Bruno Senna interview
“We should be household names in Q3 every Saturday afternoon ”
With the honeymoon period now over, Bruno returns to business and explains his enthusiasm for becoming better acquainted with the R31.
You’ve been making a lot of history lately; your first race for LRGP, your first F1 points – what’s next?
It’s hard to say. We are progressing nicely, and I’m gradually becoming more comfortable with the car and with the team. There are a number of areas I still need to progress; I need to improve my technical knowledge of the R31 and there are some areas of my driving to brush up on – I’m certainly not 100% there yet. I’m sweeping up every piece of information I can each weekend and I hope that, as a team, we can continue scoring points and secure top 10 qualifying positions in the meantime – we should be household names in Q3 every Saturday afternoon. Hopefully by the time I’m fully-acquainted with the car, I’ll be securing more points for the team.
Has the reality now sunk in that you are an LRGP race driver?
Yes, it has well and truly sunk in. I had a great time in Monza because I already had one race under my belt. I have had various outings in the R31 this year, but I haven’t had the race weekend experience that the other drivers on the grid have had ; they were fully up to speed with their cars and aware of what they could achieve by the time I arrived. Everything is, of course, a little new from my point of view. Before Monza, I’d only had one experience of qualifying, which was very tough. The race was a great learning curve; it was enjoyable and I think it was a very encouraging result considering how much trouble I was in at the first corner. The evidence is there for all to see that the car performed well and the team adopted a good strategy – two very encouraging signs indeed.
What has been the most trying aspect of your new role ?
It has been quite tricky getting used to the tyres. Everyone started this season talking about tyres, tyres and tyres but, as with most things, the more practise you can get the easier it becomes. Getting the most out of the Pirelli tyres is not easy ; it’s a big learning curve, but it’s apparent there is plenty of potential to come (from them), so I hope to piece it all together in the next few races.
The Singapore GP– this being a night race, how will your approach change?
Singapore will be a real test. It’s a fairly recent addition to the calendar in F1 terms, and it will be quite a novelty for me. It will be quite demanding to extract everything I can from the car, but I am enthusiastic about what awaits, and I hope I can reward the team with some more points.
I will approach the weekend in a similar vain to Monza by completing as many laps as possible in the practice sessions, which will hopefully help me reach Q3 in qualifying. Singapore is a trying track; there are so many corners and you have to be on the ball to avoid making mistakes; it really does bring out the best in a driver. Knowing how to set-up the car is not easy either. Physically, it’s also difficult because it is very humid and the track requires you to be precise corner after corner. Driving at night, you notice the combination of light and shadow which takes some getting used to. As with the Malaysian GP, Singapore requires you to arrive at the track a little earlier to help acclimatise. Having said that, the team will also remain on their British Summer Time body clocks because of the weekend’s timetable! I’m looking forward to a fun and different type of race weekend.
Vitaly Petrov interview
“There’s no doubt the mood within the camp is high”
After his first corner disappointment in Italy, Vitaly tells us he is ready for some nocturnal driving in Singapore
Lady luck seemed to desert you in Italy – what’s your take on the race?
Throughout the weekend the team made a good step forward. We improved on the set-up of the car, and of course our P7 and P10 qualifying positions were great news; there was a very buoyant team spirit after that! Then, for the race it was just a case of bad luck, but that’s sport. I think Vitantonio (Liuzzi) understands where he went wrong and we’ve now drawn a line under it and taken a positive step forward from that weekend. There’s no doubt the mood within the camp is high.
Next stop Singapore – is that a special race for you ?
Singapore is a little different because you are racing at night and sleeping during the day, so you need to change your schedule and be prepared to be a nocturnal racer! As a driver, you really need to spend more time outside, which is why I arrive on the Monday prior to the race weekend so I can adapt to the conditions.
Are you a fan of street circuits?
Yes, I am. I like tracks that require maximum concentration and where you cannot afford to make any mistakes. It goes without saying that it’s not an easy track ; the traction is very important, which is something that has plagued us in the past. However, we are confident of improving on this by ensuring a good set-up for qualifying. The track consists of 23 very demanding corners but I’m looking forward to returning there and trying to improve on my performance from last year.
What will be the key aspects for the car set-up?
First and foremost, we have to get to grips with the traction (excuse the pun!). The track is bumpy, the car jumps a lot and it is easy to lock the wheels, which we will need to try and avoid this year.
Have you gone through any special preparations to deal with the heat and humidity of this race ?
I don’t think you can easily prepare for this race. The conditions will be the same as we faced in Malaysia, and we can’t simulate these weather conditions back in England! I like the fact that we will be working at night and sleeping during the day ; I actually think that in adopting this pattern I will be able to sleep more! The best way to prepare is to arrive in Singapore as early as possible to acclimatise oneself. It will be the same for everyone so I don’t fear this race, not at all.
Eric Boullier interview – ‘A word with the boss’
Eric tells us how the Singapore Grand Prix is right to consider itself one of the Formula 1 calendar’s ’untouchables’.
Reflecting on the Italian Grand Prix, how satisfied were you with the team’s performance?
In the race we had some bad luck from the word go; Vitaly was caught up in an incident but there was nothing he could do about it. It was a shame he didn’t get the opportunity to demonstrate his strong pace because inevitably, from the position he lined up on the grid, we expected him to be right up amongst the points. The real positive to take away from Italy is the fact that the car is delivering more, which will allow our drivers to finish higher; both Vitaly and Bruno qualified for Q3 so that was very pleasing. It was satisfying to see Bruno have a good race after he had to avoid the cars involved in the crash at the first corner. His result will undoubtedly bring him some credibility.
How challenging has this season been from a management point of view? There have been a few issues to contend with but the team seems to have come out the other side…
Well, it has been challenging. I cannot say all the challenges were enjoyable – going through the difficulties we had after Robert’s crash was not easy – but overall I enjoy being tested with the issues that come my way, and tackling them in the best way I can for the team; overseeing these challenges is part of my job. There’s certainly never a dull moment!
What do you think of the current balance of the team? You’ve got two contrasting drivers who seem to fit into the LRGP jigsaw well…
I think they complement each other very well. It is beneficial for the team to have two different characters, who are very popular both in and out of the team.
Singapore is the only night race on the F1 calendar and usually serves up quite a treat – how much do F1 and this race need each other?
Singapore has become one of the top events – everybody wants to be there and attend the Grand Prix. It is a great race with excellent organisation, and in the last couple of years it has become one of the most popular venues; the Singapore GP means business. It is exciting to have a night time race which allows us to keep our bodies in tune with BST and CET. Singapore has already established a reputation as one of the most popular locations with all the teams, and everyone loves having the F1 circus there because the people are so friendly and accommodating. Quite simply, everyone loves the Singapore Grand Prix.
James Allison – Tech Talk
”If we have a good race, we will have shown improved performance on three very different tracks”
James makes no secret of the team’s strides in the last few races but, as he explains, Singapore is a whole different proposition.
Was the overall performance in Monza evidence that the team has now turned a corner and is moving back in the right direction?
While far from stunning, it was at least respectable. For two races in a row our car has looked a little more on the pace than in the previous Grands Prix, and this reinforces our belief that we are heading back in the right direction.
How well has Bruno adapted to the challenge of driving the R31 since he became race driver?
Several promising F1 careers have foundered on the rocks of a mid-season introduction in recent years. Under the current F1 rules Bruno has had no meaningful chance to get up to speed in the car away from the pressures of the GP weekend. He had just one session in the R31 pre-season, and he has impressed all of us with the way that he has seized his opportunity first at Spa and again at Monza.
Singapore offers a different type of challenge – how much fun is it to prepare for this most unique of races?
It is fun to go half way round the world and to stay on British Summer Time. It is also interesting to deal with a track temperature that plummets as the sun goes down, as we normally have the opposite problem from the morning to the afternoon sessions. Racing under lights, maximum downforce, reasonable braking challenges and some interesting bumps all add to the appeal of the track.
Is there any apprehension approaching this race? One might think that the Singapore GP won’t suit the R31 in the way that perhaps Japan or Korea would…
Monaco and Hungary were not good races for us and Singapore shares some characteristics of these two circuits. We feel we have improved things since then and we have a bit more to deliver for Singapore itself, but it is fair to say that I am apprehensive. However, if we do have a good race then we will be set for good performances in the five races that follow, as we will then have shown improved performance on three very different tracks.