It was an eventful race in Monaco, what’s your verdict now you have had time to reflect on that weekend?
Firstly, I was relieved to learn that Vitaly had not broken or fractured anything after he was caught up in the crash. It was a worrying moment when it happened but we were glad to learn soon afterwards that there was nothing seriously wrong at all. After that, came the disappointment of missing a good opportunity to score points.
Vitaly was in a strong position to finish in the top three or four so we view that as a missed opportunity, but we also need to work on our qualifying to give ourselves a better chance each Sunday afternoon.
Some drivers (such as Jenson Button) have called for improved safety in Monaco following the crashes we saw last weekend – what’s your view?
I can understand the views of some drivers when they see the dramatic crashes like we saw in Monaco. However, I think we need to keep a cool head on this issue. Our sport – in fact, any sport including speed – can be dangerous, and what has been impressive is that when there have been serious crashes, most drivers have emerged from the car without injuries. That, in itself, is a clear indication that our sport is quite safe.
Formula 1 and the FIA have really raised their games in the last twelve months in terms of safety; there has been a lot of work on improving track design and car safety. I think that we now need to start working on more specific areas like the exit to the tunnel in Monaco. If we do this, there won’t be so much drama in the future.
Last year in Montreal, Robert finished eighth and Vitaly fourteenth – how do you think we will fare this time around?
Canada is a special case because it’s a low downforce track and a street circuit too. We expect Vitaly to perform stronger than last year because he has really stepped up to the plate so far this season. We’ve also got a better understanding of the Canadian Grand Prix now, after what we learnt when we were there last year, so I’m pretty sure both cars should be able to finish in the top eight.
You mentioned the need to improve qualifying performance – what steps can be taken to achieve this?
James Allison and the guys on the race team are working really hard on this. They have looked at the various issues and are starting to have a really clear understanding about what is missing. Our car is fast – sometimes very fast – and I’m confident that we can put everything together to ensure we are quick at any given time. There’s no magic wand though, so we’ll need to put in the hours in the wind tunnel to get to where we need to.
As a household name on the F1 calendar, what importance does the Canadian Grand Prix hold?
Canada is a massive asset for the sport because it is the one race in North America. The atmosphere and the fans are just amazing. A lot of races could only dream of having the attendance Canada has, and of getting such a great level of support. It really is magical to come back because of the tremendous level of support from everyone in the city.
What is your reaction to the decision of the FIA to reinstate the Bahrain Grand Prix?
Lotus Renault GP acknowledge the decision made by the FIA World Motor Sport Council today (Friday June 3 2011). That decision is likely to be discussed internally within FOTA, and a more detailed joint position may be defined after those discussions have taken place. I have already spoken at length about our team’s position recently: we are happy to go to Bahrain as long as our safety and the security of the people living there is guaranteed.