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Exclusive Romain Grosjean Q&A: Lotus have taken a big step forward

07 May 2015

From race winners in 2013, Lotus went to near also-rans in 2014. For this season a switch to Mercedes power was supposed to reverse the team’s decline, and thus far the new partnership has produced 12 points. Will the renaissance continue? Ahead of this weekend’s Spanish round, we spoke to Romain Grosjean to find out…

Q: Romain, how satisfied are you with the past four races? There was a hope that Mercedes power units could provide Lotus with a fairytale, but so far that hasn’t really happened...

Romain Grosjean: Okay, let’s see. Last year the clear problem was the car; the chassis itself. It was a clear disaster to drive. So in that respect we've made a huge step forward already. The problem of course is that if you start far away from the top it is harder to catch up. We knew that Mercedes was a long way ahead. It looks like Ferrari were able to catch up which is nice for the fans, but behind these two there is a gap right now. If you look at how close we are to the Williams from where we've been in 2014, however, our step forward is clearly a big one. So the first four races have been pretty promising. Let's hope there is much more to come!

Q: How much acclimatisation is still happening between the chassis and power train? Especially as you just said that the chassis was pretty bad last year - now that you have the best power unit, is the chassis keeping up?

RG: We certainly have the best power unit on the grid - and it fitted straight into the car and worked well from day one. It would be unfair to compare because last year the technology was so brand new and I am sure that Renault has improved as well. But yes, we have the ‘winning' engine now in our car, which is pretty cool. It is what you feel in your stomach when you drive, and that is different now.

Q: How much did the chassis need to be revamped?

RG: You’d better ask [Lotus technical director] Nick Chester - I was not part of the process. All I can say is that it was a nice package from day one. And that is a superb feeling.

Q: Can you explain what is different now? The difference in philosophy behind the Mercedes and the Renault power unit is significant....

RG: Last year we ran an engine that was not ready at the beginning and struggled all season. So when you put an engine into the car that has won both championships last season, that is a difference. But as I said before, you cannot compare last season with this one. All have improved and developed, even if things are of course much easier when all works well from day one.

Q: You've been in the points in the last two races - does that mean there is light at the end of the tunnel?

RG: Ha, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. It's just your expectations of how bright you want that light to be that makes all the difference! If you work hard you will finally get to the point you want to be.

Q: What might that mean for your season? In 2013 you were very close to a race win, in 2014 you were miles away. What now for 2015?

RG: For sure I have not lost my driving style from 2013 so I see no reason why we should not bounce back to the 2013 performance. And 2014 was after all a learning process: it taught me to come to grips with a very difficult car. This car now suits me much better so all the indications point into the ‘good season' direction. Of course we are still some distance away from the two pacemakers Mercedes and Ferrari. Hopefully we will be able to score points and bring home good results.

Q: Aren't you tired of all the learning processes you go through? Is it time to finally cash in on all that learning?

RG: Of course you are hungry to win a race and hopefully become world champion one day. But I am in a sport where the car plays a massive role in that objective…

Q: So being world champion one day is still on your agenda?

RG: Yes, clearly. I am only 29 years old…

Q: But there are 17 year-olds coming in, a whole generation younger…

RG: ...but look at Kimi (Raikkonen) - he's 35. So I still have six years to go. That is plenty of time!

Q: Your team mate Pastor (Maldonado) is viewed in some quarters as somewhat ‘crash-happy’. To drive Lotus forward both drivers have to deliver results. How do you see the situation?

RG: Pastor is clearly helping the team financially. And he is quick as well. I am always watching his data and trying to learn. Of course we need both cars to score points, but that is not something I can influence. So I am doing my thing, and no hard feelings.

Q: Barcelona is always a big weekend for upgrades. What's new on your car?

RG: Yes, we have some updates, but that is ‘hush hush’ secret! (laughs) There are still many more things in the pipeline. Things are looking nice, that's all I can say. The data and numbers speak that language!

Q: So far you've made it into Q3 at all four races, which could indicate that your one lap pace is better than the race pace. What do you expect from Barcelona?

RG: On the contrary! We are better in the race, and that gives me the hope that when we have a clean weekend we should be really good. The perception of us being better in qualifying is because we had issues at the first two races - so fingers crossed that a clean weekend is finally coming our way here in Barcelona.