2011, September 24

Singapore GP, Saturday

Lotus Renault GP’s struggle at high downforce street circuits continued, as Bruno secured P15 and Vitaly P18 at Singapore’s Marina Bay Circuit.

- In the final free practice session of the weekend, temperatures were once again high; the air temperature climbed to 31°C.

- After struggling in Monaco and Hungary earlier in the season, the team expected the R31 to face difficulties here. In the first two days of this race weekend, this is an assertion that has proved correct.

- Bruno Q1: Softs, Super Softs Q2: Super softs

- Vitaly Q1: Softs, Super Softs

Bruno Senna, P15, R31-04, 1:48.662
“Today was a good effort by the team but unfortunately it was not enough. We made a good step forwards with the car this morning but it was not sufficient to get into Q3. I pushed very hard and made one mistake going over a kerb that made my rear tyres suffer a lot on the last seven corners – these kerbs are really something we need to steer clear of! All in all, I can be 90% satisfied with my lap, as it would have been hard to take much more out of the car - maybe another position or two, but not more. My 15th position is near where we deserve to be. I’m now looking forward to the race, which is going to be long and tiring. The worst thing here is the humidity. It’s all sweat, sweat, sweat - you never cool down. Looking ahead, we took a step forwards in terms of tyre conservation, while the break wear does not seem to be a problem for us. It should be an interesting race tomorrow.”

Vitaly Petrov, P18, R31-06, 1:49.835
“It is always a challenge to drive in Singapore and we knew that the R31 would not necessarily be suited to the track’s characteristics. We tried our best to cure our balance problems during the last free practice session but we have struggled with a lack traction all weekend. It’s something that has a particularly big impact in Singapore and, going into qualifying, we knew it was going to be an uphill battle to qualify in the top 10. I pushed hard but made a mistake on my last fast lap in Q2 and lost four or five tenths. All was then over. It will be important to conserve our tyres tomorrow, so at least I have the option of what I’ll use for the start. The race is going to be physically very tough with 61 hot, sweaty laps – it will test the drivers to the very limit but I’m ready for it.”

James Allison, Technical Director:

You talked yesterday about this being a trying weekend for the team – that assertion seems to have been validated today…
Yes, although we approached Singapore buoyed by recent good performances at Monza and Spa, this weekend has brought us back down to earth with a bang. Both the car crews and the drivers worked diligently to try to eke as much out of the cars as they could, but four seconds per lap is, unfortunately, a yawning chasm that cannot be crossed with springs, roll bars and ride heights.

Is this evidence of the unfortunate trend we seem to be faced with at these slower tracks?
Monaco, Hungary and now Singapore have shown clearly that we have a problem at circuits dominated by slow speed corners. From Spa, just two races ago and only a few rear wing settings different to Singapore, we have lost around 1.8sec/lap of competitiveness and around eight grid slots.

Was the rear end of the car still causing problems for the drivers today?
Yes. Although some improvement was made to the nervousness experienced yesterday, the rear grip under braking and traction was still very poor.

What can we salvage from the weekend tomorrow night?
This is a challenging circuit; free practice and qualifying have been sprinkled with cars finishing their session in the barriers. It will only be harder still in the race as the surface will be liberally covered in marbles. Several cars were doing long runs in the third practice session which is often indicative of concerns over brake wear; this is not a concern we have so we may prosper a little there. However, if we are going to score points it will be by virtue of other people’s misfortune and making to the flag unscathed.