Interview with Renault's James Allison Lotus Renault GP arguably endured one of its most difficult race weekends of the season in Singapore, with drivers Bruno Senna and Vitaly Petrov coming home in respective 15th and 17th places. Technical Director James Allison reflects on the event, assesses the current weak points of his team's chassis and looks ahead to 2012.
Does the team understand why the car is under-performing on twisty tracks?
Anybody can spot that we have suffered very poor performance at Monaco, Hungary and Singapore. It is much harder to say with any precision just what it is about our car that can impact performance at these low speed tracks. Neither is it clear why Singapore was notably worse than either Monaco or Hungary. The simplest explanation is that there is not enough downforce in low speed corners.
Is this situation down to the R31’s specific exhaust configuration?
We know from our experiments with rear blowing exhausts earlier in the year that they do offer a lot more rear downforce – especially at high rear ride heights. We know that slow speed tracks allow the rear to be held up high in all the corners and we know that rear downforce is a prized asset for coping with the traction demand at these tracks.
We also know that the forward exhaust, by contrast, performs more strongly once the rear ride height starts to compress – something that cannot be avoided in medium and high speed corners. It is probably reasonable to conclude that this is the basic mechanism behind the way that we shed so much competitiveness at slow speed tracks.
Is it the only explanation?
No. I reckon there is more than this. Even at Spa and Monza, where our performance was acceptable, we still had to tweak the aerodynamic setup during the weekend. Our car is very sensitive and extremely unforgiving of even the slightest geometric misalignment.
This weekend, we were plagued by rear wing and floor issues that all seem to be even more sensitive at very low speeds than they are at the higher speeds where our car is more comfortable.
Will Lotus Renault GP be able to get rid of these problems with the R32?
Of course. Each of these problems we can engineer out of the R32. However, at this stage of the season it is much harder to address these underlying problems for the R31.
With Suzuka approaching, do you feel more confident?
Yes. Several of the remaining races offer a range of medium and high speed corners where we ought to be able to get the car back into the points. We need to – Force India is starting to breathe down our neck and we need a few good results to stay ahead.