LOTUS F1 2012 Australian GP Preview
Kimi Räikkönen: Poles, podiums, wins, a World Title; Kimi Räikkönen has been there, and done it all in Formula 1. Now he’s back for more, and hungrier than ever
What are your objectives on your return to Formula 1 with Lotus F1 Team?
I will try to do as well as I can and see where we end up. For the first race in Australia we want to have a good weekend without any major issues or mistakes. I don’t know where we’re going to be on the grid – nobody knows. If you look at the lap times from testing everybody is very close to each other. We don’t know what everyone was doing with fuel load and that makes a massive difference. We’ll have some idea after practice in Melbourne, then after qualifying everyone will know exactly where we are.
How do you feel with the team now you have been working with them in testing?
I feel very happy with the team. We’re still learning things, but everything is going smoothly and there are no problems at all, so it’s a good position to start the season.
Testing was interrupted, and you’re making a return after two seasons away. How prepared do you feel?
You always wish you had more days to prepare but it’s the situation we have and you just have to deal with it. In the first week in Jerez we had pretty good running and no major reliability issues with the car – which is a good thing. We only had one problem at the second test in Barcelona – and we fixed that and it won’t be an issue again. Now we just have to get everything at a level where we are happy and make sure I press the right buttons at the right times. Maybe a few more days would have done no harm but I’m very confident that we’ll get it right when the time comes.
Is there a lot to learn with a new team, new regulations and a new car?
It’s still racing and more is the same as before than has changed. With the DRS and the KERS they are just buttons to press. In testing, sometimes you press it too late or too early but it’s not going to change an awful lot. Pit stops are a bit shorter than before but nothing really different; you stop the car and then you go.
Do you have any idea where you hope to be on the grid in Australia?
We might be last and we might be first – let’s see when we get there.
What do you think of your teammate Romain Grosjean?
He’s a nice guy. I didn’t know him before, we’d raced against each other a few times but never really spoken. He’s a bit younger than me, but also for him it’s a long time since he raced in Formula 1 so we’ll see. I think he’ll be good and I’m fine with working with him.
How much are you looking forward to racing in Formula 1 again?
Everybody wants to race. If you ask the test drivers: they want to race. Racing is the thing that people like. I don’t think that anyone will tell you that testing is more fun than racing. Of course I think that racing has changed a bit since I was last in it with the overtaking, but it’s not a completely different sport. It will be exciting and whoever gets the best out of the tyres will probably be in a strong position.
Do you have personal goals for the season?
No. We’ll see where we are in the first races and go from there. We’ll do the best we can and the best with the car.
You’ve had some good races in Australia – is it good to be starting the year there?
Australia is a nice place even though it’s a long way from Europe. The circuit itself is not the most difficult on the calendar. It was good to score a point on my first time at Albert Park, and the podiums and race win in 2007 obviously made me happy. The circuit hasn’t changed at all so I’m confident I know where it goes…
Do you think Albert Park could suit the E20?
You need a car with good traction and everything from testing says that the E20 has good traction so that will help us. Strong turn-in and stable braking help too, and those areas also feel good with the car so we are well placed. The track can be a bit slippery at the beginning of the weekend and the Melbourne weather is not always very warm; the Melbourne weather can definitely be a bit tricky. This will be the first race so I don’t know how we’ll compare to the other teams. My engineers have been running simulations and looking at the test data so we have an idea of how the car should work at Albert Park, but we won’t know for sure until we get out on track. It’s very difficult to say before we’ve been out on track, but I think and hope we’ll be reasonably strong.
Romain Grosjean:With the GP2 Asia and GP2 Series titles under his belt, Romain returns to the place where his Formula 1 career began with a fresh determination
How do you feel on the brink of your first full season of F1?
I’m looking forward to Australia and I feel very comfortable with the team. It’s been fantastic throughout testing and we’re all working well together. Of course, we had a third less of pre-season testing than we expected – which was not quite the original plan! The small issue we had in the first Barcelona test can even be seen as a good experience. Everyone worked twice as hard to return to Barcelona the following week and show that we are strong for the season ahead, which I think we are.
Have you been to Albert Park before?
I’ve only been to Australia once before when I was third driver for the team in 2009. The country is fantastic. I love Melbourne. I hope the track will suit me – it certainly looks great. The atmosphere is very special and it was one of my favourite Grands Prix to experience even when I wasn’t driving, so what it must be like to drive it I can’t imagine.
All your testing took place in the dry and Melbourne has notoriously fickle weather. When was the last time you drove an F1 car in the wet?
Brazil 2009 in free practice three. It feels like a long time ago! I’m ready if the track is more slippery, and I’ll try to make the best of it. I like racing in the wet, so maybe it will be a bit of an advantage for me.
The simulator at Enstone has not quite opened for business, so how have you been preparing for Albert Park – a track you’ve never driven before?
I’ve been watching a lot of in-car videos from the on-board camera! I’ve spent a lot of time with my engineers looking at the data from the track from last season. I’ll be running as much as possible in the first free practice session to learn the circuit, get some mileage and build some knowledge of the track. For sure, I’m looking forward to having access to the simulator once it goes live very soon…
What do you think of Albert Park, especially with factors to consider such as its non-permanent nature and the likely track surface evolution?
The track is what it is – it will improve but that only helps you. You don’t particularly feel it too much in the car, you just see it in better lap times. The grip level improves and better lap times come to you – and you soon get used to better lap times! What I saw from the onboard camera from previous years is the track looks good and it looks fun. I hope it will suit the E20.
What are your targets for the year?
My target is to give my best every time I’m in the car; to get the best from the car and to get the best from myself. I want to make the least amount of mistakes possible. I want to get points at every opportunity. I don’t set myself a target of a particular position, I just want to do my best and do my job as well as I can so I can bring some good points to the team.
Do you have a particular race start routine?
I used to have a particular routine, but it’s not something I go out of my way to follow now. It’s something I do more from familiarity. I usually get into the car from the right side, but that’s not to say I won’t ever get in from the other side. I’ll try to be relaxed, get myself in the right frame of mind then tell myself ‘come-on, we’re going to race now!’ It’s a fantastic experience to start a Grand Prix. I can’t wait to go for it.
What’s your emotion when you’re sat on the grid after the formation lap?
You have to be really calm. When you’re at your best, you’re really calm but very attentive. You need to be ready to go as soon as the lights change. It’s something which is tough to get exactly right; that balance of high concentration and high focus.
How have you found the reaction to your return to Formula 1?
I’m surprised that so much was made of it in France, but it makes me happy. The car looks good for the season ahead so that creates more attention. We’re all very excited.
Has the amount of media attention surprised you?
In a way, yes, but I’d prefer to be in this position than having no attention and not being in Formula 1! It’s good that people are paying attention to what we’re doing – it’s a good sign. I hope it continues.
with the eight days before heading to Melbourne.
What are the goals and objectives for the team in 2012?
We want to be seen and performing as one of the top teams in this highly competitive sport. For me this year will be monitored by the progress we make during the course of the season. That will be much more encouraging than any expectation of results or particular figures. If we can finish higher in the rankings I will be very happy and that would be the best reward for our sponsors and for our team. That is clearly a target. We want to do better, we want to be better, we want to score more podiums and if we have a chance to win any races we’ll be more than happy. The way we progress over the course of the season is the main goal.
Were you encouraged by the way the team reacted so quickly and positively to the chassis problem?
It was an unexpected issue and we would have been pleased to avoid this kind of drama, however it’s clear that the way the team handled this problem showed us in a very good light. Everyone pulled together and focused on the solution rather than what went wrong. We and the right approach to solve the problem and everything was turned around very quickly and to the same high quality we see in the rest of the E20. We leave this issue behind us now and that should be it for surprises.
2012 is the building block for 2013 and beyond – what’s the longer term plan?
We have an efficient and strong organisation. We now want to reinforce our strengths and ensure that we are capable to use the best of our resources to develop more concepts and a more efficient car with every subsequent year. Every year if you set your targets and objectives higher you will continue to improve. The team has been building its assets well – bolstering the CFD facility, upgrading to a 60% wind tunnel and with a simulator due to come online very soon… We have a great selection of assets to assist us in our goals and everything required to be a top team. Investment is the key and it’s a constant in our organisation. By the end of this year we will have further new projects to further our objectives. These are the next steps to enable us to be even stronger.
How do you feel personally on the brink of the start of the 2012 season?
After a difficult 2011 season – my second year in Formula 1 – I certainly feel much more positive and encouraged by everything I see in the team. We are headed in the correct direction. Last year was a tough experience from which everyone involved learnt a lot. Let’s get racing.