Lotus are not exactly optimistic about their chances at Monza with both Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado predicting a tough weekend.
Romain Grosjean: “I like Monza a lot because it is so distinctive. Monza is a great track that has a lot of great racing history. This makes it nice for us to compete at a place where all our heroes raced too. There is a lot of atmosphere around the track and to race in the setting of the royal park makes for a really special ambience. Of course the Ferrari fans are a big part of it and it is really nice competing at such a legendary venue.
“One of my first ever races in cars was at Monza back in 2003 when I was driving in a category called Formula Lista where I won and then went on to win every race of my rookie season in that formula. I have had some other big results at Monza too throughout my career, so it holds lots of good memories.
“What are my aspirations for Monza? I think that it will be tough for us. On paper it is not one of the races that we should do that well at. But as always we will be fighting hard and trying to get the maximum from the weekend, so that it gives us good momentum for the Singapore weekend later in September when we should be stronger and the track should suit the E22 a little better. We will have a one-off rear wing for Monza and the key will be to make the car as quick as possible from an aero point of view, so that we can get back some of the performance from our straight-line speed disadvantage. Then we have to manage the tyre degradation.
“Also for us it will be tricky in the big corners like the Lesmos and the Ascari chicane because the less downforce you have then the more difficult it is to get good grip in the turns. It is a tough compromise but one I am sure that the team will get the best solution possible.”
Pastor Maldonado: “I like Monza and I love Italy. I actually used to live very close to the circuit when I was starting my career here in Europe. I have won races here so it holds some good memories and special feelings for sure. I have a lot of friends here and a lot of supporters who come and see me at the track, so it is very nice to catch up with them all. The track is totally unique and of course it is great to be racing where all the old heroes did too. Monza has changed only very slightly over the years and it still has the character of the old banking and the parkland trees as you drive through it and of course the fans create a great atmosphere which is a great soundtrack to the Grand Prix.
“The track is all about how fast you can go on the start/finish straight and then also on the back straight too. We are reaching the highest speeds of the season on these stretches. One of the critical points is the Parabolica corner. You have to get this right at the end of your lap to ensure a good time, and if you get it wrong it also compromises you for the next lap. It’s difficult to do this as the car is set-up for low downforce on the straights, so it’s more difficult to drive on the corners – especially a long corner like Parabolica, which is tough and fast, the most crucial at Monza.
“For sure it is going to be a tough weekend again for us at Lotus F1 Team. Monza is all about power combined with a low downforce set-up so it is a big challenge. I think it will be interesting to see the new 2014-spec cars here because the track is so unique and there is a very particular way to get the best out of the cars. They will be difficult to drive I think for everyone but we will be doing our best to put the Spa weekend behind us and to get more positive energy going before we head off on the long haul races.”
Federico Gastaldi, Lotus deputy team principal: “Monza is a real test for the engineers and drivers because it is the ultimate compromise in speed and aero balance for the car. That is unique in F1 these days. It will be interesting to see how they rise to the challenge. We go there in a difficult position as we are not the fastest in a straight line. But we will push to the maximum, matching the passion and spirit we see off the track from the fans, with our usual determination on it. We have to dig in and make sure we are in the best position possible for when our luck changes.”
Nick Chester, Lotus technical director: “Monza is quite challenging because it is such a low downforce circuit. It is difficult to get grip in the car and for the drivers to feel comfortable – so working on the car set-up is key. We will also focus on the braking so Romain and Pastor can make gains on the entries to the chicanes and generally feel more comfortable in feeling where the limits are. We have more aero parts to take to Italy which we will try on the Friday free practice sessions. We will have a low-drag rear wing for Monza that is circuit-specific and as a result the skinniest we will run all season. It is all about meeting the low downforce challenge.”