| Source: lotusf1team.com |
After his success in Melbourne and now the dust has settled, the Iceman talks us through how he will prepare and look forward to trying to achieve the same in Malaysia.
Q: What are your main memories of Sepang as a circuit?
KR: Malaysia has been good and bad for me in the past; I’ve had a few bad races there but I’ve also won two times at the circuit including my first Grand Prix victory so it’s nice to go back to where it all began with my first win. For sure I will always remember that my first win came in Malaysian Grand Prix in 2003.
Q: As it’s the location of your first win, does that mean it’s a special place for you?
KR: I would not say that circuit is more important for me – it’s not that special for me – but it’s quite a nice place to race at. I like it and the challenge is always at the highest level in the beginning of the year in the heat. It’s also one of those circuits where it usually rains sometime during the weekend. So you have to plan the programme with that possibility, too.
Q: What are your thoughts looking ahead to Malaysia?
KR: It’s a difference place, it’s going to be much hotter there so it’s very difficult to say how the cars will feel, who will be fastest after having done just one race. I think we have to do two or three races before we really know who is where and what’s going to happen. It’s probably going to rain again in Malaysia at some point but it will be a different circuit, different conditions. Our car worked well in Australia and usually – at least last year – in hot conditions it’s been good for us so hopefully it will turn out to be a good weekend.
The E21’s tyre management was key to Kimi Raikkonen’s Australian Grand Prix victory as it allowed him to make only two pit-stops compared to the three of his main rivals.
While Lotus is confident that the car is one of the best in terms of tyre degradation, technical director James Allison doesn’t count on being able to do this everywhere.
“It’s fairly finely-balanced and we can’t assume that we will be able to pull off the trick of running one fewer stop than everyone else at a competitive pace everywhere we go,” Allison told AUTOSPORT.
“The car is good, the drivers have both said that from the outset and they have a good feeling about it, but it’s not a given at all.
“It doesn’t take much to shove the tyres from being able to do the two-stopper that Kimi managed to the three-stopper that Romain [Grosjean] ran.”
“On one-lap running, we are the third or fourth quickest team and that means we are going to be somewhere from fifth to eighth [in qualifying],” said Allison.
“The indications from the car are that it is capable over a wide range of tracks of running competitive in the races.
“The tyres are less of a story than everyone was anticipating but they are more highly-strung than last year.
“Qualifying pace is therefore slightly less important than it was at the tail-end of last season because it doesn’t take many laps at 0.2-0.3 seconds a lap degradation before the qualifying pace is meaningless.”