Lotus F1 Team Technical Director Nick Chester looks to the all-new circuit that is the Sochi Autodrom.What would you describe as the main challenges of Sochi Autodrom?
We will of course only properly identify the challenges once we are actually in Sochi however we already have initial feedback from both Romain and Pastor who have been in the simulator. Turn 3 is a long and quite high speed corner that will present a good challenge. Braking down into Turn 13 will be very severe and you come out of the kink before you brake so it will be a difficult corner to get right. Overall, the whole track looks quite technical, so it certainly will be a challenging one for the drivers.
What type of car set-up and downforce levels do we expect for Sochi?
It looks like a high downforce circuit as most corner speeds are between 80 and 140kph. I would say that setup will probably be similar to Singapore although there are a couple of straights that are longer in Sochi so downforce levels will be between Singapore and Suzuka.
The circuit seems to have little in the way of run off; what challenges does that throw up for the team?
The main challenges really on these types of circuits are for the drivers. They will have to learn the track pretty rapidly to feel comfortable with its configuration and concentrate at all times during the lap. We all know the penalties of a short run-off when it’s a new track with uncertain grip levels.
Are there any climate challenges?
The information we have is that the weather can be quite unusual in Sochi as you have the mountains on one side and the sea on the other. We can expect mild temperatures of about 20°C during the day and 12°C at night, the average in that region in October. Early forecast indicates that there are reasonable chances of rain.
Pastor and Romain have both previewed the circuit in our simulator. How useful was it for them to have had a first taste of the new track?
The simulator is a valuable asset and one which enables the drivers to be very quickly up to speed when they take to the track for the first time. They will know how one corner flows into another, which line to take and have an initial idea about braking points. It might mean that they get their lap times down three or four laps earlier than they normally would. Overall it gives them a head start in FP1.
What type of preparations does the team do before visiting a new circuit? How useful is it to do preparation work in the simulator?
Before we had a simulator, when we had a new circuit like this we would estimate the racing line through the corner to do initial simulations. With a simulator, once the driver has completed a few laps you have a more accurate racing line, which enables us to create a far more accurate simulation model. This assists the trackside engineers to prepare an initial baseline set-up which once again saves time at the track.
How did we prepare to take the team to a new venue?It’s important to have a good environment for everyone to be able to perform on track, so we liaise with the organisers and our partners to ensure we have suitable office space and telecommunications links back to Enstone. It’s amazing the amount of data which is processed over the course of a race weekend, so we have to be able to house all of the team as well as all the equipment involved. There’s a lot of forward planning behind the scenes to ensure the smooth running of any event, and especially if it’s a new one.
What were the performance considerations for the team in Suzuka?
It was an usual weekend in terms of performance. We looked to have good potential on the Friday, then we couldn’t match our goals on Saturday. Then in the very difficult conditions of race day we put in some pretty respectable laps over the course of the race. It was a tough event in terms of strategy, but both drivers we able to get some good stints and make good gains. It was another race weekend where we learnt a lot.
source: Lotus F1