Clear blue skies and beautiful sunshine at the Circuito de Jerez created the perfect backdrop for the highlight of the year so far; the first on-track appearance of the E20.
Kimi Räikkönen took the team’s 2012 challenger out for a few laps at the Spanish venue, purely for filming purposes. Despite only being allowed to drive at a reduced pace, the 2007 World Champion was pleased to be back on track:
Kimi Räikkönen, Lotus F1 Team Driver: “It’s great to see the E20 at a race circuit and even better to get behind the wheel. It’s always frustrating to be in a new car and not be able to drive it at maximum attack, but thankfully I will have that opportunity for the next two days. My initial impressions are good, I fit comfortably in the car and it feels great in first and second gear; now let’s see what it can do tomorrow.”
As the E20 burst into life, the tension and excitement in the garage was clear to see, with the team finally seeing months of hard work come together. Among those present, Alan Permane was particularly pleased to have come through this initial run without any issues, and is already looking ahead to the first official test session:
Alan Permane, Trackside Operations Director: “The main purpose of the first test is to complete as many laps as possible with the E20. This allows us to assess if all systems are working as they should and highlights if there are any areas requiring our attention.
“We monitor all systems to ensure that everything is operating within the correct temperature range, and functioning as designed. Although we have a very early version of the aerodynamic package here, we are able to validate the track data against our CFD and wind tunnel information.
“Assessing Pirelli’s latest compound and construction tyres is another objective in Jerez. Although it is quite cold here in the morning, we expect representative track and ambient temperatures during the day, so we should get a good initial impression of their performance with the E20.
“Jerez is not a circuit we race on, but it is a good test venue with a range of high-speed and low-speed corners as well as a mixture of kerbs.
“Today’s filming runs allowed us to perform initial systems checks; now the hard work begins.”
As darkness begins to descend here in Jerez, the team will be working through the night to ensure that everything is prepared for the first test. With only a few hours to go, the long wait for Formula 1 action is almost over.
The first session is scheduled to begin at 09h00 tomorrow (Tuesday 7th February), with Kimi taking the wheel of the E20 for the first time at full race speeds.
Kimi Raikkonen can lead Lotus back to winning ways, according to team principal Eric Boullier.
Boullier believes that the 2007 world champion’s experience means that he will give the team the clear direction that it needs to deliver on its potential.
“Clearly, he brings a commitment to winning and he knows what he wants,” said Boullier. “He is a proper racer and fits in well with a team that is a bunch of proper racers.
“When he is in the car, he knows exactly what he wants and that makes the team’s life easier.
“It means more ambition and more responsibility [for the team] but it is also a different way of working with a world champion. He wants to win again and that’s an ambition that we share.”
Boullier also believes that it will be easy for him to get the best out of Raikkonen during 2012 and that the Finn proved how committed he is during two days of running in a 2010 Renault at Valencia last month.
This is despite question marks over the Finn’s motivation to race in F1 after two years in the World Rally Championship.
“How difficult will it be to me?” he said when asked about motivating Raikkonen. “For me, very easy.
“It was an easy discussion [to sign him up] and when he did the couple of days running he showed the team how motivated and professional he is.
“It was a huge boost for the team morale and the team motivation.”
The 2007 world champion, speaking at the launch of the new Lotus E20 at Jerez, said that while Pirelli’s tyres were always going to provide his steepest learning curve, he felt that his run on the demo rubber in a two-year-old Renault had displaced any worries about getting up to speed quickly.
“The tyres are probably the biggest difference since I left, and that’s what people were saying,” said Raikkonen. “But since the test two weeks ago I have less worries about the whole thing than I had before.
“So we will see where we are when the first race comes.
“For me it was nice to get back in the car again. It is very difficult to say how well we went, but I got back all the feeling about driving the car and got used to working with the team. That was really the main goal, to learn.
“It was interesting to drive and get a little bit back that feeling.”
Raikkonen, who shook the Renault-powered E20 down during a team filming day at Jerez on Monday, said that in the short period of time that he had been working with Lotus he had been convinced that all the ingredients were in place for the squad to return to a championship-winning level.
“Nobody knows exactly [how long it will take],” he said. “The team has a lot of hunger to do well and to get back their winning ways but it’s not easy. If it was, everybody would do it. But definitely there are people who want to get back there and put in the effort for it.
“They have won it before so they have all the tools to do it. It’s just about getting everything right and being up there all the time so hopefully it can happen soon, but everybody seems hungry to do it.”
Raikkonen said that he was not expecting many changes on his return and that many of the faces in the paddock were similar to those he had left behind when he walked away from the sport at the end of 2009.
Responding to a question that suggested he was no longer enjoying the sport when he left, Raikkonen replied: “That was only your opinion, I would have left earlier if I wasn’t having fun.
“I always said that I loved the racing and I have always been very happy to race. There were a lot of stories from all of your [the press] side about my motivation, but I never had any issues with that. This has come from nothing from my mind.
“I don’t think I look at Formula 1 any differently,” he said. “It’s a new year and there are some different things from in the last few years, but I know the sport, I know how things work here.
“The racing is going to be a little different but all the other things are more or less the same. OK from team-to-team it changes in things outside of the racing but I feel sure it is going to be similar experience.”
For his re-acquaintance with an F1 car Kimi Raikkonen used a Renault R30, chassis number 3, as used during 2010 pre-season testing by Vitaly Petrov and Robert Kubica. The car was subsequently raced by Robert Kubica from the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix until round thirteen, the Belgian Grand Prix. The R30-03 was also used for the end of season young driver test.
Lotus F1 Team engineer Simon Rennie was present in Valencia when Raikkonen was testing the 2010-spec R30 and shares his thoughts from an engineering perspective about the Finn’s test.
Q: What are your impressions of Kimi after the two-day test in Valencia?
SR: It went very well. He’s a fantastic driver with a proven track record and a lot of experience so it was no surprise to see him on the pace straight away. Having said that, we were all impressed with how quickly he got up to speed in the car; his first run produced a lap that was only a few tenths away from his best lap of the day which was incredible to say the least. On the second day he was even quicker, so it was all very positive.
Q: What was Kimi like away from the technical side? How did his relationship with the team evolve over the course of the two days?
SR: He is very easy to work with; extremely professional and focused. But on top of that, he’s extremely laid back and we had some good banter with him while he was with us which is important as it builds a good relationship with the guys. There were four engineers as well as myself working with Kimi and he made a real effort to keep each of us updated on what he liked and didn’t like about the way the car felt. Again, this is really useful for us, as it helps us to get the car working in a way that suits him best, which ultimately will of course lead to him feeling comfortable and producing his quickest lap times.
Q: We heard Kimi commenting that he felt an unexpected difference in the brake balance of the car at one stage; what happened there?
SR: This really showed us something about Kimi. Overnight the brake balance was shifted slightly rearwards to help lock up the rear wheels during a bite point learn, and when Kimi returned to the car for his install lap the next day he instantly noticed the difference and exactly what had caused it. To have been out of a Formula 1 car for two years and still pick up on these subtle differences so quickly really demonstrates how sharp he is as a driver.
F1 2009 Vs. F1 2012
There have been quite a few changes since Kimi last contested a Grand Prix. Here are some of the more significant ones: (more…)