As Lotus F1 Team prepares for its final race with the E21 – and also the V8 engine – Trackside Operations Director Alan Permane looks at the teams’ potential to end the season on high
What do you think about Interlagos? "It’s quite a tough track for drivers. It runs anti-clockwise with some pretty quick left-hand corners, so drivers certainly know that they are racing there! We wouldn’t be surprised to see the occasional helmet pad making an appearance to help the drivers’ necks. Engineering-wise, it’s a circuit where we can see quite a lot of track evolution over the course of the weekend so you’re trying to set the car up for a somewhat moving target. Historically, the circuit can get quite bumpy which adds an extra feature for consideration. The most recent resurfacing addressed this well, but every year the surface can be just a little bit different."
What’s needed from the car? "Downforce levels are a little bit lighter than in Texas or Abu Dhabi; particularly to maintain top speed on the long straight. This is something we’re paying extra attention to this year, as there’s now a second DRS zone on the straight. Being quick in the twisty bits but slower on the straight might produce a quicker lap for a car on its own, but as there aren’t so many overtaking opportunities at other parts of the circuit it would make the driver a sitting target in race conditions. Last year there wasn’t a DRS zone on the straight so we will revise our approach to setup accordingly. Anything requiring top speed of course relies on engine power, so we’re working closely with Renault to ensure we can extract every last bit of horsepower in the most appropriate fashion for the final outing with the V8s; with the added challenge of the thinner, higher altitude air to contend with. Elsewhere there are some pretty quick corners so extra front wing is a consideration to balance the car. Turns four, five, six, ten and eleven are all challenging. In fact, there’s a lot of challenging corners here! You also need strong change of direction for the low speed turns eight and nine where good traction is required on exit."
It makes for an interesting race, come rain or shine? "The weather is always a consideration in Interlagos. São Paulo can offer anything from blazing sunshine to torrential rain which has to be taken into account, so we’ll have our eyes glued to the radar all weekend. The weather forecast we have currently suggests the chance of rain on Friday with the rest of the weekend being dry; albeit with rather cool temperatures of under 20°C. This means we will have our work cut out to harness the potential of Pirelli’s ultraconservative hard and medium compound tyre allocation. This could mean that we see two or three laps required from a qualifying run to get the maximum performance from the tyre, which adds a different dimension on Saturday."
Happy with the driver line-up? "With Romain you couldn’t ask for more at the moment; he really is a driver who is delivering at the top of his game. Heikki joined the team at short notice and impressed with his immediate pace. Qualifying in the top ten was a really strong performance and his lack of pace in the race was due to factors outside of his control. He lost a huge chunk of performance from his front wing which is something we’ll investigate fully once our freight and personnel land in Brazil. We’ve identified the KERS problem he also suffered from in the race, so we’re hopeful of a strong end to the season from both drivers to give the E21 the sendoff it deserves."