Compared to 2011, this year has been a grand success for the Enstone outfit. With only 73 points and a distant fifth place last year, no one expected them to do much this year, especially with two new drivers who were not even on the grid last season. But the way they have been able to mix it up along with the top three teams, has truly stunned everybody. Although Eric Boullier would have definitely argued for a 3rd and 4th place in the drivers and constructors championship after 16 races, there is a nagging disappointment regarding the elusive win. Kimi Raikkonen came ever so close in Bahrain and Hungary, but just couldn’t make it stick. Even without a win, Raikkonen is still in with a decent chance of becoming WDC this year and he definitely believes he can do it after his heroics in 2007.
After the weekend in Hungary, Lotus fell well behind the top three, and were able to compete for 5th place at the most, provided some of the frontrunners run into trouble. They had first tested their Drag Reduction System in Hockenheim qualifying, but having not been able to make it work properly, it has been shelved till the Abu Dhabi Young Drivers Test. Having spent a heavy amount of their resources and time on the device, they have been on the back foot ever since. Hence, they need to derive maximum performance out of their new Coanda-style exhaust. With the device only on Raikkonen’s car in Korea, both the cars will be running it in India after having seen its benefit in Mokpo, Korea. A better effort and they could try to close the gap on McLaren and Ferrari.
Buddh Int. Circuit
The Buddh International Circuit consists of long sweeping fast corners and one of the longest straights in Formula One. Had their Drag Reduction System been working, it would have been a big benefit here especially, because their new Coanda-style exhaust is hampering their straight-line speeds; as can be seen from Raikkonen’s speed trap times in Korea. That weakness can be countered by the down force benefit available in those fast corners. Another small matter of concern is that, like Korea, both the drivers have not raced at the BIC before, and after seeing some drivers struggling at the sausage kerbs in Sector 2, last year it will take hard work to master the track in just three practice sessions.
He is 48 points behind Vettel at the moment with the Red Bull way faster than the Lotus, so it seems to be all over for him but stranger thing have happened in the sport, so we should never say never. He has a very tough job ahead of him and this is what he had to say:
“India is a brand new place for me. Like with Korea, I’ve never been to the country before, which means I’ve never seen the circuit properly. I’m not like other drivers, so I haven’t driven the simulator to learn it, but all in all, it’s not that much of a tricky situation. I like to go to different places and the challenge of driving a new circuit is always interesting. So far I’ve learnt tracks after a few laps in FP1 on Fridays. I didn’t have any problems learning the Yeongam circuit that way, and I don’t expect to have any issues here either. As for India, I have never visited the country before… I have certainly enjoyed Indian restaurants in almost every country I’ve been to though!
“We know this circuit is likely to be very dusty at the start of the weekend, so that will make things interesting for the first practice sessions. We’ll have some new things on the car and it will be our second time with the new exhaust system, so hopefully we can make more gains with our pace. India should also be pretty hot which should suit us. I’m looking forward to it.”
First and foremost for him on Sunday: keep it clean on Lap 1! Whenever he has done that, he has generally driven some very good races, so we can expect some more of that from him and be up there with the big boys.
Technical director, Lotus F1
He will be hoping that the team can extract more performance from the new exhaust when they run it on both cars this weekend. His views:
“[Korea] was a solid début for the Coanda [exhaust] system and we will see both Kimi and Romain using it in India. We were reasonably pleased with how it performed on its first outing. We knew that our first implementation would be a little power hungry, but we hoped for – and were delighted to register on the track – a good down force boost. Our initial design was already a step forward relative to the previous system, but we expect more from this package as we modify the exhaust to recover much of the lost power. Romain used a new front wing in Korea which has proved to be a mild step forward and will be available to both drivers in India.
“Last year India was the track with the most important racing line in the world, with any deviation from that line punished pretty severely as the surface was very dirty. This year the circuit organisers have invested in impressive track cleaning equipment the likes of which we see in Bahrain, so matters should be somewhat different. We’ve learnt that it’s a pretty challenging circuit and a good test for both the car and driver with a bunch of nice corners. It’s a typical modern Formula One track and an interesting place to go racing.”
Team Principal, Lotus F1
This is what he had to say about India in general: