LRGP prepares for round eight of the season in Valencia (Spain).
Nick Heidfeld interview
“The Valencia track will be faster than Monaco, slower than Canada”
After luck deserted him in Montreal, Nick discusses his intent on putting things right in Valencia.
You must be disappointed after Montreal – was it just a case of bad luck?
Yes, I think it was bad luck. I have put it behind me now but it is difficult to know what could have been done differently. When the incident happened, I was behind Kamui (Kobayashi) and he suddenly slowed down instead of accelerating which would be the normal action at this part of the track. Of course then I couldn’t avoid him and went into the back of his car, my front wing came off and unfortunately my race reached its end. These things happen from time to time, it was just unlucky that it took place when we were in such a strong position fighting for high-end points.
Despite the disappointment, there were positive signs for the team throughout the weekend – what can you draw from the experience?
Overall, it was definitely a positive weekend for us, especially if you look at the preceding race in Monaco. It was a good step forward to have both cars qualifying in the top ten, and then to have Vitaly scoring 10 points, too. Before I went out (of the race), I was driving well. It was important for the team to come away from Canada understanding some of the problems we encountered in Monaco, and I think we have clear proof that we did exactly that. We now know which direction we need to take, and it is obvious the team started doing that during the two-week spell between Monaco and Montreal. These things don’t magically happen overnight, but we have done a good job in analysing where we need to improve. In addition, the pit wall team made the right decisions over the weekend to put us in a strong fighting position.
Valencia is another street circuit – what are your views on this track?
It’s another street circuit but different to both Monaco, which is a proper street circuit, and Canada which is more of a high speed street circuit. This is a different type of track, faster than Monaco, slower than Canada. I think it will also require the car to be set-up with a bit more downforce than we needed in Montreal. It’s a reasonably recent race to join the F1 calendar but I’ve been there before so we will see how we get on.
Four more races until the August break, what’s your target for these?
Well, we will take it one race at a time. Firstly, our thoughts are very much on Valencia and this is our priority for now. I always want to get the maximum out of the car and each situation. I am sure I’ll be able to fight for a strong points finish here.
Seven races into the 2011 campaign, do you feel this season has been particularly exciting for F1 fans?
On one hand, yes but on the other hand, no. The races have been very exciting in terms of overtaking and unpredictability, so in that sense the sport has been more of a spectacle. However, if you look at the lead Sebastian (Vettel) has in the Drivers’ Standings then it is not much of a fight at the moment. From that side of things it is quite one-sided. But, this could change very quickly and it will be interesting to see what happens when the rules on the exhaust systems are altered.
Vitaly Petrov interview
“My target for the coming races is points, points and more points”
With ten more points to his name in Montreal, Vitaly is looking to Valencia to improve upon his seventh position in the Drivers’ Standings
Sitting nicely in the Drivers’ Standings after 10 more points in Montreal – were you happy with your race there?
I would have to say 50/50. We were expecting to be a little bit higher in qualifying, but I think we had some bad luck during the session so our performance was lower than hoped for. The race itself was not easy because both Nick and I were on different car set-ups. I had less downforce in my set-up, and I think that if I’d had more (downforce) I would have had a stronger race. Personally, I think I could have pitted a little earlier so strategically we could maybe have done it even better I think, but this is only my personal opinion. We finished fifth, took some points from the race but I know we did not fully capitalise on the situation.
First Monaco, then Montreal – both races were eventful for different reasons. Does the unpredictability keep you challenged?
Yes, it does, and these races add to your experience as a driver. It is a challenging season with a variety of circuits and, as a team, we are really amongst it and fighting for the high-end points. The season is a long one, but we need to focus, work hard and above all have the right strategy. We’ve been spot on most of the time in this area this season and we need to keep up the good work. Strategy, strategy, strategy!
You finished 14th at the European Grand Prix last year – what’s your impression of the track?
It’s the third consecutive street circuit race, so we are getting used to these types of venues! I actually have very good memories of racing in Valencia because I won here three times when competing in the GP2 series. I haven’t made my mark here yet in Formula 1 but this year I’m much more prepared.
Seven races into the season, are you satisfied with how things have gone?
I think we can do much, much more. I know I’ve said that before but I really believe we can. We’ve had good results, but together we can achieve greater things. Sometimes I’ve made mistakes, sometimes our pit stops could have been improved, but generally I think we can take it up a level. We need to minimise the mistakes, and the points will keep on coming.
Four more races until the summer break – what is your target for these?
My target for the coming races is points, points and more points. It would be much better to take our summer break in the knowledge that we had scored some well-deserved points in the lead-up to it. Valencia’s a circuit I know very well so I think I have an advantage going into the race. I’m feeling pretty good heading into the next four events.
Eric Boullier interview – ‘A word with the boss’
After a memorable race in Montreal, Eric looks to the European Grand Prix – the third consecutive street circuit on the F1 calendar.
It was an unpredictable race in Montreal – F1 is proving quite an exciting spectacle at the moment…
It was completely unusual to have such a deluge but, as we thought it would be, the race was very exciting and a fantastic spectacle until the very last lap. There’s no doubt we could have had a better result and seeing Nick collide with Kamui was not pleasant. I am obviously happy for Vitaly who had another strong weekend.
You have talked before about fans being the future of the sport – do eventful races of the kind we saw in Monaco and Montreal help boost its popularity?
Firstly, it is always so refreshing to meet the fans, and it motivates you to do your job even better when you see them at the race tracks. Monaco is a very special race for the sport and Montreal is a city that breathes F1; the entire city was completely decorated for Grand Prix week. These two venues alone are great evidence of F1’s global popularity. In addition, we had two very eventful races, which help the sport even more – dramatic, exciting races are what fans want to see. While I was in Montreal, I took part in the FOTA fans forum and I was delighted that FOTA could organise a straightforward debate with fans. The forum turned out to be very interesting and constructive. I think we should continue to thank all the fans for their great support and commitment to these types of discussions, and to the sport as a whole.
Does what you saw in the last race demonstrate that LRGP’s season is getting back on track?
Yes, definitely. Obviously we are still struggling a bit in qualifying – we need to be higher up on the starting grid – but we are fighting for the top six, and I’m convinced things will get even better in Valencia.
What are the key aspects the team has focused on in the lead-up to Valencia to ensure it remains competitive?
We have made a lot of technical tweaks to the car, a number of which came as a result of understanding our lack of qualifying performance. If you add to these a couple of upgrades, we should be able to take a strong step forward.
It’s another street circuit – how will this track suit the R31?
It is beneficial for the sport to have these street circuits, as it provides a contrast from some of the purpose built tracks. The track will suit us well and we expect to be fighting for places on the front three rows come Sunday’s starting grid.
Four more races until the mid-season break – what are you expecting the team to achieve in this time?
We need another podium or two in this time to cement our position amongst the grid’s elite teams, and to remain competitive ahead of Mercedes GP whose season has clearly improved. Retaining our position in the top four in the Constructors’ Championship is an absolute priority for us, and we must continue to lay down the marker over the next four races.
James Allison – Tech Talk
“The new top rear wing will offer better overtaking potential during the race” James Allison looks at the return to Europe, where the medium tyre compound will be making its race debut.
What are the key challenges in Valencia?
Valencia is dominated by low speed corners. Although there are a couple of fast corners, they are normally taken flat out so the challenge, therefore, is to get the car working well in slow corners. Furthermore, as this will be the first opportunity to run the new medium tyre compound in a Grand Prix, it will be important to get settled on it quickly and to establish a good race setup with it.
Valencia has not seen the greatest amount of overtaking in previous races – should this year be different?
I would expect it to be different this year, yes. The straight is long enough for DRS to function and there is likely to be a reasonably different level of performance from the two tyre compounds. This will lead to plenty of overtaking.
What evolutions and modifications are planned for the car?
As always, there will be a host of aero updates. The most significant of these will be a new top rear wing with a bigger DRS switching effect. This will bring outright lap time in qualifying and offer better overtaking potential during the race.
How do you evaluate the performance of the R31 in wet and variable conditions at the Canadian GP?
We were not very happy with the performance of the car on either the full wet or the intermediate tyres. However, once we got on to the dry tyres at the end of the race we looked much more in the hunt and were able to make inroads on all but the top two cars.
Nick and Vitaly both looked very strong in Montreal – how difficult is it to make strategy calls in conditions like those experienced there?
We looked OK on the dry tyres, but while on the wet weather rubber we were kept in the race as a result of a good reading of the rain radar and good strategy calls. In changeable conditions like we saw there, it is extremely difficult to make the correct decisions all the time as there is a degree of luck involved. All that Alan Permane (Chief Engineer) and Matthieu Dubois (Strategist) can do is to hope to have a good batting average. Thankfully they are pretty reasonable at it, and at the last race they made another set of decent calls to leave us well placed to capitalise on very difficult circumstances.
We’re now back in Europe for the next six races – how does this affect the development programme?
Europe or flyaway races do not really have an impact on the development programme these days. We push as hard as we can from the first race to the last, and we will try to bring new performance to each and every race in the championship. We have a more efficient rear wing for Valencia, and we are looking to ensure that we make as good a job as possible of coping with the impending changes to the blown floor engine mapping.
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Drivers’ Guide to Valencia
Describe Valencia in three words
NH: America’s Cup sailing!
VP: Sunny, fun, memories (great ones).
Favourite restaurants and bars?
NH: There are plenty of good places to eat out along by the beach, and I’ve had some good paellas there in the past.
VP: I lived there, so too many to name!
What do you think of the track?
NH: It’s a fairly recent addition to the F1 calendar, but again it’s a street circuit, this time with the sea and boats neighbouring it rather than large buildings! We will need some more downforce than we ran the car with in Montreal and the brakes will once again need to be good.
VP: Another street circuit, though different to Monaco and Montreal (somewhere in between). I enjoy racing here.
Best memory of Valencia?
NH: I spent some good time there with my family a few years ago, and have some fond memories.
VP: My GP2 victories.
Did you know?
Renault-powered cars have won the European Grand Prix in 2010 (Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Renault), 1996 (Jacques Villeneuve, Williams Renault) and 1995 (Michael Schumacher, Benetton Renault).