After a mixed weekend on the business side of the pit wall in Singapore, Lotus' Trackside Operations Director Alan Permane is keen to build on the positives and eliminate the negatives through the remaining six races of the year; starting with the Korean Grand Prix in Yeongam
What are the characteristics of the Korea International Circuit?
"There’s a nice long straight benefitting the DRS effect, meaning there’s a good chance to see overtaking in the race. The layout has a mix of different sections but they flow together well. We see some decent straights in the first section followed by a few interesting corners – some high speed – in the second section, before moving into an almost street-circuit feel through the final part of the track with its stop-start nature and close proximity walls. Although there are good long straights, the number of high and medium speed corners mean you have to run with a reasonable level of downforce which should certainly be beneficial for us."
How difficult is it to get the right setup here? "The mixed nature of the track means that compromises are made, and the fact that the circuit isn’t used very much aside from for the Grand Prix weekend means that we should see a reasonable amount of track evolution. The weather can also be quite a challenge, with reasonably extreme temperature variations possible. These factors give the engineers plenty of different considerations as they seek the best setup, but in terms of what’s needed from the car, it’s not a circuit which places a particular premium on one aspect. You need a good all-round package with strong straight line speed and stability, decent traction and change of direction, but also good low speed performance tempered with that."
Tyre management proved to be a virtue of the E21 once again at the Marina Bay Street Circuit; will the impact be similar in Korea? "The two circuits are reasonably distinct from one another in terms of the challenges they present, but one of the constants between the two is the allocation of the supersoft and medium compound tyres. This will almost certainly mean we see teams qualifying on the supersoft, but in terms of the race it will be a case of ensuring we do our homework during Friday practice to establish which will be the preferred option on Sunday, and how long each will last at a competitive pace. This tactic benefitted us hugely in Singapore, as the work carried out on Friday gave us confidence in the decision to pit under the safety car and run a very long final stint on the mediums. The allocation for Korea should suit the circuit, so this should hopefully work to our advantage once again."
Romain had a few problems with his car over the weekend in Singapore; any causes for concern looking forwards? "On Friday we had a problem with the steering which was an isolated setup issue, but there was then a brake and a hydraulic problem on top of that. These types of issue can be a pretty normal experience on a Friday and were all isolated in nature. With regards to his engine failure in the race, Renault Sport are looking closely at what happened and we wouldn’t expect a repeat of this either."
Kimi, Romain and the E21 performed admirably last time out; how much can we take from this heading into the final six races? "Both drivers did us proud in Singapore. Romain delivered fantastically well in both qualifying and the race despite his limited track time, whilst Kimi overcame his back pain to score an impressive podium finish. Like us, most teams will have now switched their development focus to 2014 so we wouldn’t expect a dramatic change to the relative performance of each outfit between now and the end of the season. That leaves us in a tight scrap with both Ferrari and Mercedes, and with both our guys performing at this level – coupled with the potential from the car at the coming tracks – we should have a good end to the season in prospect."