Lotus convinced it can have a stronger second half of the 2012 F1 season
Lotus can build upon its excellent recent form and become an even stronger outfit across the final nine grands prix of 2012.
That is the view of trackside operations director Alan Permane, who is optimistic the team’s ‘desperate’ desire to win can be achieved in the season run-in.
Lotus scored more points than any other constructor over the last five races before F1’s summer break, when it had a presence on every podium except Silverstone.
Permane is confident the team can exceed such standards in the second half of the year, particularly as it has now adapted to having two new drivers for the start of this year’s campaign.
"We will be much stronger in the second half. The car is great, we have started with that, and we have shown we can develop as well if not better than others," Permane said.
"We have spent time getting to know our drivers, and Romain has [had some] crashes on the first lap. Without that things would be very different. There’s no reason why we can’t have a good second half.
"I think everywhere suits our car – we were super-quick at Silverstone and Hungary, and they are opposite ends of the scale. Nowhere scares us."
Permane admitted Lotus was looking to add downforce to improve its qualifying fortunes, but said he expected the upcoming circuits to also play into the team’s favour as they aided overtaking and therefore reduced the emphasis on qualifying.
"I don’t think there is much in the set-up," he said when asked about where Lotus could improve the car.
"[After final Hungarian practice] Kimi was ever so happy with his car. I said ‘what do you need?’, and he just said ‘more downforce’. The car is good, but to go faster it just needs more front and rear grip.
"The race pace of his car compared to ours, he had no right to be four tenths faster in qualifying – that’s where we need to be better, absolutely. If we had been in front of him we would have driven away and disappeared with both our cars.
"A track like Hungary, second [on the grid] isn’t good enough. Other circuits you can overtake – the next tracks are Spa and Monza, different stories.
"If we can finish second or third every race this year and win both championships I’ll be very happy, obviously, [but] we are desperate to win a race."
Lotus ready to push on with developments until later in the season
Lotus is prepared to push on with developments of its E20 much further into the campaign than it has its previous cars, as it eyes a full-on assault on the world championship.
With the outfit’s double podium finish in Hungary leaving rivals in no doubt that Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean are a serious threat for victory, Lotus itself thinks there is no reason why it cannot be chasing the ultimate prize this year.
Technical director James Allison told Sky Sports News on Friday that his outfit has realised that its form in recent years suffered from it electing to shift its resource on to the following year’s cars – something it is not intending to do this season.
"One of the things that our team has got a little bit wrong in the last couple of seasons is that we have been too ready to switch over to the new car a little bit too soon," he said.
"So we started this year consciously intending to develop this one a bit longer than normal."
Although Raikkonen is 48 points adrift of points leader Fernando Alonso, Allison thinks there is everything to play for in the championship – especially with a driver capable of securing 225 points over the remainder of the season.
When asked about the chances of Raikkonen being champion, Allison said: "Why not? There are an awful lot of points for coming first and there are a lot of races to be done. The lead is minuscule compared to the points available."
Lotus have been one of the surprise packages of 2012 to date. With Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean at the wheel of the quick E20, the Enstone-based team have scored an impressive 84 points from five races and currently lie third in the constructors’ standings. After the duo’s impressive podium result in Bahrain and Raikkonen’s third-place finish in Barcelona on Sunday, Lotus have clearly found their stride. Team principal Eric Boullier discusses his driver line-up and reveals his hopes for the rest of the season…
Q: Raikkonen will always be Raikkonen. How has it been to have him in the team?
EB: I think he is fitting in quite well. We at Enstone – and I say Enstone on purpose – have racing spirit. I would say we cannot be compared with any other team, although I am aware that every team has its own culture and personality. We try to keep politics outside and try to give our drivers what they need. We know that Kimi doesn’t like PR, doesn’t like media. So why should we bother him with it? Sure we need a balance between his demands and the requests from our sponsors. But he knows that we care very much about his schedule and try to minimize his obligations. That’s it. He is a racer so he races for winning and hardly cares about the rest! Kimi is like a wild animal and you have to let him run the way he wants to go. We don’t have to tell him what he has to do because he is a professional and we want him to deliver on track first. That is his purpose. After that there are some obligations. Unfortunately for him his personality makes him very attractive to the fans, so he is famous. He and we have to come to terms with the fact that he has many fans, so to a certain degree he is playing the game. We restrict his obligations to the minimum and I see that he is fine with it.
Q: Is he the team leader you need to fill the void left by Robert Kubica?
EB: Historically, this team has always pushed for one driver – a definite leader. But that has definitely changed. It’s a thing of the past. I want two fast drivers because that is the way you get ahead in the constructors’ championship. So both drivers have the same status. Obviously Kimi, with his experience, his character and personality, tends to have a certain degree of leadership. But in fact it is not leadership but probably more attention. On the other hand Romain is digging a little place for himself nicely and is getting a lot of respect every weekend from the team. You must not forget that Kimi has done something in the range of 160 Grands Prix and Romain has just finished his twelfth Grand Prix this weekend.
Q: So how do the two get along? Raikkonen is the iceman, whilst you’ve described Grosjean as a bit sensitive…
EB: Well, they are very different and I don’t believe they will ever go on holiday together. But they don’t need to be friends. That’s only my opinion. What I expect them to do is to respect each other and never forget that they are working for the team. Both know that we will never favour anyone – depending on the individual strategy each of them is on. It is up to them to qualify well and have a good race result. We just give them the tools to deliver on equal terms.
Q: Did you collect significant data at the in-season test?
EB: Definitely yes. In our position this test was perfect. We missed one third of testing in February due to some issues so these three days made up for that. So this year it was the right thing for us, but next year – with full winter testing – the situation might look different. I would say that we exploited this test to the full but I would not generally say that we need such a test in the future.
Q: What did you take to Barcelona from the test?
EB: A lot of things. You saw it in qualifying and in the race and my guess is that we will also be able to put on a good show in Monaco.
Q: You were hoping to shine in Barcelona. Was Raikkonen getting on the podium enough for you? Or did you want more?
EB: My gut feeling was that we would maybe see one of our black overalls on the podium. And I was right. Two black overalls on the podium was more an aspiration. We also have to stay realistic – this is a highly-competitive environment and there are no podium places going for free!
Lotus sure it can stay with the Formula 1 frontrunners after Bahrain Grand Prix podium
Lotus is confident it has the drivers and car to be quick at every track from now on, after finally delivering its first podium finish of the season in Bahrain.
Despite having shown promising speed in the first few races of the campaign it had failed to finish in the top three until last weekend, when Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean both secured podium spots.
Trackside operations director Alan Permane reckons that the result is proof that Lotus has now got its act together and is ready to show that its E20 can repeat that form at other races.
"There is no doubt we have shown promise all year and we have been saying it will come, it will come, and it has," he told AUTOSPORT.
"We have had a decent straightforward race, and not screwed up the strategy.
"We’ve demonstrated the car is quick and I think we can be quick just about anywhere. We know our weakness, which is low speed, traction and stuff like that, but we are very happy with the car in higher and medium speeds."
Team principal Eric Boullier revealed that the outfit was getting slightly frustrated before Bahrain at the way it had failed to capitalise on its speed.
"Sometimes things don’t work, and this is why we built up this frustration in the first three races," he said. "This weekend it went fine and we had no glitches. There was even a little bit of a gamble on [tyre] strategy but it worked."
When asked why he believed the team had finally got everything together in Bahrain, he said: "I don’t know for definite. There is the weather, and the temperature is better for us and better for our car.
"I think at the first three races we were trying to combine everything and make the whole machine work together, which is never easy when you start the season, and never easy when you change both drivers.
"But everybody now starts to know each other, and work better. And also the drivers: they were not in F1 for the last two years so they needed to be up to speed as well, and now I think they are."
Lotus optimistic despite chassis setback as it prepares to return to F1 testing action
Lotus technical director James Allison is optimistic having missed the second pre-season test will not be a big setback for the team as it prepares to get back on track tomorrow.
The team decided to pull out of the Barcelona test last week after it found a problem with its chassis right after Romain Grosjean took to the track for the first time.
Lotus has now worked to fix the problem and will be on track from tomorrow for the final test at Barcelona.
Allison admitted missing four days of running was far from ideal, but he is adamant there are reasons to be optimistic.
"Of course, missing four days of testing is not ideal," said Allison. "We need mileage at this stage of the year, as does any other team. That said, there are reasons to remain optimistic.
"First of all, we completed many trouble-free laps in Jerez and gained a good understanding of the car. Also, some of the small issues we identified in Jerez needed to be fixed, and the parts were not available last week. On Thursday, the car will run with all the required redesigned parts. We’re looking forward to being back on track."
When asked if he was confident about the repair, he said: "Yes."
Allison revealed the car is now around one kilogram heavier, but he is confident it won’t impact performance much.
"We’re only talking about 1kg, which is manageable. It won’t have any significant impact on handling or performance."
Speaking about the problem, he added: "We arrived in Barcelona with a brand new chassis, the E20-02. We completed installation laps on Tuesday morning then Romain left the pits for his first run of the day.
"As soon as he touched the brakes before turn 1 on his first flying lap, he felt that something was wrong. He told us on the radio that he was aborting that run and returning straight to the pits.
"We saw immediately that we had a problem with the mounting of the upper front wishbone rear arm."
Allison said the chassis did not have to pass the mandatory crash tests again, but he admitted it had been a very busy couple of days.
"It’s been an intense few days, but I have to say that everybody has completed their tasks in tremendous fashion. On the first day back at the factory, I spoke to the entire Enstone personnel and clearly explained what happened. Everybody understood that the situation was unfortunate, but under control.
"We designed the new parts, manufactured them, and fitted them to the chassis. We then completed the necessary tests satisfactorily and the chassis left for Spain."
Lotus will use chassis 01 this week at Barcelona, while chassis 02 will be used as a spare from now on.
Kimi Raikkonen backed to lead Lotus F1 comeback
Kimi Raikkonen can lead Lotus back to winning ways, according to team principal Eric Boullier.
Boullier believes that the 2007 world champion’s experience means that he will give the team the clear direction that it needs to deliver on its potential.
"Clearly, he brings a commitment to winning and he knows what he wants," said Boullier. "He is a proper racer and fits in well with a team that is a bunch of proper racers.
"When he is in the car, he knows exactly what he wants and that makes the team’s life easier.
"It means more ambition and more responsibility [for the team] but it is also a different way of working with a world champion. He wants to win again and that’s an ambition that we share."
Boullier also believes that it will be easy for him to get the best out of Raikkonen during 2012 and that the Finn proved how committed he is during two days of running in a 2010 Renault at Valencia last month.
This is despite question marks over the Finn’s motivation to race in F1 after two years in the World Rally Championship.
"How difficult will it be to me?" he said when asked about motivating Raikkonen. "For me, very easy.
"It was an easy discussion [to sign him up] and when he did the couple of days running he showed the team how motivated and professional he is.
"It was a huge boost for the team morale and the team motivation."
Kimi Raikkonen pleased after first run with Lotus’s new F1 car
Kimi Raikkonen said his initial impressions of the new Lotus E20 are good following a rollout with the car at Jerez.
The Finn, whose team unveiled the Renault-powered car yesterday, completed 22 laps of the Spanish circuit, performing system checks at low speed.
Raikkonen will begin testing properly tomorrow, when most F1 teams will begin the preparations for the 2012 season.
Although the former world champion used just first and second gears during the run today, he was pleased with how the car felt.
"It’s great to see the E20 at a race circuit and even better to get behind the wheel," said Raikkonen at the end of the day.
"It’s always frustrating to be in a new car and not be able to drive it at maximum attack, but thankfully I will have that opportunity for the next two days.
"My initial impressions are good, I fit comfortably in the car and it feels great in first and second gear; now let’s see what it can do tomorrow."
Kimi Raikkonen has fewer worries after comeback test at Valencia last month
Kimi Raikkonen says he has fewer concerns about adapting to 2012-spec Formula 1 after two years away from the sport following his two-day test at Valencia a couple of weeks ago.
The 2007 world champion, speaking at the launch of the new Lotus E20 at Jerez, said that while Pirelli’s tyres were always going to provide his steepest learning curve, he felt that his run on the demo rubber in a two-year-old Renault had displaced any worries about getting up to speed quickly.
"The tyres are probably the biggest difference since I left, and that’s what people were saying," said Raikkonen. "But since the test two weeks ago I have less worries about the whole thing than I had before.
"So we will see where we are when the first race comes.
"For me it was nice to get back in the car again. It is very difficult to say how well we went, but I got back all the feeling about driving the car and got used to working with the team. That was really the main goal, to learn.
"It was interesting to drive and get a little bit back that feeling."
Raikkonen, who shook the Renault-powered E20 down during a team filming day at Jerez on Monday, said that in the short period of time that he had been working with Lotus he had been convinced that all the ingredients were in place for the squad to return to a championship-winning level.
"Nobody knows exactly [how long it will take]," he said. "The team has a lot of hunger to do well and to get back their winning ways but it’s not easy. If it was, everybody would do it. But definitely there are people who want to get back there and put in the effort for it.
"They have won it before so they have all the tools to do it. It’s just about getting everything right and being up there all the time so hopefully it can happen soon, but everybody seems hungry to do it."
Raikkonen said that he was not expecting many changes on his return and that many of the faces in the paddock were similar to those he had left behind when he walked away from the sport at the end of 2009.
Responding to a question that suggested he was no longer enjoying the sport when he left, Raikkonen replied: "That was only your opinion, I would have left earlier if I wasn’t having fun.
"I always said that I loved the racing and I have always been very happy to race. There were a lot of stories from all of your [the press] side about my motivation, but I never had any issues with that. This has come from nothing from my mind.
"I don’t think I look at Formula 1 any differently," he said. "It’s a new year and there are some different things from in the last few years, but I know the sport, I know how things work here.
"The racing is going to be a little different but all the other things are more or less the same. OK from team-to-team it changes in things outside of the racing but I feel sure it is going to be similar experience."
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