2012, August 7

Hungarian Grand Prix

When we started briefing with engineers after Hungarian race, I could only raise my hands and pronounce: “I don’t know, what to say”. And Gianluca [Pisanello, racing engineer] looked at me and answered: “You don’t need to say anything, we saw it all ourselves”. This time during the whole race my car was very difficult to drive. It was the first time in Formula One when I even had friction blisters on my hands after finish.

I have to say I’m a straight person and always try to be frank. If I make a mistake, I always accept it, but this time – and the team agree with me – it was technical problem. But we still have to investigate, what is the utmost reason that prevented us from better performance.  

After FP1 Heikki and I were far from happy – maybe it was because of green and dusty track, but the grip was very low and the car had very bad handling. Nevertheless, we continued to work according to our plan and made some progress after both Friday sessions. And on Saturday together with Gianluca we decided to try something else. I don’t like cars with oversteering – this kind of setup leads to lower downforce, worse laptimes and – the most important – to faster tyres degradation. The car behaves very nervous.

There are a lot of slow corners at Budapest, so it is really important to save your tyres. And we decided to try setup with even more understeer. During my final flying lap in Q1 I was 0,1 seconds faster than Heikki until Turn 7. But from Turn 8 on I started to lose time – and was losing it till the end of lap. I was half a second slower than my teammate, and nobody in the team could explain why. I didn’t make any mistake, there were no traffic. It was clear from telemetry that just after Turn 8 the temperature of my rear tyres rose significantly, so grip felt down. Car started to slide a lot, I had to fight with it every time.

It was a big disappointment for me and my engineer. We spent a lot of time, trying to analyze the situation, but couldn’t explain our issues. But we knew – the car should perform much better in the race and we even changed balance for more understeering. First five laps should not be easy, but we planned to take an advantage later in the race. Rear tyres were protected from wheelspin, that should help us a lot.

I did a good start, overtook two or three cars, but under braking before Turn 2 rear wheels locked suddenly, car started to slide and I lost all positions I’d gained earlier. Until first pit-stop I was following my teammate, but it was clear – the car still didn’t work properly. It was very difficult to drive; I even – for the first time this year – had a feeling that I cannot affect the situation. I tried to change my trajectories at corners’ entrances and exits, but that didn’t help me at all.

It was very uncomfortable, and on new set of tyres after pit-stop situation remained the same. We even increased front wing flap angle by 2.5 degrees. Normally I felt some changes with the car even after 0.5 degrees.

From data we had it looked like after all things we’d tried during the race with our car it just behaved the same. So this time I had to fight not with competitors, but with myself, trying to understand what went wrong.

The team decided to check the car thoroughly after returning to factory. The first thing that our engineers find out – there are a lot of small pieces of rubber all around bodywork. Maybe, during formation lap one of them got into “right” place and disturbed aerodynamics. At the moment we could only say, that in Hungary I seriously lacked downforce. It is well known, that if a wing or another part of bodywork lose even a small piece of 5 mm, it can seriously affect aerodynamic performance of the car.  

For me Hungarian Grand Prix turned out to be the most difficult week-end so far with Caterham F1 Team. But we continue to work and hope to move even more forward after summer break. It is the main aim for the whole team. As for me,  I plan to meet my fans twice in August – first time at Rostov and then at Ulan-Ude. I enjoy events of that kind very much as they provide great feelings and also give a chance to be closer to Formula One for those who cannot visit a Grand Prix.