After a disappointing showing in the last two races, Federico Gastaldi is confident that Lotus will bounce back in Austria at the Red Bull Ring next weekend.
The team principal was left cursing his bad luck after both Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado were forced to retire from last weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix, with both sniffing at the points. In Monaco, Grosjean did finish in eighth place, but the team could have fared far better had it not been for an early incident.
“We have potential which is still to be fulfilled,” Gastaldi said. “Canada was a kick where it hurts for everyone at the team but we took stock, identified the issues and have taken action to avoid any repeats.
“The last thing you want is both cars sat in the garage at the end of a race, but that’s what we had. Thankfully it is very rare for us.”
In fact, it was Maldonado’s third retirement in seven races, and the Venezuelan remains rooted to the bottom of the drivers’ standings.
Nevertheless, Gastaldi believes that the fast-flowing nature of the Red Bull Ring – which hosts F1 for the first time since 2003 next weekend – should suit the E22 car.
“Monaco and Montréal were both races which didn’t play to our strengths and additionally we had reliability problems at both of them,” he explained. “Austria looks to be more positive in terms of its potential for us, as well as the next few races too. We’re making improvements all the time so we can tackle all the aspects which cause us a challenge.”
Lotus may be a long way off its 2013 form, but with eight points in the board, it has in fact exceeded many early expectations after a disastrous pre-season testing period. Now, the focus will be on gradually cutting the gap to the top ten and picking up a few more points to move ahead of Toro Rosso in the constructors’.
MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver roster in this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series. Next up in 13th is Carlos Munoz, who fell back to earth a bit after winning Indianapolis 500, then series rookie-of-the-year honors in consecutive years.
Carlos Munoz, No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda
- 2014: 8th Place, Best Finish 3rd, Best Start 3rd, 3 Podiums, 5 Top-5, 8 Top-10, 0 Laps Led, 10.5 Avg. Start, 12.6 Avg. Finish
- 2015: 13th Place, 1 Win, Best Start 4th, 1 Podium, 3 Top-5, 7 Top-10, 25 Laps Led, 14.0 Avg. Start, 12.1 Avg. Finish
Munoz fell down to earth a little bit in his second full season in IndyCar, albeit not as badly as fellow 2014 rookie Jack Hawksworth, who’d switched teams and had a myriad of issues throughout the season. He won his first race in the rain at Detroit race one, which was well judged, but there were precious other highlights from the driver who has showcased “wow” potential in the past.
His qualifying fell off year-to-year and that was probably the single thing to pinpoint as to why the decline occurred, falling from eighth to 13th in points. What had been a 10.5 average in 2014 fell to 14th this year, and behind teammates Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Ovals seemed his strongest type of circuit this year on the whole. Like teammate Justin Wilson, he’d been in position to score what would have been his third straight Indianapolis 500 top-five finish if a late splash of fuel wasn’t needed. Sixth at Texas from fourth on the grid marked his best overall weekend of the year, and fifth at Iowa and Pocono were also fairly good results.
But whereas Munoz picked his spots well last year and delivered a handful of podiums, his Detroit win marked his only podium visit this year. He didn’t really make much of an impression and was more anonymous than not over the course of the year. His future with Andretti is uncertain for 2016.
With action pretty much limited in both practice sessions due to the diesel spillage in free practice one and rain in free practice two for the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi, teams could only do limited wet-weather runs.
Williams Martini Racing tried to make the best of the circumstances, as one of only five teams that completed laps in FP2 (McLaren, Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Ferrari) with eight cars.
Felipe Massa led second practice but it was an essentially meaningless session.
“It was quite a stunted session today which stopped us from completing all of the work we wanted to,” said Rob Smedley, Williams’ head of vehicle performance. “We had planned to run in the wet but we had a strange situation this afternoon in that half of the circuit was much wetter than the other half which made most of the tests null and void.
“We have been working on the wet set-up of the car and so wanted to get out at the end of FP2 to see the progress we have made. In a similar vein to our low speed corner work in Singapore, we seem to be making progress. We got through all of the bits and pieces we wanted to get through in terms of control systems and power unit set-up, and we have to go into tomorrow with a good plan for FP3 to get the car set-up for qualifying and the race.”
Valtteri Bottas finished third in Sochi a year ago, while Massa seeks a rebound after a fuel flow issue in qualifying resigned him to a Q1 elimination and an 11th place finish.