Having scored their first points in Spain and topped the timesheets in testing, Lotus tech director Nick Chester is optimistic about the team's progress...
Q: It must have been a relief to score the first points of the year in Spain?
NC: It was really good to get some points on the board. We always said we'd be back competing close to the front by Barcelona, but it's easier said than done! Romain would have been even quicker in the race without an issue with a sensor on the power unit.
Q: A lot of people have been impressed by the step forward the E22 has made, where exactly have we improved?
NC: The two main areas of improvement are the power unit and aerodynamics. Renault Sport F1 have done a lot of work on mapping, so the power unit is starting to perform a lot better. Then on the chassis side there have been the aerodynamic improvements, which have brought more downforce and made the car more driveable. We've also improved through general set-up as well.
Q: What are the remaining weaknesses?
NC: We are still missing some straight-line speed, but we're improving in that area too.
Q: Tell us about the Barcelona test?
NC: On the first day we had Charles Pic in the car for his first opportunity to drive the E22. We had to wait a bit for the track to dry out but we completed a lot of good running, trying some new aerodynamic parts, measuring aerodynamic performance and getting Charles happy in the car. His 70 laps provided us with good mileage and understanding of new performance parts. Charles did a great job, he really got to grips with the car pretty quickly and his feedback was good.
Q: Pastor finished with the fastest lap time, what was his schedule?
NC: Pastor had a really good day. Fully dry, 102 laps, which provided us with plenty of opportunity to evaluate more new parts. Some were for reliability proving, so we put a lot of miles on those, as well as aerodynamic tests including parts that will go to Monaco. Pastor also did some set-up work to make him more comfortable in the car and made a step in that area as well. Overall it was a really good test for us. There were no reliability issues that stopped the car running at all.
Q: How much were you able to do for Monaco with the two tracks being so different?
NC: You can prepare in the sense of finding a general performance improvement, such as more downforce. But in terms of a really detailed set-up, we know we'll have to change that for Monaco.
Q: What developments are in the pipeline for the E22?
NC: There's quite a lot for Monaco, including the usual 'one-off' aerodynamic package for maximum downforce, which will not be used at other circuits because it is quite 'draggy'. There will also be a small modification to the cooling system and there are other aerodynamic developments aimed at making the car more stable.
Q: Do you think Monaco will suit the E22?
NC: Yes I think it will. Monaco is a bit of a strange place - a one off - so it's always dangerous to assume your car will be good there. But I think it will suit the E22 and we should go fairly well. We'll also be bringing some specific parts aimed at giving us more downforce at what is the highest downforce track of the year. Other new parts will help tune the car for the bumpy and low speed track characteristics. The parts we've tested so far look good and we'll also have a new fuel from Total which should further improve power and driveability.
Q: There's still a lot of talk about the noise of the current cars, what can be done to change the sound?
NC: There's acoustic work going on with the FIA at the moment, looking at the shape of the megaphone exhaust because depending on how you shape it you can affect different frequencies. So you can bias it towards the frequencies that you want to pick up. Clearly there is still more work to do. Trying to change the sound using anything other than a new tailpipe would be a major challenge.
Q: How much more performance is still to come from the new generation F1 cars this year?
NC: There is quite a lot to come. Everyone is developing their cars pretty heavily at the moment and the power unit manufacturers are obviously on a much steeper curve than they were with the old V8s, so they are finding performance at a good rate. F1 cars are going to get significantly quicker during this year.