Q+A with Lotus' Nick Chester

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Germany, Hockenheimringde

Lotus F1 Team Technical Director Nick Chester reveals his team have a new front wing ready for Germany, which along with a power boost from Renault tested at Silverstone should move the team up the grid.

How is the team looking forward to Hockenheim? It’s quite a mixed track with a couple of long straights and a medium-speed final section. Two of the straights are also linked by a medium to high-speed corner, which is good for us, as is having soft and supersoft tyres for this circuit. Weather is often a factor there too. Last time we were there, in 2012, it was wet on the Friday and Saturday. The hairpin is a key area for overtaking, so braking will be important.

Will there be any upgrades? Yes, our development schedule is continuing at full pace. We will have a new front wing, which is a decent improvement, a cooling upgrade and some smaller bodywork updates to increase downforce. Between what we have learnt in the Silverstone test and these upgrades, we hope to make a good step forward.

Is Hockenheim a circuit which should suit the E22? Between Hockenheim and the Hungaroring, which is the second circuit in the back-to-back combo, Hungaroring should be more beneficial for us as it is mostly made up of medium-speed corners. It’s also not known as a ‘power’ circuit and is a high downforce track – which are all better aspects for us!

Can you explain the technical issues for Romain and Pastor in the British Grand Prix? Romain’s start was compromised by an incorrect setting which meant he didn’t have full power to make a proper getaway from the grid. This was frustrating as he lost a lot of places, which dropped him behind slower cars. Pastor’s car suffered from a lot of floor damage after the contact from Esteban Gutierrez, which meant the loss of a good chunk of downforce. The rear wing was also badly compromised so he was running surprisingly well considering. For Pastor, we were also losing power from his engine over the course of the race, though it was managed to keep him going as long as possible. This did mean that our exhaust temperature went up, which may have led to the eventual exhaust failure, but the exhaust will have also experienced a fair shock with the contact and airborne moment too.

Lotus F1 Team was chosen to debut Pirelli’s 18” tyres in the post-race test. What changes did you have to make? The 18-inch Pirelli tyres are obviously very different to the tyres used in F1 now, so we viewed it as a shakedown run; simply a case of ‘let’s see’ for Pirelli, rather than a performance run. The bigger size meant we had to trim the floor and change the ride height to adapt to the different loaded radius of the tyres. Some of the suspension set up also had to be modified, such as the cambers. These were very basic revisions to enable Pirelli to evaluate the concept for the future and see what the bigger wheels look like on the car.

How much preparation time would be needed if 18” tyres are to be raced in F1? Having 18-inch tyres would have a big impact on design. We would want to be testing in the wind tunnel for at least a year ahead of their introduction. The ride height and suspension packages would have to be changed and the tyre profile itself would be very different. It would be an interesting challenge.