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Monaco is the first real high downforce race of the season – what changes can we expect to the car, and how long does it take to develop such a package?
There won’t be big changes to Lotus Renault GP for Monaco. We will run a higher downforce top rear wing, but the days of highly specialised bodywork kits for Monaco are a bit behind us. Monaco is less power sensitive and more downforce sensitive than other circuits. However, the profit from this is not massive and the opportunity cost of producing Monaco specific parts has to be carefully considered. In general it is a better strategy to spend your aerodynamic resources attempting to produce improvements that benefit the widest possible range of circuits.
Historically, Enstone cars have performed well at high downforce tracks – will we see a repeat of that here?
I hope so. The historically strong performance of our cars at Monaco and Hungary probably owes more to the bumpy nature of the tracks than to the downforce level in particular. Our cars have tended to handle well over the bumps and this gives the drivers confidence to push the car to its limits.
Pirelli’s supersoft tyres will make an appearance – what impact do you expect this to have?
We ran the super soft during winter testing and, as you might expect, it offers grip gains over the soft tyre at the expense of increased wear and degradation rate. Monaco is less demanding on the tyres than the winter testing tracks, but I suspect it will still prove to be a stern test of the durability of the supersoft.
With frequent pit stops becoming a regular feature this year, will this make the race more of a lottery?
All pit stops carry with them the risk of substantial loss of time and track position as a result of errors. These errors can have a decisive effect on the outcome of a race. All the teams know this, and are all working hard to try to eliminate all sources of error. At Lotus Renault GP we had a couple of poor races at the start of the year with our pit stops. Since then our crew has put in a lot of effort to bring us back to the correct level. The prime focus is to make repeatable stops first and foremost before gradually chipping away at the stop times.
Much has been placed on the use of tyres in Qualifying – will this take on an added importance in Monaco?
I’m not sure that it will have added importance, but it will remain an important consideration. If the indications from free practice reveal that the tyres are hanging together in race trim, then the inherent difficulty of overtaking at Monaco will mean it is less crucial to conserve virgin tyres. If the tyres look critical in free practice, then there will be a very strong incentive to save sets for the race.
With the proximity of the barriers and risk of contact, is the suspension modified for Monaco?
Monaco always involves a few brushes with the armco and sometimes a bit of contact with other cars. Lotus Renault GP has historical information about the sort of loads put into the suspension as a result of these minor incidents and the strength required to withstand them is factored in when the suspension is designed at the start of the year.