FORMULA 1

LOTUS F1 AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX PREVIEW

ROMAIN GROSJEAN

Heading into his fourth full season with Lotus F1 Team, Romain Grosjean predicts an exciting and intriguing first race of the year at Albert Park.

The season start is with us already Ð are you ready to go?

I am ready! On the one hand it seems like it was ages since the last race in Abu Dhabi, on the other, it seems like we’ve only just seen the new car and pre-season testing finished so quickly!

What are your thoughts when you think of Albert Park and the first race of the year?

Albert Park is still one of my favourite Grand Prix circuits, so it will be good to get there and get the season started and there’s always a great atmosphere. It’s a fantastic track and the changing scenery as you drive through the park is incredible. Of course it’s a great country and I always enjoy visiting Australia, although as someone who loves their sleep, I still haven’t found the perfect strategy to counter jet-lag!

Is it a challenging venue for the first race?

It is, and not only because of the jet-lag! We know it can be a tricky circuit; it’s not a permanent track so the surface and its layout gives us plenty to think about.

We’re still quite early in our understanding of the E23 and how it works so we’ll be kept busy finding the correct set-up and getting everything working as we want it to. The weather can make things pretty difficult too Ð three years ago we had lots of rain and even had to finish qualifying on Sunday morning! Hopefully the weather will be good this year! You can say that everyone will be in the same position of not knowing what to expect, and with all the car changes I imagine there will be a few surprises! For us the weekend will be maximising the time on track, aiming to finish the race and getting the best result possible.

This will be your fourth full season with the team – what are your goals?

This season will be very much about reminding people how good Lotus F1 Team and Romain Grosjean can be! People have very short memories in Formula 1 and it’s true we had a tough fight for results in 2014 so some people have forgotten the performance we showed in 2013 and 2012. We have a lot more potential for strong results this season so we’ll be pushing to show that at every race, and what better a place or time than at Albert Park?

Where’s your ‘head at’ coming into the season opener?

I’m in a good place. I’ve had a great winter where I’ve been able to spend time with my wife and son. I’ve done plenty of training. I’ve been at the factory and I’ve been out in the new car so everything’s been going well in the pre-season build-up. I head to Australia very eager to jump in the car and get out on track.

How much change do you expect there to be through the field relative to last season?

Certainly for us there is a lot of change! This time last year we were nowhere, so this year is particularly positive. For sure, we still have work to do and our car’s not perfect, but we have a great platform from which to build and I’m sure we’ll have lots of good developments to come with the E23.

The Australian Grand Prix can be quite an eventful race with numerous incidents over the years: how frustrating will it be if things don’t go to plan?

It’s the nature of motorsport that results don’t always go your way, but we’re approaching this race like any other; trying to achieve the very best result we can. It’s one race in twenty, but it’s always nice to start the season with a strong result, let’s hope we can get that in 2015.

Pastor Maldonado 

Starting his second season with the squad, our Venezuelan squeeze readily recognises that 2015 offers great potential for strong results in the E23 Hybrid.

How excited are you heading to Australia?

I’m very excited and I can’t wait to start racing again. We have a new car, it’s a new season, I’m fitter than I’ve ever been before, so we’re all eager to get back to action.

How happy are you with the team’s pre-season preparations?

I’m happy with what we’ve learnt this winter, and it’s a completely different situation from last year. We’re much stronger and better prepared for 2015. We’ve done more than 4500km in testing so it’s interesting what we’ve learnt and we’ll be able to put everything into practice in Australia and with the development of the car.

What are your impressions of the E23 Hybrid?

My feeling is this car is much better that last year’s car and not just in one area but with every aspect of the car. Obviously, it’s been good to work with the Mercedes power unit, but that’s just one part as the whole package is very promising and it looks to have good potential for the rest of the year.

What do you think of Australia?

It’s a great country and Melbourne is a wonderful city. It’s just great. I always love races that are close to the city because you have more people coming and it really feels like you are involved and part of their life for the short time you are there. There are all the benefits of the city to appreciate and the fans really get behind the event. It’s maybe one of the best races of the year.

What are the challenges of Albert Park?

To be honest I love the track. The main challenges are that the track surface changes a lot over the weekend, especially from free practice to qualifying. The drivers and engineers need to try to predict how the track is going to evolve, especially for qualifying as this is crucial for the final position on Sunday. Another challenge is the weather as you never know what it will do Ð even during the course of each day.

Where do you expect Lotus F1 Team to be in the pecking order?

Certainly we’ll be in the fight! We’re working hard to improve and we’ve seen that the reigning champions have set a very high standard with their 2015 car. The difference between them and the rest of the field looks quite big after pre-season testing, but behind them the group is getting more compact. There should be a good mix of Williams, Red Bull, Ferrari and us which should make things interesting.

Should the Australian Grand Prix give a good guide for the rest of the year?

In terms of how the car performs, Albert Park is probably not the best gauge as it’s not a permanent race track and it’s unique in many different ways. Certainly, if we go well there we’ll be happy, but if it doesn’t go to plan then that won’t be the end of the world as it’s one of twenty races and it’s a very distinct circuit.

How much potential is there for development of the E23 from its starting point?

It’s quite exciting as it’s our first season with a new power unit supplier so in some respects we’re starting from zero while others are developing more from where they were last year. Our package is much better than last year’s, but against others we have to wait and see; we won’t know where we stand until after the first few races. We’ll try to develop in every way. It’s interesting with the car feeling have improved as well as engine response. A lot depends on how the first few races go, and then we will make developments for the future.