It’s been a busy year for Nick Chester. After his boss moved to Ferrari, he found himself leading the technical department of one of the most popular teams in the sport. I had the chance to talk to Nick about his role at Lotus as well as the monumental changes occurring next season that threaten to shape up the competitive structure of Formula One.
Chris Cassingham: We know enormous changes are taking place in the engine and power department for 2014, but what are some of the aerodynamic changes we will see?
Nick Chester: There are regulation changes for a reduced span front wind, lower nose and removal of the lower rear wing. In addition the single tailpipe exit regulation will remove exhaust blowing development. The sidepod area will be shaped differently to account for the increased cooling required with the turbo engine
CC: What were the goals in making the wings and noses lower?
NC: The main goal with the nose is to avoid an accident where the car can be launched. The narrow span front wing and removal of the lower rear wing were brought in to limit aero performance.
CC: What do you think will be the determining factor in competitiveness next season?
NC: There will be various factors. Aero will be important as always but in addition there could be much bigger performance differences between power units that we have seen for many years. The most competitive car will have a strong power unit but will also have managed to integrate it in a very efficient manner.
CC: Will the new regulations require, or at least play into the hands of, certain driving styles?
NC: I don’t think there will be a significant difference to now. It will still be very important to manage tire degradation.
CC: How will the new tires, be them from Pirelli or elsewhere, work with the new engine and aero regulations?
NC: We don’t expect a significant difference in tire loadings and expect the tires to perform broadly as in 2013.
CC: How much of a financial strain will the new regulations put on smaller teams like Lotus?
NC: Obviously, it is a more expensive car to build and develop. We started it over 18 months ago which has hopefully put us in a good position.
CC: Why do you think Formula One chose to make such drastic changes now?
NC: The new regulations are much more relevant for road car manufacturers which is important to keep their involvement in the sport.
CC: What about the whole season in general do you think will be the most different to what it is now?
NC: Teams wil need to make the best use of their 100 Kg of fuel. As such, managing the power unit operation through the race will be extremely important and tied to race strategy.
CC: Is there a risk that reliability in the new generation will be a problem? There are a lot of new parts just waiting to go wrong…
NC: I think there may be some difficulties during pre-season testing, but teams now spend a lot of time on engine and gearbox dynes so a big proportion of the package will be validated before hitting the track. There could be some failures in the first few races but I expect teams to sort out reliability problems fairly quickly.
CC: Do you think green-friendly regulations will be able to draw upon a new fan base, or do you think we could enter a polarizing era for the sport?
NC: I am hoping it will expand the fanbase. Technically, there are a few challenges which will hopefully draw further interest.
CC: Technically, what does the future hold for Lotus?
NC: We need to stay competitive this year and push for 3rd in the constructors’ championship. For next year I hope we will start with a strong car straight away and will then need to develop it heavily through the year.
CC: What do you know about Formula E and what do you think it means for the future of motorsports?
NC: It is an exciting race format with 1 hour races on street circuits for fully electric cars. I think it will have a good following when it starts in 2014. Since the fuel limit will be reduced in the future in F1 we will keep developing and improving efficiency of the electric storage and drivetrain.
CC: How have you adapted to your expanded role at Lotus after James’ [Allison] departure?
NC: Pretty well, I think. I’m really fortunate to have such a dedicated team in all departments. We have a great team here at Enstone, with many very experienced engineers and production staff which makes my job much easier. I am enjoying the challenge of continuing to develop a competitive 2013 car whilst we design a radically new car for 2014.