Having spent a year apiece at the back of the grid with Marussia and Caterham, Charles Pic landed himself a berth as the Lotus F1 Team’s third driver for the 2014 Formula One season.
While the role may perhaps not seem as glamorous as a full-time racer, the change in scenery gives him an opportunity to work with an established, winning outfit, and he’s certainly looking forward to it. We spoke exclusively with Charles in the Australian Grand Prix paddock today…
Having spent two years racing at the back of the grid, how does the move to a larger team like Lotus compare with the teams you’ve been racing in for the past two years?
The two are completely different. Caterham was much smaller – in terms of headcount and budget – and a much newer team, which meant its working style was different and limited by these factors. Lotus has much more experience, personnel and resources, and you can see the difference.
What is it like to work alongside the likes of Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado?
Both are really good. I’ve known them since my GP2 days, and our relationship has been good with them. My role is to support and give them everything I can to help them and the team achieve their targets.
How do you feel following your move to Lotus?
It’s not quite the same role as I was actually racing for the previous two years. As a third driver, my role is different, but it’s still quite exciting.
It’s important for me to keep driving, because that keeps me prepared for any eventuality over the season.
Speaking of which, the ‘third driver’ role at the frontrunning teams has historically had very little driving associated with it. How many driving opportunities will they give you over the course of 2014?
I have a very clear plan about driving for this year. There is more in-season testing – at Bahrain, Barcelona, Silverstone, Abu Dhabi – and I will have some time behind the wheel there and some Friday practice outings.
It will be a good number of Friday sessions, but I won’t be driving in them until we get to Europe. The pre-season reliability problems have meant the main drivers need as much time in the car as possible, and it wouldn’t be sensible to put me behind the wheel until this is sorted.
Lotus’ new E22 was launched late after the team elected to invest more resources in its development before being run, and you missed the first pre-season test at Jerez. Subsequently in the two tests at Bahrain, the car has managed very little running while the early problems are ironed out. What impact will this have on performance?
To be honest, it’s not been an ideal preparation for the early races by missing one-third of the winter testing. If you look at the whole year, perhaps it won’t have that much impact.
To understand any problems with a new car, you need to get plenty of pre-season mileage, but the added complication has been the issues all of the Renault runners have experienced so far with the new power units. What kind of support is Renault providing to Lotus to help tackle these early-season issues?
Renault is doing the maximum to improve matters. Much of the initial issues were software related, and with more mileage we’ve been able to understand how the individual components work together. There’s still more progress to be made, and the rate [and how] we make this progress is still to be understood.
But Renault have shown how quickly they can progress; you don’t win four titles in a row without being good engine builders. It’s just a question of time, but I have no doubt on the fact that they will turn things around.
Lastly, your younger brother Arthur is quickly following in your footsteps by landing a GP2 Series seat for 2014 with Campos Racing. What are your thoughts on his progress so far and what advice can you give him?
It’s a good step for him. It will be his first season for him, so we’ll have to see how he goes.
There are a number of drivers who have stayed in the series, and with limited practice before qualifying and the race, they will have an advantage over him simply with their experience. Taking into consideration his circumstances, it will be a good barometer for him and see how he goes. If he can perform well against them, then it will be great for him.
We offer our thanks to the Lotus F1 Team for making this interview opportunity possible
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