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Exclusive Mike Gascoyne Q&A: Lotus already focused on 2011 26 Aug 2010

Mike Gascoyne (GBR) Lotus F1 Racing Chief Technical Officer.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, British Grand Prix, Practice Day, Silverstone, England, Friday, 9 July 2010 Jarno Trulli (ITA) Lotus T127.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Hungarian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, 31 July 2010 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Lotus T127.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Hungarian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, 31 July 2010 A Lotus team photograph with Jarno Trulli (ITA) Lotus (Left) and Mike Gascoyne (GBR) Lotus F1 Racing Chief Technical Officer (Right) with the team celebrating 500 Grands Prix.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, European Grand Prix, Preparations, Valencia Spain, Thursday, 24 June 2010 Jarno Trulli (ITA) Lotus T127 leads Lucas di Grassi (BRA) Virgin Racing VR-01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race, Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, 1 August 2010

Lotus’s chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne is not your typical paddock personality. From his tattoos to his ‘Rottweiler’ nickname, Gascoyne is one of Formula One racing’s biggest characters. But after honing his skills during spells with Force India, McLaren, Sauber, Tyrrell, Jordan, Renault and Toyota, he’s also an ace in the design department. Here he discusses Lotus’s debut year, the team’s driver line-up and the 2011 season…

Q: Mike, it’s been said that you have longed to be in the technical driving seat of a new Formula One team. A few months down the line, is it still the dream?
Mike Gascoyne:
Of course it is! We’ve got to where we are now, almost exactly a year on from where we started from absolute scratch. We have proved all the doubters wrong, but the dream will continue as long as we keep pushing ahead, so long may it last.

Q: Do you feel the team are doing justice to the revered Lotus name?
MG:
We’ve never claimed to be the old Team Lotus, but we have worked very hard to pay respect to the heritage Colin Chapman and everyone associated with Team Lotus has left in F1. We think we are living up to the goals we have set ourselves, and that’s pressure enough. But when someone like Murray Walker says he thinks we’re going about this in a way that Colin would respect, that’s enough for me.

Q: Are you pleased with the rate of development?
MG:
We always knew this year it would be tough to score points, so from day one the goal has been to secure tenth place in the championship, get both cars home at as many races as possible and begin work on next year’s car as early as we could this season. At the moment we are tenth, our reliability has been pretty good (bearing in mind the lead-time we had to the start of the season) and next year’s car is well under way. So we’re pretty happy with where we are, but will keep working hard to finish the season as well as we can. The main focus now is on 2011 - to make sure we take a big step forward next year.

Q: To what extent does the experience of your drivers push the team’s performance? Will you keep the same line-up for 2011?
MG:
The driver line-up has been a very important part of our development and I think it’s impossible to downplay the pivotal role both Jarno (Trulli) and Heikki (Kovalainen) have played in helping us get to where we are, both on and off track. We’ll be making an announcement about the drivers very soon and stability is upmost in our driver strategy.

Q: How are Trulli and Kovalainen coping with their current grid positions? It must feel strange for both of them…
MG:
They’re both comfortable with where they are on the grid because they joined us knowing exactly where we were starting from, but it’s clear that they will be expecting more for next year, and it’s up to us to deliver it.

Q: What about your third driver Fairuz Fauzy? The team is backed by the Malaysian government and a consortium of Malaysian entrepreneurs so would it be logical to have a Malaysian race driver?
MG:
Fairuz has done an excellent job for us every time he has stepped into the car. He’s a bright young talent who is learning quickly how to get the best out of the car and the team, on and off track. And we’re doing the same with him. Nationality isn’t the determining factor in our choice of race drivers. Talent, experience and pace are our main priorities at the moment, and the combination of Jarno and Heikki, supported by Fairuz, gives us the best platform for us to push on towards the midfield right now.

Q: Is the T127 a car you can build on for 2011? How far along is next season’s car?
MG:
Obviously there are some pretty major aerodynamic rule changes next year. The huge amount of time and resource we have available for 2011, and the lack of time we had for this year’s car, means we will take a big step forward next year.

Q: At the moment the team’s headquarters are based in the UK but the plan is to relocate it to Malaysia. How far along are those plans?
MG:
The team is establishing itself well in Norfolk. And the short to medium term plan is to stay in the UK whilst simultaneously building up a resource in Malaysia that will house an R&D facility, a museum and a number of other elements that will help us continue to grow into a championship-winning team.

Q: Do you think the new teams have enough support to survive?
MG:
I think the teams do get enough support, not only to survive but also to move up the grid and challenge the established teams. The key factors are to bring in experienced people who know what they’re doing, give them the resources to enable them to do their jobs to the best of their abilities, and have achievable goals. We’re proving that by doing this you can establish a new team, start fighting on track, attract commercial investment and ultimately challenge for championships. At the end of the day we no longer consider ourselves a new team. We are now a proper F1 team with a name and heritage to live up to in 2011, and that shows how far we’ve come.