I’ve found an interview with Jules from Canada and I’ve added two new photos to the gallery. Click here to read the interview.
Team Principal Frédéric Vasseur reflects on a challenging season
You finished fifth this season. How would you explain what must be a disappointing result for such a successful and experienced team?
It ‘s been a peculiar season. Jules’s first half of the season was catastrophic with only 8 points scored in 8 races. At that point it looked almost impossible to come back from this and it was psychologically very hard for him. We knew it would be more delicate for Esteban who was then a rookie. Then things started to turn after Valencia where Esteban scored points and won. Jules’ second half of the season was much better of course. I am really happy with how the team reacted. They never gave up and kept on working hard and pushing. Eventually Jules finished third and although it is disappointing, I believe it’s still a good result.
Jules Bianchi did not have the results everyone expected this year. However, he came through a tough start of the season and finished third in the drivers’ standings. Thoughts?
You know, it’s not easy to be wearing the Ferrari shirt in the GP2 paddock. People tend to get jealous and it creates a lot of tensions. His first half of the season was made up of a lot of race incidents and it was very hard to come back from this. He did it though and from Silverstone onwards he scored in every race. That shows character.
What was the highlight of your season?
It was very tough after Valencia feature race. Jules was really fast in quail but only started from P9. He collided with Ericsson at the start. We got a penalty and started from last in the sprint race. That grid penalty was like the 70th grid position penalty we were handed this season! But, we put our heads down and Esteban won with Jules finishing just outside the points in seventh. That same day, we won in GP3. I think you can say that Sunday in Valencia was the turning point of our season.
Which was the most difficult race?
Without a doubt: Barcelona. The whole race weekend. Jules took pole but then got penalised for ignoring yellows. Then he collided with van der Garde in sprint race and got penalised again for Monaco… Esteban did not score either. Tough.
You have re-signed race winner Esteban Gutierrez for 2012. What do you expect from him?
To be champion. But you know, in GP2, nothing is ever certain or easy and you never know what the field is going to be like. However, Esteban has what it takes to fight for the title next season for sure. Last year, compared with Jules, he was quite fast. He is the driver that has improved the most since F3. His results were not satisfactory then but the following year in GP3 he put everything together and became champion. I sincerely believe that if he improves the same way next year he will be very strong. I think that it will depend on the competition. If there is a driver with massive experience in a good team, it will be difficult for a younger driver to win.
What are you looking for in a driver?
Just like everyone else, I wish to win in a good atmosphere. But what I like the most is to win with drivers we’ve been working with for a while. I think it’s very rewarding. It feels like we moulded them and trained them well to get to that point. It’s very satisfying.
What makes Lotus ART one of the most successful GP2 teams?
I think our technical team is very solid and we have been working with the same group of people for a long time. When you look at the top teams such as Barwa and iSport, they’re the same: they’ve kept the same people. Stability is key. The other important thing is that we’ve always worked with good drivers, that’s true, but they are drivers we have been working with for some time and built a relationship with. It’s easier this way.
2012 is right around the corner. How will you adapt to the new tyre rule?
It’s a really big challenge strategically speaking, but I think we will know more after the first pre-season tests. Then, we will learn more about the tyres and how long they can last. But above anything else, I think this new rule is a very good thing for the Series. Its purpose is to prepare young drivers for F1. Therefore, to keep close to today’s F1 rules and technical demands is important.
Jules Bianchi: I had a really good start and in the first corner, I decided to go on the outside but it was the wrong choice because I was a bit closed in. It was difficult and I lost some places. Then I was P8. I attacked Hartley. Then I tried to close in on Clos and overtook him in the last chicane. Then Romain was fighting with Fauzy. I tried to overtake him in the same corner and it was really close and I lost again a position to Clos. After the safety car period, I knew that my tyres were very good. So I could push a lot and catch Clos and Romain again. They had a small fight with Fauzy in the first corner and then at the exit before Eau Rouge we were side by side and I had a bit more speed there so I could get ahead of them in Eau Rouge. After that I was able to pass Cecotto on the same lap in the last corner. Then I overtook Kral for P2. It was amazing for me and my team. We improved the car a lot from yesterday. There is nothing to say. We just need to keep pushing for Monza to try and finish second in the drivers’ standings. But I do not focus too much on that. I just try to think about the race and to be quick and then we will see at the end of the season.
GP2 Series: You were flying today…
Jules: Filippi was in front and maybe he was trying to save his tyres. He did the fastest laptime on his last lap. But I think we had a really good pace which was important. Yesterday we were good but not fast enough. Today, we were fighting for the quickest laptime. This proves that we have improved since yesterday and we need to keep like that for Monza.
GP2 Series: You are now one point behind van der Garde before Monza. Do you like this track?
Jules: I think I did well on that track last year. I did pole and P2. Anyway you can see that things change a lot from one year to the next. Last year, in Spa, I was struggling and this year I was really quick so we have to see. We need to be focused and calm. Van der Garde will be quick there for sure, same for Pic. We don’t have to forget Sam and Filippi now so of course we have to push and keep our momentum.
GP2 Series: Welcome to Feature Race press conference here in Spa-Francorchamps. Joining us today winner of the race Christian Vietoris for Racing Engineering. In second place we have Jules Bianchi from Lotus ART and in third place we have Romain Grosjean for Dams.
GP2 Series: Thank you Christian. Good job today. Jules, it all happened at the start for you today. You took P2 and then what happened?
Jules Bianchi: I made a good start. I was lucky to be on the right side which was dryer than the left. Then I tried to stay behind Christian. At first he was a bit quicker and then I caught him a bit. Before the pitstop he picked up the pace again. But we were quite competitive in the dry which was important. It was not really the case in the last races. So I think we’ve improved the car. I think now I’m third in the drivers’ standings which is important for me and we will still continue to do the races as we did before now and try to be consistent and score as many points as possible and maybe try and get another win before the end of the season. Anyway this race has been very good for me. At the re-start, I could not do much because of the poor visibility, but I knew that Romain was third and already champion. I knew he would not attack. I was calm in the car and tried to finish the race P2. It was important for me.
GP2 Series: How frustrating was it that the safety car stayed on track for so long and thus slimed down your chances to try and challenge him for the win?
Jules: I knew that Christian was really quick anyway in the wet so, I mean, you never know but for sure, it has been a very long safety car period but it would not have been easy to change the result in the end. I am quite happy. The only thing was that it was not easy to stay behind the safety car for so long because it was difficult to keep the engine temperature up. If you go under 7- degrees, the engine can stop in safety mode like some other drivers did. I was quite stressed because of that, but I managed well.
GP2 Series: You said so yourself, it’s been a challenging season for you so far. You are back on the podium and in a good position in the drivers’ standings. What are your hopes for the end of the season?
Jules: I want to end the season in a good way, but mainly, we have to keep our momentum. It’s important to see race by race and not focus too much on the championship. It would be important to finish second, but I don’t think about that. I try my best race by race, try and be quick every time, That’s it.
GP2 Series: And score another podium tomorrow for example?
Jules: Yeah, I think everything is possible here. It’s possible to overtake, even in the dry. We’re quick so tomorrow we can go for more points and that’s it for the moment. We have to wait and see. We have to work a bit on the car for tomorrow. I really want to thank the team because they did a good job.
GP2 Series: Thank you Jules. Good luck for tomorrow.
Here is a new interview with Jules, it’s in French this time: Click here to read it.
I’ve just found an interview with Jules. Unfortunately, it’s available only in Romanian but you can understand it with Google Translator here.