Following on from the opening round of the 2011 GP2 Series held two weeks ago at the Istanbul Park circuit in Turkey the GP2 teams now move to Barcelona in Spain for round two.
Although the results achieved by the Racing Engineering team and its two drivers, Germany’s Christian Vietoris and Spain’s Dani Clos, were not as good as had been hoped for the team having been working hard in the intervening period to ensure that both drivers will be battling for victory this weekend.
Below Thomas Couyotopoulo, Racing Engineering’s Sporting Director, explains how the team have been preparing for the event and what the particular challenges of the Montmelo circuit in Barcelona are.
Thomas, although Istanbul has not brought the results expected, is the team positive that Barcelona will see the Racing Engineering drivers back to where they belong?
The race weekend in Istanbul started well with a satisfying free practice and qualifying sessions. But for various reasons things didn’t go too well during both races and we can’t be happy with the results we obtained. Barcelona is a different track, we will also use a different tyre compound and we have worked very hard to understand and learn from Istanbul. We expect and hope to achieve good results with both drivers in Barcelona.
What are the main differences between the Istanbul Park circuit and the circuit of Barcelona? Which are the major challenges teams and drivers face in Montmelo?
Barcelona and Istanbul Park are two very complete tracks with fast, mid and slow sections. Even though Barcelona is a more traditional track where the layout has not changed too much during the last years, it remains a very good reference for drivers and teams of many championships, including GP2 and Formula 1. One of the most obvious differences is that Istanbul is one of the few circuits running in an anti-clockwise direction. But both tracks are quite abrasive and demanding a lot of tyre compounds and they are both located in the countryside, which means they are not flat, but ascending and descending, this makes the racing interesting and nice to watch. In Montmelo, one of the few possible overtaking areas is when cars brake into turn 1, but drivers and cars have to find the perfect way to travel through these first three turns keeping up a good amount of speed. Turns 3 and 9 in Barcelona are two fast right hand corners, requiring a good aerodynamic balance and stressing the tyres, but without reaching the level of Istanbul's famous turn 8. Approaching turn 10 in Montmelo is another braking zone, with quite low minimum speed and traction is a key point there. The deceleration on reaching turn 9 in Istanbul is somewhat similar, with a slightly higher minimum corner speed but the traction is also important there to be in a good position going up the hill. The last section on both these two tracks is quite slow. In Barcelona a chicane has been added before the last corner, which slows the cars down quite a lot and demands a lot from the mechanical grip and traction. It’s very important for the drivers to find the best lines through the curbs of the Barcelona chicane as it affects their acceleration along the main straight and position. Generally Barcelona's track layout does not allow as much overtaking as we saw it in Istanbul, where more driving lines can be chosen by drivers. This makes qualifying in Barcelona even more important for the drivers.
Can you tell us what the main tasks of the team were after Istanbul and preparing the race weekend of Barcelona?
Following Istanbul, it was decided to have an in-depth look at all the different parameters involved in the performance of our cars during this weekend to understand and optimize the choices for Barcelona. Obviously, in GP2 as well as in Formula 1, we have seen this year that the strategy and choice on set-up has to be done taking into account the very high tyre wear of the Pirelli’s. A great effort has been done to analyse the data of every session and race in Istanbul and identify the validity of the choices made. We have shown in Istanbul that we can be quick in wet as well as dry conditions. The focus now obviously lies on conserving the tyres and maintaining a good performance level throughout the races. This involves a variety of points, such as set-up choices, driving styles, strategy and tyre management. With only 30 minutes of free practice, there won't be much time to adjust the cars, but we tested in Barcelona one month ago and take the information gained at that stage into consideration as well.
What are the team's expectations regarding the upcoming race weekend? It's not only the team's, but also Dani's home race. Any special plans?
We were the only team in Istanbul able to place both drivers in the top 10 in qualifying. Therefore, the first goal is to repeat this in Barcelona, preferably as high up the grid as possible! And although Dani is from Barcelona and we are a Spanish team, Barcelona is one more race on the calendar for us from a technical point of view. We prepare things as precisely and diligently as we do it for any race weekend, so nothing special is planned in particular. The circuit of Barcelona is very well known by all the teams and drivers, so from a technical point of view, no one really has an advantage there. However, it is always a pleasure for us to drive in Barcelona as there is little to be compared to racing in front of the home crowds. We are all focused on achieving the best results possible and would be happy to leave Barcelona having scored a good amount of points.
Race 2: 23 May 2011 10:35:00 (Local time)
Qualifying: 20 May 2011 15:55:00 (Local time)
Race 1: 21 May 2011 15:40:00 (Local time)