Heading into the second of three pre-season tests, Lotus F1 Team Trackside Operations Director Alan Permane gives an insight into why we go testing and what we want to achieve from it.
Q: How are we tackling the first of the Barcelona tests?
AP: In Barcelona we hope to pack in a number of long runs to get a much more detailed understanding of the tyres at a race circuit used during the season. We also aim to complete some full race distance simulations complete with pit stops, tyre changes and the car in action for a full complement of race laps; even down to formation laps and a simulated race start. We’ll do more performance work with the car, and the race distance simulations will put everything through some good reliability testing.
Q: Where’s the team at following the first test of the year?
AP: We’re happy with what was achieved at the first test. Ideally, we’d have liked to have completed more laps and more long runs, but the way the week shook out that didn’t happen. Jerez represented our first run in the E21 so you want to concentrate on two aspects; the new car itself and the new Pirelli tyres. However, the circuit surface is not ideally suited for assessing tyres as it’s particularly aggressive, so it’s still early days in learning how they perform. Jerez does give the benefit of reliably good weather – it’s about the best place in Europe at this time of year – meaning no interruptions to track time because of any inclemency. Ultimately, we achieved a decent mileage and have a good idea of the E21’s performance as well as an initial idea of tyre performance.
Q: When we’re testing, how is the focus split between evaluating new parts and refining the set-up of the car?
AP: Both go hand in hand to an extent. The first Barcelona test is largely concerned with improving the car from the initial lessons learnt in Jerez, so we’ve worked on anything which didn’t quite operate as expected or any components which need beefing up. This means there are minor updates to make the car more robust and raceworthy, which can be done in conjunction with performance work. Many of the updated parts are not necessarily performance parts, but more concerned with reliability, so a performance assessment can be conducted in parallel.
What happens at the second Barcelona test?
Some more of the same, but we’ll have aerodynamic updates such as a new front wing, a new floor, a new rear wing and most of the Melbourne package to evaluate. This means performance is more the focus. That said, even when we’re focused on performance testing, reliability evaluation is a welcome by-product whenever we run the car.
Q: If everything goes to plan, how well should we know the E21 and the 2013 tyres by the end of testing?
AP: We’ll still be in the early stages of the learning curve; particularly with regards to tyre performance. The track and ambient temperatures in Barcelona are likely to be well below what we could expect to see in Melbourne and particularly Sepang. In Barcelona we could have 20-25°C, whereas in Sepang it could be 45°C or even higher and track temperature has a significant impact on how a tyre performs. We do get an idea of our tyre wear – including where it sits relative to the average of all the teams – in the temperature conditions we test in, and we attempt to extrapolate this to the warmer temperatures and different track surfaces we will encounter at the first races.
We’ll have an idea of how the tyres have reacted in previous years at the test then at the first races, which will give us a framework of consideration. All that said, the first races are still very much part of the learning process for all of the teams and that often helps to make them some of the most exciting for those watching. We hope that we’re at the forefront of that excitement.