The Lotus E20 has already shown it has the pace to compete at the front of the grid, but the team's Technical Director James Allison is happily looking forward to the next race, where the team will look to extract even more of that potential and convert it into hard points.
What are your thoughts about the state of play after two races? We’re reasonably chipper about the performance of the car. Although we have only really shown our pace in qualifying and in the dying embers of the Sepang race, I think there’s every reason we can conclude that for those races at least, we’ve been quick in both qualifying and race trim. Our tyre wear looks good when we get the set-up correct and we’ve been able to carry the pace of qualifying through to the race.
What will we see different on the car for China? We’re bringing new parts which should add up to around two tenths of a second improvement in lap time. It may not sound like much, but given how close the grids have been so far this season, that is a big deal. Hopefully, it’s a bit more than other people will bring…
Are there any particular areas on our car which we can pinpoint for development? We have to continue improving the lap time of the car and for that we’re looking at improvement in all areas. A specific area we’ve identified for improvement is pit stop times and we are focusing a greater amount of engineering effort in this direction. The areas we are looking at include the wheel nuts and wheel guns. Looking at our opposition it is clear there are gains to be made in this area.
What are the challenges of having a pair of back-to-back fly away races in succession? The challenges are mainly in logistics, planning and production to be able to get sufficient kit to be able to do the two races as there is no opportunity to reload between the events. The flyaway back-to-backs are also gruelling for the race team, who have to work without a break between the two events. The days are very long, there are no rest days, and they come off the back of a hard run of pre-season winter testing.
From a development perspective the schedule is known a long time in advance, and the team at Enstone is trying to provide components that arrive in line with that schedule. This means that we don’t plan substantial upgrades for the second race of a back-to-back, as there isn’t really any opportunity to do so.
How similar are China and Bahrain in their demands on the car?
The first two tracks we visited – Albert Park and Sepang – place an above average requirement on aerodynamic efficiency with a good number of high and medium speed corners. Shanghai and Bahrain place slightly higher emphasis on lower cornering speeds. Including winter testing, we’ve now run our car at four circuits – not all of which are super aerodynamic in their characteristics – and the E20 has been strong at every one. We therefore head to China and Bahrain expecting good performance.
The team have two new drivers who have come back from a break.
Do you feel there is more to come from them? I think there’s definitely more to come from both. For Kimi, as we get him more comfortable in our car he will be able to deliver more. Romain has done a very good job in qualifying but we haven’t really been able to gauge his true race performance yet this year as his efforts have been curtailed in both instances. Everything we’ve seen so far does point to him being able to deliver once the race laps are chalked up so we’ve no concerns on that front.
What’s the latest on Kimi’s steering set-up – do we have it exactly as he likes it yet? Unfortunately it is not a fix as simple as reversing the switches on the steering wheel! [Referring to Lotus' April fools joke where they suggested reversing the button layout on the steering wheel] Our latest set-up now gives Kimi sufficient assistance in the high speed, high load corners, but we still have yet to give him a power steering unit which offers the finesse he wants. We’re making progress in this area, but the way Kimi drives the car is to find the limit on the front axle and then adjust the car very delicately around that limit; he can only do that if the steering is giving him exquisite feedback. We are working hard to provide him with perfect equipment so that he can deliver those last few tenths in qualifying.