Pre-season testing is the first real outing for the race team as they prepare for the year ahead; how did things go in Jerez and Barcelona?
We had a few relatively simple but time consuming issues with the car during testing and the crew did a fantastic job in getting on top of things. Although operationally simple to fix, such gremlins can take a while to correct so everyone was working flat out to get the car back out on track. On top of that, we had the small matter of switching between three different driver setups in a single day at the second Barcelona test. With Kimi sidelined on the Saturday, we first had to settle Davide into the car and then – after just a couple of hours – swap things back to Romain’s preferences. This is far from the five minute job it used to be a few years back, with each car now tailored specifically to its respective driver. That we lost minimal track time making these adjustments is a credit to everyone involved.
Can the winter programme fully prepare the team for the challenge of a race weekend?
To an extent yes, but there are two stages of the season which always cause a bit of a shock to the system; the first is of course the opening week in Melbourne, the second when we come to the first European round. For the flyaway races, we effectively gain an extra day at the circuit which helps ease the burden slightly, whereas in Europe we usually arrive on the Thursday morning before the race to finish assembling the cars ready for free practice.
Of course, when we’re back at the factory every mechanic has a hand in the first car build. Whether they’re regulars on the front or rear end of the car, they’ll all have a taste of what to expect before the car hits the track for the first time; even if they may not be carrying out a complete assembly on their usual area of the car as would be the case during a race weekend. The first few builds always take a little longer, but by the time we arrive at the first race everyone is right up to speed.
Aside from testing, what have the team been doing to prepare for the season ahead?
Earlier this week we were at Silverstone for a day of pit stop filming. Aside from giving our partners some useful content, this has the added benefit of giving us a good opportunity to get some real time practice in ahead of the new season. It also allowed us to try out our new kit – overalls from Alpinestars and helmets from Bell – which is another positive as the last thing you need at the first race is to turn up and find that these things aren’t quite to your liking. The crew were in action for pretty much the entire day without a single complaint which is very encouraging. It may seem like a basic consideration but comfort, freedom of movement and clear visibility are crucial in allowing the team to fully focus on the job at hand. Of course, we’ve also been through hundreds of practice stops back at the factory to keep the crew sharp; the times have started to come down too…
What’s next on the agenda?
After two very busy days completing the cars and packing up the majority of the freight, we’re flying out to Melbourne in groups across Friday Saturday and Sunday. This is the busiest, but also one of the most exciting stages of the year. We’re all looking forward to it; let’s see what Australia brings!
- LOTUS F1 TEAM