Mike Gascoyne Q&A: Team Lotus are going places 27 May 2011
Last season Team Lotus claimed the honours as the best of the new teams. This season - in their second year - they want much, much more. The extensive upgrade they brought to last weekends Spanish round certainly saw them take a step into the midfield on Saturday, and though they struggled somewhat in the Barcelona race, chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne is certain, given time, they can fight with the likes of Force India and Williams more regularly. Speaking exclusively to Formula1.com, Gascoyne discusses the teams driver line-up, the prospect of 1.6-litre engines, their Renault and Red Bull relationships and their ongoing quest for that elusive first point
Q: Mike, you went into this season with high hopes of closing the gap to the established teams. Are you satisfied with progress?
Mike Gascoyne: Satisfied probably isn't the right word at this stage of the season - perhaps encouraged is more appropriate. As you say, our key goal this year has been to bridge the gap to the midfield and we are edging ever closer to doing just that. But our goals are set for the season so we will only be satisfied if we have done that by the end of the year. We are all encouraged by the pace this year's car clearly has in comparison to the 2010 car, and we can now register Q2 performances and fight with the likes of Williams and Force India on a mix of pace and clever strategy. So if we can continue that upward progress throughout the year, we may well see this as a satisfying season.
Q: The last race in Barcelona looked quite promising and then hopes dwindled again. What was the reason for that? Barcelona is usually a turning point in performance
MG: I think it's unfair to judge the upgrades on Barcelona alone. We took basically a new rear end to Spain and it will always take time to fully optimise as big a change as we made in Barcelona. So as we learn more about how to get the best out of it I think you will start to see us sustaining the speed we showed in qualifying and the first half of the race over a full race distance.
Q: Are you sure that your driver line-up is not a bit outdated?
MG: I am sure, and after Jarno's (Trulli's) storming drive in Spain I think it's clear he still has that innate speed that has always made him one of the quickest guys out there. Jarno has obviously been around for a long time, but he hasn't lost his ability to dial in a car quickly, put in the quick laps when the pressure is on and keep pushing the whole team forward. Heikki (Kovalainen) is only in his fifth season so there is no way he could be accused of being old, and he is clearly having a very strong season - perhaps one of the strongest on the whole grid. So no, I don't think the line-up is outdated at all, quite the opposite. It's experienced, reliable and, above all, quick.
Q: Would it not make sense to pair an experienced guy with a rookie so you get something of a hungry, daredevil mentality back in the team?
MG: Perhaps that is a luxury more established teams can afford. A rookie might bring hunger, but they don't have the experience to tell the engineers how to improve the car, and they are more likely to make a mistake. Mistakes cost money and our money is best spent on making the car faster, not repairing it.
Q: There have been a fair few rules changes to make it easier for new teams to come into Formula One racing and prosper. Was enough done?
MG: From our standpoint it looks like it. Formula One is the pinnacle of world motorsport so if it was easy to come in and challenge immediately it wouldn't be the biggest series out there. But by laying the foundations carefully, having realistic long-term plans and spending your budget wisely it is possible to build up a serious challenge. But it will take a number of years, not months. Having said that, I think the resource restriction agreement can be more aggressively ramped up, to stop the frankly insane spend on technologies that only people in F1 see or understand. Ultimately we are here to go racing and put on as exciting a show as we can for the fans. This year's change to Pirelli has done that, so it proves that spending millions on tinkering with the regulations isn't the key - we don't need to spend more time in the wind tunnel to improve the show, we just need to have a tyre supplier like Pirelli, which is bold enough to build tyres that are for show, not just go.
Q: You ran with a Cosworth engine last season and switched to a Renault one this year. Was that a good move? How difficult was the partnership in 2010 between two newcomers?
MG: The switch to Renault and Red Bull Technology gearboxes has been excellent for us. It's worth pointing out that we had no issues at all with Cosworth, quite the opposite in fact - they were a great partner in our first year. But they and us were let down by the hydraulic and gearboxes issues we had in 2010. One of the key steps forward we have taken is in reliability and Renault and Red Bull have been key to the improvements we have seen in that area. The first fire-up of the car in the factory in January was a total contrast to 2010 - the engine fired up, ran for several minutes and since then we haven't looked back. Renault has also played an integral role in the development of our blown floor and we saw how that has helped us push forward in Spain, and here in Monaco, so long may that successful relationship, and with Red Bull, continue.
Q: 2013 will see 1.6-litre engines arrive. As a petrol head doesnt that contradict everything Formula One racing stands for?
MG: I don't think so. We work within whatever restrictions we are given, and if it's 1.6 litre turbo-charged engines then that's what we will work with. Looking back, turbos and small capacity engines gave us some of the most exciting cars the sport has ever seen, and while the modern rules won't allow the boost to be turned up to 1300 bhp plus, I think the heart of the sport will remain the same.
Q: Sponsors make the cars go round. How easy is it to find them?
MG: That's not something I'm really involved with. Tony (Fernandes), Din (Kamarudin Meranun) and Nasa (SM Nasarudin) are not only very successful businessmen in their own right, they are also very clever, well connected people. And their business plan does not rely on generating the types of deals that have fuelled the sport for many years. Having said that we are in a very healthy position and are laying the foundations for success over the long-term.
Q: What do you want from this season?
MG: Realistically it's for us to score our first point. We are edging ever closer to the guys ahead and with a bit of luck and more hard work I think we'll get there.
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