Lotus F1’s Romain Grosjean had a bad year in 2014 but he told AUTOSPORT that he learned how to change his style to drive the new specification car. This has been one of the issues tossed around the web about why Kimi Raikkonen or Sebastian Vettel couldn’t come to terms with the new non-blown exhaust cars with reduced aero in 2014.
What I found insightful were Grosjean’s comments about how the car handled without the blown exhaust:
“I like to go very early on the throttle, but this year it wasn’t possible,” he said.
“I had a little less feeling in the front end and I like to brake late and turn late, but this year it didn’t work.
“It [exhaust blowing] would have made me more confident and I could push more, but things change.”
And what impact did the new specification have on these cars? How did they handle?
“Last year, one lap you got oversteer, lap two it’s understeer and then maybe the next lap it’s going to be good.
“You can’t understand and analyse things, so you just have to go with the feeling, which Pastor did pretty well.
“So I have been improving myself in that aspect and I had to try different driving skills.
It must be said that this was clearly Romain’s issue and in a Lotus, that’s not to say it was indicative in all the cars but even so, I suspect the characteristics were similar for each team. Vettel has been accused of being a driver who flourished in the blown-exhaust era but given the absence of that device on the current spec cars, he’s average at best. I don’t subscribe to that notion in the least but it has been an accusation leveled at him due to his inability to get on top of the 2014 Red Bull and compounded by being beaten, handily, by his teammate Daniel Ricciardo.
I will say that I didn’t notice a delay in throttle application in turn one at COTA in Austin but it was difficult to tell because you couldn’t hear if the ERS was applying power or how much engine was applying. I’ll take Romain’s word for it, he’d know best.
We’ve spoken about this before with Paul Charsley in our podcast but to completely change your driving style is no easy feat and we saw a lot of that in 2014. We also saw teams get on top of making the driving sensation as near as they could to what the driver liked in years prior and I think of Mercedes and how they programmed their brake-by-wire system to simulate the feel of the older style brakes so Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton were more comfortable. Raikkonen really struggled with that element of the Ferrari.
It will be interesting to see if teams make real advancement in the brake-by-wire system and I really hope they do. I don’t consider snap oversteer a big victory for F1 with these new regulations so I hope they can get the cars competitive through engine performance and the reduction of aero for 2015.
Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT