Kimi Räikkönen: “There is nothing like Monaco”

Two podiums from the last two races for Formula 1’s most popular returnee in 2012. Here, Kimi looks ahead to Monaco.

Barcelona was your second podium in a row for the team; how was it from your perspective?

To be honest, I was a little disappointed. I expected us to be a bit stronger in the race, especially at the beginning. In the last stint we were very good, but it was too late. We were not fast enough to race and that’s why we couldn’t fight for a win. But we showed in the end that we have good speed.

You were flying at the end – was there anything more you could have done to catch Fernando?

Our strategy was to be fast at the end of the race, and we were. When you’re in this situation you wish the race was a little longer, but if it was longer then the other teams would have used different strategies.

I was pushing as hard as I could and to catch up almost 20 seconds felt good, but there’s a little bit of a disappointed feeling afterwards, as in just a few more laps you could have been fighting for first place. That’s racing and at least we scored some good points. We’re going in the right direction.

Second and third already; do you feel a win is around the corner?

To be on the podium twice already is good. Unfortunately you’re not always going to get there. If you get the chance, you should take it because it’s not every race that you will be able to fight for that position. Hopefully we can keep doing what we’re doing now and at a certain point I’m sure that things will go exactly right and we’ll get there. So far we’ve made good steps forward and the car has been strong everywhere.

How are your prospects heading to Monaco?

Monaco is a little bit different and it’s hard to say how it will go there. The team has done a good job so far and we still have work to do and things to improve. So far it’s going well and I’m happy with it. OK, we’re not 100% satisfied with it because we are not winning but that’s a very normal thing and I’m pleased for the team.

How do you define the Monaco Grand Prix?

It’s useless to put races in different categories, because all of them are as important to me. However, as a special race there is nothing like Monaco. There is no better feeling than to get things going well in there. To race in the streets of Monte Carlo is really different from everywhere else; a challenge I look forward to every year. It is very, very difficult, almost impossible, to have a clean weekend there.

You won in Monaco in 2005 – how did that feel?

I’ve only managed to get it right once before, you really do get the greatest feeling by winning it. My win in 2005 ranks up there with my most memorable. So to win it again would be just as special.

What’s the challenge behind the wheel?

It’s such a twisty and narrow track. You have to be extra sharp and focussed in every single metre you go fast there. It gives such a good feeling a fast lap in Monaco. Overtaking has been almost impossible there in the past so to really enjoy racing there you have to be at the front.

What about the atmosphere?

Monaco is always special. It’s an interesting place to go to, with a lot of fans and a lot of parties going on – or so I’m told. It’s a completely different atmosphere from anywhere else.

What’s your approach to the weekend?

We have to focus on qualifying. It’s a difficult place to race as it’s so narrow and passing is nearly impossible. I was stuck behind Rubens [Barrichello] in 2009 and we had KERS then, but you just couldn’t get past. We’ll have to see how the tyres perform and if there are any good strategies to be made, but the most important thing is qualifying well. It’s difficult to know how good the car will be in Monaco as you can’t simulate its characteristics, certainly not at any of the circuits we’ve visited so far this year. We can say the E20 has been fast everywhere else so let’s hope it’s also fast at Monaco.

Romain Grosjean: “I hope we will have a pleasant surprise”

After the first two races Romain had completed a mere four race laps.

Now five races into the season he can look back on two strong points scoring Grands Prix, with a fourth place finish in Barcelona the latest result. Next stop Monaco as the Frenchman gets ready for the closest thing to a home Grand Prix…

How do you feel after another strong result in Spain?

I think we can be quite happy with the result. Not satisfied, but happy. Both cars in the top four is good for the team and good for the championship. It’s good for me as well to finish another race, and to gain some more experience at the front of the field. We have also shown ourselves to be one of the most consistent teams in the paddock, which is a very good strength.  We can still improve our car and that’s what everyone is working hard for.

Did you feel any pressure after missing morning practice and having to go straight into qualifying in Barcelona?

For sure, missing the third practice added a little bit of pressure for qualifying, but then what can you do? That’s racing. Sometimes you have issues but it didn’t cost us much in qualifying; maybe a little bit more in the race – because the set-up could have been slightly better. Not much, but slightly. I think we can learn from that, be happy about the recovery we made and feel optimistic about the future.

How difficult was it racing with a damaged front wing?

My start was okay but not fantastic.into the first corner Sergio [Perez] was on my outside, but then he tried to open through turn two for turn three. Unfortunately I was on his left and he came into my car and I touched his rear wheels with my front wing. He had a puncture and it cost me quite a lot of downforce, which we tried to recover in the pit stop, but never managed completely. It didn’t help especially as we were struggling with the front tyres, so it was worse than it should  have been. It was quite a lot better after the pit stop I have to say. The first stint didn’t look fantastic, but then I could play with the brake balance and diff to help the car to suit me a bit better. For sure it was not a dream, but it was okay. It was good enough to keep the Mercedes of Michael [Schumacher] behind me and then go on to pass Nico [Rosberg], and also set the fastest lap so it can’t have been too bad!

How do you feel heading to Monaco with a car that’s we’ve seen has been good this year?

I think Monaco is going to be a fantastic event and it is a special race for me for sure. There are certain to be a lot of French fans, and I’m looking forward to their support. It’s also a very special event in its own right, and the atmosphere is quite crazy! As a driver you have to stay calm and relaxed and try to do your job. It’s a track that doesn’t allow any mistakes. You have to respect it and that is the key there I think. Hopefully we can have another good result.

It’s a very particular and distinct track, how do you think the E20 will perform there?

Well this is what we will discover.

I think Monaco is a specialist track and it’s very difficult to say if a car will suit there or not. It’s bumpy on the straights and it’s a very low grip track surface. All these things mean that you never know what to expect. On a more normal racetrack you know more what you are going to have.

I hope we will have a pleasant surprise and that the car will suit Monaco’s unique challenges. That would be nice.

How have you been finding this year – your comeback, first points, first podium. It’s building and building…

It’s nice, for sure. That’s why we enjoy Formula 1: for the pressure, for the bad news but sometimes the good results. It is all of these up-and-downs that make it special. Honestly I enjoy the life in Formula 1. I hope I can stay here for a while because this is where I feel quite happy professionally. I hope one day I can have my first victory, then more and then win the world title.

Eric Boullier: “If we keep scoring like this we may have to revise our expectations”

Following a second event where both cars scored strongly, Team Principal, Eric Boullier ponders the team’s expectations for the season and looks forward to the next chapter in the small Principality of Monaco.

Eric, the aim at the start of the season was to finish fourth in the Constructors’ Championship – the team are currently in third place and closing on second…

After a difficult first few races – where our pace on track did not convert to results at the chequered flag – it’s true to say we have had two strong results and if we continue to score like this we may have to revise our expectations. That said, nothing stands still in Formula 1 and we would be foolhardy to underestimate the opposition. We have had two good results, yes, but we have not scored a win. Things change very quickly so we won’t be resting on our laurels.

Heading into the Spanish Grand Prix there was a lot of expectation on the team, and Friday’s pace seemed to compound that. Was it somewhat frustrating not to have achieved better in the race?

We did look good on Friday, but then the race is on a Sunday. Conditions change, your rivals fine tune their cars and setups. No-one wins anything from being fastest in practice or setting the best lap times on a long fuel run during a practice session. It’s the race that matters and that’s where our focus lies.

How difficult will it be to score a win in 2012?

In terms of the number of winners so far this season you could say it’s easier than before! That’s not the case. It’s so close this season and you can be a hero one weekend and a zero the next. Our strength has been that we have been there or thereabouts at every circuit. So far we haven’t suffered the performance fluctuations that some of our rivals have seen. If we continue like this we will be very well placed for scoring good championship points. Of course, scoring points is one thing. They’re very valuable and whoever has the most wins the championship. But we all really want to have a win.

Do you think the team’s first win of the year can come in Monaco?

We are celebrating our 500th Grand Prix in Monaco so what a story that would be! Monaco is a unique event and it really is the jewel in the Formula 1 crown. Historically Enstone teams have shown good pace in Monaco, but last year’s car wasn’t strong in slow speed corners so we may have some work to do. In terms of the team and our drivers, we’re all ready for a win. We’re looking at every aspect of the car and how we run it and we’re all focused tremendously on achieving our goals. A win would be a fabulous thing.

What work is still to be done?

Both our drivers are improving with every race as they had both been away for two years. We’ve seen how good they are with their results, but they are both getting better all the time. It’s fantastic that they are both so close on pace, in qualifying and in the races. Car development is of course an ongoing project and we have plenty of developments and refinements for what is a very good starting point with the E20. We are also focusing heavily on pit stops, in particular the tools and components used during stops to ensure we are not missing any tricks to spending the smallest amount of time possible in the pitlane.

How different is the feeling for you and the team relative to last season?

This time last year we also had some good feelings from podiums in Australia and Malaysia, but we had a design concept which would frustrate our potential. This year we have had a great sniff of victory and that is driving everyone forwards, making us all work harder. We’re hungry and we know what we want

James Allison: “I’m really very happy that our drivers are breathing right down one another’s necks!”

After another positive weekend in Barcelona, Lotus F1 Team Technical Director James Allison reflects on the team’s performance at the Spanish Grand Prix and looks ahead to the jewel in the Formula 1 crown; the Monaco Grand Prix.

How good is it to have a strong points haul from the last two races?

I think we can be very happy with the number of points we’ve accumulated in the last couple of races and I’m delighted with the consolidation that’s given us in the Constructors’ Championship. I’m also quite optimistic for the rest of the season as the Circuit de Catalunya was another location where the car has been good and both our drivers have been strong. I’m happy that we haven’t suffered – so far at least – the fluctuation in form that has hit many teams this year. Given the excellent results both in Barcelona and Bahrain it seems churlish, to say the least, to express disappointment at not yet having sneaked a win! But we’re hopeful that will come in time.

Why weren’t we so quick in the beginning of the race…

It is genuinely hard to tell. Perhaps we had overestimated our relative pace on Friday. Perhaps the lower track temperatures on Sunday had a small effect. Perhaps our car did not react so well to the green track that resulted from overnight rain on Saturday evening. These are impossible questions to answer. All we can say for certain is that while we were pretty quick in Barcelona, we were not good enough to win the race. It is worth mentioning in addition that Romain’s wing was really quite substantially damaged after the first corner. We were not able to recover the lost downforce that comes with losing bits of your car, but we were able to re-balance the car by cranking the front flap angle up in the first pit stop. So although he was fighting with one hand behind his back, he was able to make progress from that point forward.

Looking ahead to Monaco, what’s in store for the car?

We’ve got a bigger rear wing as you need more downforce at Monaco than you need anywhere else. If you look closer, or if you are a very keen fan of bodywork changes then you’ll see that the area around the side pods and the rear drums will be different too.

Other than how the car looks, what about the changes under the skin for Monaco?

We have to make modifications to the suspension to enable the necessary lock to get around Loews Hairpin and Rascasse. We have also made some changes, for Kimi in particular, to make the steering a little more reactive for Monaco.

Last year’s car didn’t excel in slow corners – what’s our evaluation of the E20 in this regard?

If you take Barcelona, we were really very strong in the first two sectors; which are more of the sweeping parts of the track, and less good relatively in the third sector, which is the slower, twister part. Perhaps if we look back, of the five races we’ve done so far, the race where we were least impressive was China and that’s a track with relatively few sweeping corners and lots of lower speed traction events. So there is a train of thought that Monaco might not play to the strengths of our car. However there are other things about Monaco that are different entirely, which are much harder to gauge. For starters the corners are so slow that the strength we’ve seen in very fast corners compared with moderate corners is not really any sort of form guide for competitiveness around Monaco’s twists and turns. Secondly, driver skill plays a relatively bigger part at Monaco than at most tracks, and we are fortunate to have a pair of decent peddlers. Finally, a large part of Monaco is confidence from the driver. Confidence that they can lean on the car and know that it’s not going to misbehave. So far, the E20 has proved to be a very predictable, straight-forward car to drive – a quality it shares with the R30. So hopefully they will be able to lean on it to good effect. We’ll have to see.

How happy are you with the performance of Kimi and Romain – both five races into their returns after two years away.

Well I’m really very happy that our drivers are breathing right down one another’s necks! It makes a very welcome change to the last couple of seasons, or more, where we’ve only really had one car challenging. Having both of them able to score big points in every race is very valuable to us. The fact they are so close to one another will also mean they both have to keep right at the top of their game all year, which can only be good for the team.

Tech talk: Monaco

1. REAR WING

We will have a Monaco-specific ‘big’ rear wing to gain more downforce at the slower overall speeds we see here.

2. BRAKES

Brakes are not a big concern. It’s only low speed so you’re not braking significantly as you would from a long straight into a first gear corner, and it’s also a shorter race than most, so wear is not an issue. You need to monitor temperature because there aren’t high speed sections to cool down the brakes and the relentless stop / start nature can compound heat generation.

3. SUSPENSION

Monaco has the greatest undulations relative to any other circuit, so you need a soft car which allows the tyres to be on the tarmac as much as possible. This means softer roll bars and springs, with the aim of maximising mechanical grip without losing too much aerodynamic grip.

4. TYRES

This will be the first time we see Pirelli’s red-marked supersoft tyre at a race. We’ll also run the soft compound. Tyre wear is very low here, due to the smooth track surface and low speed layout.

5. FRONT WING

Front downforce is very important here and we run maximum front wing with more balance to the front because of the understeer inducing characteristics of the circuit.

6. ENGINE

You need an engine with very good response. Rather than ultimate power being the goal; drivability is king. You’ll never go slower with more power, but it’s the least power sensitive circuit of the year. The engine also spends a relatively short amount of time at full throttle so the challenge is to deliver torque through the lower rev limits of the engine. However, as Monaco is a bumpy street track, the engine needs a good limiter setting so it is capable of digesting all the bumps. Fuel consumption also needs to be worked out accurately as the track gets quicker and quicker over the week-end.

Monaco Circuit – An Engineers View: Alan Permane

TURN 1

The first corner is very tight and has been the scene of many incidents over the years. The drivers need to keep their wits about them to avoid any drama.

TURNS 4 + 5

The bumpy track between turns four and five means that the drivers need to modify their line to avoid unsettling their car unduly.

TURN 6

The slowest corner on the circuit, and of the entire season. Suspension and steering mods have to be made to the car just to make it through this turn.

TURN 9

Taken flat out, the tunnel is the fastest part of the track. The contrast of natural, artificial, then natural light is a big challenge for the drivers. Track temperature is also different from the rest of the circuit.

TURN 10

Exiting the tunnel into the chicane is the scene of many out-braking manoeuvres. An opportunity to pressurise the car ahead, but a place where mistakes are often seen.

TURN 14

The Swimming Pool, ‘La Piscine’, is entered very quickly, before braking hard for turn 15.

TURN 18

Turn 18, La Rascasse, is the second slowest part of the circuit with the cars running very close to the inside wall.

START/FINISH STRAIGHT

A good exit is essential leading on to the start finish straight. High traction demands here.

Today’s Winners, Tomorrow’s Champions…

A collaboration of Gravity Sports Management and Lotus F1 Team is working to find the Kimi Räikkönens and Romain Grosjeans of the future. Formula Renault 3.5 Drivers Kevin Korjus and Richie Stanaway, Formula Renault 2.0 competitors Oscar Tunjo and Esteban Ocon, and KF3 karting star Dorian Boccolacci joined the team at Enstone last week for a unique education in fitness and nutrition.

The journey began for the racing protégés in the Lotus F1 Team Human Performance Centre (HPC), where the young drivers spoke with a host of the team’s fitness partners to gain tips and tricks on how to keep themselves in peak physical condition.

Of course, it’s not just the exercise regimes which will help these young drivers to reach the top; getting the right nutrition is just as essential. Over the course of the week the drivers also donned their aprons for a series of cookery classes in the Enstone kitchen.

In addition, the group received an insight into the essential training supplements provided to help the drivers push themselves to the limit. Beyond simply packing in the protein, the key is to use each supplement in the correct way to assist the young stars in their race preparation and recovery.

New Arrivals…

Early last week, a crowd started to gather around the entrance to the Enstone machine shop as a large truck arrived to offload a new arrival. Composites Production Engineer Colin Watts explains what all the fuss is about:

CW: “We’ve brought in three new 5axis CNC machines, all of which are used to machine the patterns required for manufacturing composite parts of the car. Two of the machines are called Antares, and there’s another known as the Ares.

The Antares are basically smaller versions of the Ares. Between the three of them they’re replacing two older models of machine which we had been using for quite a few years. All three do roughly the same job, just with different scales of project.”

Going for Gold

The Monaco Grand Prix is an event like no other; a view undoubtedly shared by Romain Grosjean, who has created a special new helmet design just for this race:

RG: “Monaco is always a special event, but with this being the 500th race for the team and also the closest thing to a home race for me I wanted to do something different. The design itself is very much the same as my original helmet; I’ve mainly changed the colours, which are now red gold and white. I’m planning on changing the colours a few times throughout the season. There are a few races I have in mind, but I’m not going to say any more; it will be a nice surprise!”

A Safe Bet

Lotus F1 Team has announced a partnership with sports betting website Interwetten.com. Harnessing the commercial pull of a promising start to the 2012 season, the team’s latest sponsorship deal sees the Interwetten.com name on the team’s cars as well as further branding locations.Representatives from Interwetten.com will also be introduced to Lotus F1 Team’s

IN NUMBERS: Monaco

3.5 Highest g-force experienced for 3 seconds at T3

20% of the lap spent braking

45 Total straight per lap (%)

62 Number of gear changes per lap

44.5% of lap on full throttle

50 Lowest apex speed (kmh) at T6

150 Distance in metres from start line to first corner

269 Highest apex speed (kmh) at T2

285 Top speed (kmh)

500 Longest full throttle burst (metres) through the tunnel

THE DRIVERS A-Z…

Kimi

– Karting: Kimi owned his first kart when he was eight years old. He started competing in 1988 and went on to take the Nordic Championship a decade later.

– Last lap: The Finn produced perhaps his greatest victory at Suzuka in 2005 from 17th on the grid, storming through the field to pass Giancarlo Fisichella on lap 53 of 53.

Romain

– Karting: Romain made his debut competing in karts in 2000 at the age of 14. Only three years later he graduated to single-seaters.

– Late starter: Romain’s father wouldn’t let him race until he improved his grades at school.

OUR HISTORY: MONACO GP

– Lotus F1 Team made its Monaco 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 four Monaco Grand Prix victories to date; the first in 1994 (Michael Schumacher, Benetton) and the most recent in 2006 (Fernando Alonso, Renault).

– Including the four victories, the team has taken eight Monaco Grand Prix podiums; the first in 1984 (Ayrton Senna, Toleman) and the most recent in 2010 (Robert Kubica, Renault).

– The team has also claimed a total of three pole positions for the Monaco 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 three fastest laps during Monaco Grands Prix; the first in 1984 (Ayrton Senna, Toleman) and the most recent in 1996 (Jean Alesi, Benetton).

– The Circuit de Monaco is one Kimi knows well, having taken one win (2005), three podiums (2003 / 2005 / 2009), one pole position (2005) and two fastest laps (2003 / 2008) from his nine Grands Prix in the principality.

– While Romain will be making his Monaco Grand Prix debut, he does have a good record at the Circuit de Monaco. An outstanding performance during the 2011 GP2 Feature race saw the Frenchman finish in P4 having started at the back of the grid in P26.

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