected rain in the afternoon, so we ran a different programme. Then in qualifying on Saturday I had a hydraulic issue with my car meaning I qualified in twelfth position. In the race, I made up some places but we could have been a few positions higher up if things had gone differently. I got stuck behind slower cars for quite a long time and unfortunately when we made the pit stop we couldn’t quite get the jump on them. It’s a shame but that’s racing.

How was the car in the race?

The car was much better in the race for sure. The hydraulic issue was fixed and we didn’t see a return of that problem. Also, the race was much hotter than the days before and we have seen that the E20 works better when it’s warm. We’ve seen the car go well at another different circuit which is encouraging. Let’s hope this continues for Valencia.

It looked like you were stuck in traffic at times in Montréal; how frustrating was this, and was overtaking very difficult?

For sure it was frustrating; I never want to be stuck behind another car! We thought it would be okay for overtaking in Canada, but it wasn’t so easy in the end. The DRS zone wasn’t very long and it didn’t last for the whole straight, so it was hard to get a good tow from the car in front. It became even more difficult when the cars in front also had DRS available because they were racing the driver ahead of them. Ultimately, if we had done better in qualifying we wouldn’t have had these problems, but that’s how it goes sometimes.

Leaving Montréal, what was your overall feeling?

A bit frustrated overall as I think we could have achieved more from the weekend. Still, we gained more points for the championship which is the most important thing, especially with everything so close this season.

Valencia is the third street course in a row, and the fourth so far this season: How does it compare with the others?

Valencia is a street circuit, but the layout is not like Albert Park, Monaco or Montréal. It’s definitely the fastest track of these four. It’s likely to be hot and we seem to go well in warm conditions so that’s what we’ll be hoping for.

You seem to have suffered in qualifying for various reasons, and this is another street course where you need to qualify well…

Qualifying is going to be very, very important again here. Obviously, there will be an advantage to starting on the clean side of the track as the streets are only used as a circuit once each year. It’s not an easy place to overtake and we’ll have to see how much help the DRS will be.

What’s the secret to gaining a good result on the streets of Valencia?

Valencia is all about being very consistent. It’s so easy to lose time with small mistakes.

We’ve had seven winners from seven races so far this season; can you make it eight from eight?

I love winning and that’s what I’m always trying for. I’ve never won in Valencia, so it’s a good target. Last time I raced in Valencia I finished in third after starting from sixth on the grid which was not too bad.

Romain Grosjean: The gap to the win is not that big…

He scored his first Formula 1 podium with third place in Bahrain.

He now comes to Valencia off the back of his first second place finish at the Canadian Grand Prix. Can Romain Grosjean go one step further in Valencia?

After that second place in Montréal, how close to your first victory do you think you are?

The gap to the win is not that big. We need to qualify better, that is not our strength this season but we are working on it. I think Friday and Saturday were quite difficult for us in Canada but we have been learning a lot about the car so it’s good that we now have that in our pocket for the next races.

You didn’t say much about it at the time, but what happened to your foot during the race in Canada?

I had a lot of blisters on the underneath of one of my feet after the race. When you’re in the car and the adrenaline is up you don’t notice so much, but afterwards it was pretty sore. Luckily Kimi’s physio had some blister patches which saved me on the flight back to Paris. It wasn’t a big deal.

We know you enjoy street circuits; Valencia is another one of these, and it’s likely to be pretty warm too… the signs seem to bode well for a good weekend for you?

It’s a good thing to start with for sure. I made my Formula 1 debut here in 2009, so it brings back good memories and it’s a circuit I like anyway. There’s always a great atmosphere too; the city centre is obviously very close, and the America’s Cup harbour is a really nice place to go. The track itself it quite interesting; there are a few second / third gear corners, some high speed sectors, heavy braking zones and usually good weather too so on paper it’s a circuit that could suit us quite well. Hopefully this will be the case!

This circuit has quite a rough surface compared to Monaco and Montréal; this has suited the E20 in the past, do you expect the same here?

This is normally a good thing for us. Strategy will be quite different here I think; it won’t be one stop like in Montréal that’s for sure! It’s usually been very hot here in the past so combined with the rough track that’s often lead to a three stop strategy. Hopefully we’ll have consistent conditions throughout the weekend so we can get as much experience as possible before the race.

You’ve got a pretty good record here in the GP2 Series; does that give you confidence heading into the race?

I had a podium in the first GP2 race here in 2008 and was leading the second race until somebody took me out! Then I managed to win in 2011, so it’s a circuit I’m comfortable with for sure. It definitely helps to know the track already as it usually takes less time to get up to speed and you have a rough idea of where the braking points, turn ins and so on will be. Of course, Formula 1 is always a bit different but at least I have some guidelines going into the weekend.

You’re coming off the back of a great result in Canada; what do you think is possible in Valencia?

We have to go into every weekend aiming for a win; approaching a race in any other way is like putting yourself on the back foot from the start. I’m mainly hoping for an improvement in qualifying, a good start and then we’ll see what happens from there. It’s great to be fighting at the front and that’s always what we want to do, but we’re in a tight battle this season so of course the most important thing is to score some good points again for the team. If we have a strong weekend from the start then I think we are capable of fighting for a podium or even a win. We’ll see after qualifying where we are; hopefully we can get another good result!

Eric Boullier: I’ve found this season quite entertaining

Each of the last two races in Monaco and Montréal have sprung something of a surprise for Eric Boullier, and for highly contrasting reasons. Looking ahead to Valencia, the Team Principal assesses what it takes to be successful in a season of seemingly endless twists and turns…

Eric, Montréal must have been a relief after a tough weekend in Monaco…

Yes. To be honest, we knew the car was competitive but we were not expecting to finish so high up the order. Romain drove very well and, although we knew how good he was when we offered him a drive with the team, he keeps surprising us. He’s bloody fast.

In return, has Romain been surprised by anything this year?

You should ask him, but I’m sure he was not expecting such a long round of applause from the whole factory when he came to Enstone last week! Oh, and I think he was quite surprised too after the Canadian Grand Prix when his engineers told him that he had a substantial number of quick laps left in his tyres.

Will Valencia be a completely different challenge?

The tyres will be different, with the soft and medium compounds available. We’ll have to get used to these again. This said the track temperature should be high, the surface is more abrasive than Montréal, and there are also more corners per lap. All this could suit the E20 quite well.

How do you get involved in the technical matters over a race weekend?

As you know, my background is engineering. As a Team Principal, it helps me to understand the set-up of the cars. I can also sometimes make some suggestions, as I could have faced a similar problem or situation in the past. This said, I’m never stepping into conversations for no reason. We’ve got one of the strongest pools of engineers in the paddock and they know what they’re doing.

What’s the key to a strong performance this year?

If you want to perform, you need to get your weekend absolutely right. The slightest setback can have a very negative effect on your performance over the rest of the weekend. We saw it with Kimi in Monaco, when he skipped the first session because of a steering issue, and also in Montréal, with a hydraulic failure in qualifying. Some people say that Formula 1 has become a lottery, but I don’t agree. I’ve found this season quite entertaining and also very challenging from an engineering point of view.

How do you make sure that you can get your weekend absolutely right?

First of all, you need to prepare for every race as meticulously as possible. Nothing must be left to chance. We’ve come up with a very strong programme during free practice sessions which allows us to do our homework on the Friday without paying attention to what our opponents are doing. This said, there’s nothing we can do in case of a change of climatic conditions or technical failure.

After seven races, you probably have a good idea of the car’s strengths and weaknesses…

Yes, and they are plain to see for everybody. The E20 is very good with its tyres in races where the temperature is high, and it seems to be competitive on every single track layout. This said, we need to improve our qualifying pace and also the way the car performs when the temperature drops. We’ve got some ideas already. Some of them will be implemented in Valencia and we’ll see how it goes

James Allison: We just need that little bit extra to challenge for higher honours

After the frustration of Monaco, a return to the top three in Montréal adds to the team’s podium haul in 2012. Technical Director James Allison  assesses the chances of a repeat performance on the streets of Valencia.

How do you assess the team’s performance at the Canadian Grand Prix?

I was really pleased with the race result for Romain and happy that Kimi also brought home some useful points. It was a very well conducted race by the whole team, including a good pair of pit stops and excellent judgements on what we could get away with on each set of tyres based on a carefully constructed programme on Friday. This was all the more satisfying as the programme in question had to be carried out in a slightly unusual order due to threats of rain. Our feeling from both sessions was that we had good speed in the car, and it was good to see that come to fruition on Sunday, especially after qualifying where our pace was not where we expected it to be.

Tyre management was the main talking point in Montréal, with Romain seemingly doing a better job of this than most; just how far do you think he could have pushed that second set?

We could in fact have gone quite a lot further than we did. There was still plenty of rubber left on them at the end of the race. It really was an excellent performance from Romain, and the car looked very competitive on the soft compound tyres. If you look at the cars who made two stops, their middle stints were around the same pace that Romain was running and he managed to continue until the end of the race. Indeed, after Lewis [Hamilton] stopped for the second time he was only pulling away from Romain at around 0.4s per lap on tyres that were 37 laps younger.

Despite clearly having strong race pace, the E20 doesn’t quite seem to be able to show its potential during qualifying; is this an area of particular focus for the team?

We’ve often been devastatingly fast on the harder of the tyres in qualifying but then come up a bit short on the softer option; that’s an issue we’re working on at the moment. You can point to cars on the grid that are very quick in qualifying but not so competitive in the race and vice-versa. We seem to have a car that is not among the very quickest in qualifying at the moment but has very good race pace. It’s not a bad combination, and we’d rather have it this way round than the other, but if we want to win races we are going to have to improve our qualifying performances. It’s not going to take much, we just need that little bit extra if we want to challenge for higher honours.

What are the main challenges of the Valencia circuit compared with the last outing in Montréal?

Valencia is not exactly famous for challenging corners, but it definitely has a few more than Canada. The tarmac on the streets of Valencia is a little big rougher and it tends to be roasting hot at this time of year; these are all factors which tend to suit us. Montréal was one of the circuits I had concerns about in terms of playing to the strengths of the E20, but we ran pretty well there. Hopefully with Valencia being more in our direction we can produce another good result.

Are you excited at the prospect of running in Valencia given the history of high temperatures at the circuit?

We’re generally looking forward to the summer, but having said that it’s not as if we need the temperature to be scorching. Forty degrees track temperature, as we’d expect to see in Valencia, is not a roasting hot track by any means; it can get a lot warmer than that.

You’ve mentioned that Valencia should theoretically be more to the team’s liking than Montréal, but not by a large margin; with that in mind, and having seen the result last time out, what would you be happy with come Sunday evening?

It’s hard to talk in those terms, but I honestly don’t believe there’s been a race this year where we’ve been incapable of getting a podium on merit. Let’s hope Valencia proves to be the same.

Tech talk: Valencia

1. REAR WING

Although Valencia is a street course, it doesn’t require maximum downforce like you would see at Monaco or Singapore. It does however require more downforce than the last race at Montréal. Set-up here is a compromise between achieving low levels of drag to maximise speed on the straights, whilst creating sufficient downforce to cope with the large number of corners around the lap.

2. BRAKES

There are reasonably high demands on the brakes here, but not on the same level as what we saw in Canada. The nature of the circuit requires the brakes to be progressive, thus reducing the risk of flat spotting tyres; especially early in the weekend when the track is at its dirtiest.

3. SUSPENSION

As mentioned previously, traction out of the low speed corners is essential, meaning a soft rear end is required with a corresponding  front suspension setup. The key here is to avoid excessive understeer at high steering angles around what is an inherently tight circuit.

4. TYRES

This will be the fourth time that the combination of medium and soft compound Pirelli tyres have been used this season. The medium compound is quite hard for a street course and is likely to lack grip, particularly early in the running when the circuit is still green through lack of use.

5. FRONT WING

More downforce is required here than last time out in Montréal, but not as much as at a traditional permanent race track. To help eradicate understeer in the low speed corners, the front wing needs to generate sufficient load to create good grip on turn-in.

6. ENGINE

There are a quite a few low speed corners in Valencia which require good traction under acceleration on exit. Not only does this put a reasonable demand on the engine but it also requires a smooth pickup, making power delivery from the engine an important factor.

Valencia Circuit – An Engineers View: Alan Permane

TURN 1

One of the fastest corners on the circuit, the drivers are pushing 300kph through this quick right hander. Maximum requirement for downforce here to get the best grip from the tyres.

TURNS 2 – 5

Turn two can get very crowded on the first lap, with heavy braking on cold tyres creating a high risk of collisions. Good change of direction and traction are required through the right-left and left-right of turns 2-5.

TURNS 9 + 10

The bridge which forms part of turns nine and ten is a unique feature, and has caught out a number of drivers over the years. The transition onto the bridge does feature a small gap as the bridge is moveable, but this does not affect the cars.

APPROACHING TURN 12

One of the fastest sections of the circuit leads into the one of the slowest corners at turn twelve, requiring a delicate touch on the brake pedal from the drivers to avoid flat spottingthe tyres; especially early in the weekend when the track is at its dirtiest.

TURNS 14 – 17

Another fast curve leading into a slow right hander. The same challenges as encountered in turn twelve apply, with the added twist of a high speed series of kinks from turn eighteen right through to the final corner.

Latest News

Cleaner, Greener… Faster!

As part of an ongoing plan to ensure the team’s Enstone home remains at the cutting edge of Formula 1 technology, work began last year to create a ‘Driver-in-the-Loop’ simulator within the grounds of the factory, allowing the team to recreate race scenarios and giving the drivers an opportunity to learn how the car will respond at each circuit.

With construction complete, Lotus F1 Team partner Trina Solar stepped in to install a solar panel system on the roof of the new facility. Contributing significantly to the team’s efforts to minimise its impact on the environment, the system provides clean solar energy to power the simulator building.

Key Facts

  • The installation is capable of producing some 33,000 kWh of electricity over the course of a year – equivalent to over 40,000 BHP – thus mitigating against the team’s overall carbon footprint at the rural Oxfordshire site.
  • The power output covers about three quarters of the simulator’s energy needs – no mean feat considering the complex technology within.
  • The panels are fixed using a drop-in mounting solution which eliminates the use of long rails and reduces the number of parts needed, thus significantly bringing down installation time and cost.
  • Thanks to this mounting system – known as ‘Trinamount’ – installation of the panels was completed in less than two days; a project which would otherwise have taken up to two weeks.

Make Some Room!

With Romain’s second place in Canada adding to the silverware collection here at Enstone, the facts and figures of the team’s 2012 season to date make for interesting reading. This season has seen the team clinch four podium finishes thus far, two in Bahrain (Kimi P2 / Romain P3), one in Spain (Kimi P3) and another in Canada (Romain P2). McLaren currently leads the trophy collection in 2012 with six pieces of silverware. Lotus F1 Team occupies P2 with four, with Red Bull and Ferrari just behind – three apiece for the pair to date. Enstone teams have exceeded four podium finishes in a single season on quite a number of occasions, with the most recent being the double World Championship winning year of 2006. How far into the Enstone record books can Kimi and Romain take the E20 in 2012?

I Can See Clearly Now…

Over the course of the Canadian Grand Prix Weekend, Lotus F1 Team held an online competition giving fans the chance to win a genuine signed visor as used by Kimi Räikkönen, with four runners up also receiving Official Lotus F1 Team caps signed by the Iceman himself.Q1: The team entered its first Canadian Grand Prix in 1981 as Toleman – Derek Warwick was one man behind the wheel, but who was his team mate? (Answer: Brian Henton)Q2: How many wins has the team achieved in Montréal? (Answer: 3)Q3: How many podium finishes have we clinched in Montréal? (Answer: 12)

IN NUMBERS: Valencia

2.7: Highest g-force experienced for 2 seconds at T19 and T20

16: % of the lap spent braking

45: Total straight per lap (%)

59: % of lap on full throttle

62: Number of gear changes per lap

65: Lowest apex speed (kmh) at T25

295: Highest apex speed (kmh) at T23 and T24

317: Top speed (kmh)

450: Distance in metres from start line to first corner

900: Longest full throttle burst (sec) between T10 and T12

THE DRIVERS A-Z…

Kimi

NASCAR: Kimi has recently ventured into racing in the United States, making his debut in the Camping World Truck Series last year

Romain

Night Owl: In 2010 Romain clinched victory in two of the first three races of the inaugural FIA GT1 world championship, and also took part in the Le Mans and Spa 24-Hour races.

OUR HISTORY: EUROPEAN GP

  • Lotus F1 Team made its European Grand Prix debut in 1983 under the Toleman name, with British driver Derek Warwick and Italian Bruno Giacomelli at the wheel around the Brands Hatch circuit.
  • In its various guises the team has achieved three European Grand Prix victories to date; the first in 1994 (Michael Schumacher, Benetton, Jerez) and the most recent in 2005 (Fernando Alonso, Renault, Nürburgring).
  • Including the three victories, the team has taken four European Grand Prix podiums; the first in 1994 (Michael Schumacher, Benetton, Jerez) and the most recent in 2006 (Fernando Alonso, Renault, Nürburgring).
  • The team has also claimed a total of two pole positions for the European Grand Prix; the first in 1994 (Michael Schumacher, Benetton, Jerez) and the most recent in 2006 (Fernando Alonso, Renault, Nürburgring).
  • Under its various banners, the team has set three fastest laps during European Grands Prix; the first in 1994 (Michael Schumacher, Benetton, Jerez) and the most recent in 2006 (Fernando Alonso, Renault, Nürburgring).
  • Kimi has a solid record at the various venues to have hosted the European Grand Prix, having taken two podiums (2002 / 2009), two pole positions (2003 / 2007) and set one fastest lap (2003) in his nine participations.
  • Romain has fond memories of the European Grand Prix, having made his Formula 1 debut at the Valencia Street Circuit in 2009. The Frenchman has also competed in various other categories at the venue, including a GP2 victory in 2011.
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