Q+A with Lotus' James Allison
Spa may not have delivered the performance that the Lotus F1 team wanted, and the characteristics of Monza may have made it unlikely for the E20 to be seen fighting at the front, but with Singapore being completely different, Lotus Technical Director James Allisson is confident that Lotus will be up there once again.
The team struggled for pace in Monza; why was this?
"We weren’t as competitive at Monza as we have been for most of this season, but I don’t think this represents the beginning of any bad trend; it just reflects something of the particular nature of Monza. In common with Spa, the tyre allocation from Pirelli was conservative on two fronts; namely the combination of a harder compound rubber than we would have anticipated and a construction which is different from that used at the other tracks we’ve visited. Combine those two factors and we weren’t able to play our usual trump card, which has been better tyre management in the race. Both Monza and Spa could be comfortably completed with a one stop strategy, or even conceivably with no stops if the rules allowed it. This means we couldn’t enjoy our traditional advantage. Happily the tyre allocation reverts to the previous policy from Singapore onwards."
Is Singapore a different kettle of fish?
"Singapore really is an entirely different kettle of fish. We go from minimum downforce to maximum downforce in two weeks, we use the soft and super soft instead of hard and medium, the track has low power dependency and is high downforce. It couldn’t be more different."
We think of bumps and kerbs when we think of Singapore; how’s the E20 in these conditions?
"The E20 is pretty good over the bumps and kerbs; it has been all year so we’re quite lucky in that respect. At a bumpy circuit you make more of a compromise towards the mechanical setup over the aero setup of the car than you do at a smooth circuit. Singapore’s bumpiness was extreme in the initial years, but it has been considerably improved in subsequent seasons."
Is there anything new and exciting for the car?
"We have a new floor and a new rear wing. The new rear wing operates at the same downforce level as our Monaco spec rear wing, but with a better DRS delta. This means that this wing has better DRS switching from its maximum drag to its reduced drag settings. We believe we’ve been able to produce a rear wing which is at the higher end of the downforce spectrum but still able to allow the lion’s share of the DRS potential which is more difficult to achieve at high downforce levels. It will be interesting to see how it works on track."
How do you rate Jérôme’s performance as a super-sub in Monza?
"In very difficult circumstances he acquitted himself well. He would have preferred to have been closer to Kimi in qualifying, but no-one who has had to step in at the last moment has shone in F1 under the current regime of no - or next to no - in season testing. He did as well as anyone could have done; he didn’t damage the car all weekend - in itself a good thing - and would have looked much more impressive had his KERS not failed very early on."
There have been some alternator issues of late; are there steps the team can take to mitigate against any potential woes?
"We continue to play our part in helping Renault Sport resolve any issues as painlessly as possible. We don’t need to tell them that it’s an area which needs addressing, as it’s something they know with absolute urgency. We are also prepared to bend over backwards if there are any changes needed on the car."
The team completed its fastest-ever in race pitstop in Monza; can they get any quicker?
"Our data gave a time of 2.44 seconds - I think the television feed gave 2.6 seconds - but either way they are pretty good times. It’s only a matter of time before someone cracks a sub two-second stop in a race; let’s hope that team is us. It’s definitely do-able as it’s happened in practice."
Are you afraid of the dark? And is the E20?
"No, we’re both comfortable in less than optimal lighting conditions."