Just about a week ago we released a full feature video that centers around interviews with key Team Lotus personnel including the drivers and Mike Gascoyne. We understand that the video was a little too long, hence we have come up with transcripts for all three interviews. This is the transcript of our interview with the team’s Chief Technical Officer, Mike Gascoyne. Transcripts of Jarno Trulli’s and Heikki Kovalainen’s interviews will be up shortly.

HARVINDER: What do you have to say about Lotus Racing’s first rookie year in Formula 1?

MIKE GASCOYNE: I think the first message is sort of job well done. Getting the entry so late coming into Formula 1, with only five months to set up a Formula 1 team from nothing, I think, is pretty unprecedented in modern Formula 1. And I think for all the new teams in Formula 1, you were never going to come in with such short notice and start racing and beating the established teams, it was impossible, so I think 2010 was about two things.

One, it was about being the best of the new teams because that is your direct comparison.
Same engine, same gearbox, you know, they’re you, you’re going to beat. I think we were very clear, we said that we were the best of the new teams, even from race one, even though we had so little time and we did that. We would finish tenth in the championship, be the most reliable, the best presented of the new teams and I think we ticked all the boxes. We were a little disappointed with reliability, the gearbox and hydraulics but that was something that was beyond our control, but apart from that, I think we ticked every box. But I think the most important thing about 2010 was not on track, it was off track.

It was about building the team up here because it was always difficult to race established teams in year one, but you’re only a new team for one year. You know, next year we’re an established Formula 1 team. We’ve got to go race those teams and score more points. So the other important thing about 2010 is building this team up and I think if you look at the announcements we made in terms of engines, partnering Renault, gearbox partner with Red Bull Technologies, the wind tunnel that we’re going to be developing on site, the people coming on board like Mark Smith as a technical director, I think they’re the important things for next year and beyond.

2010 was okay but it was a big step to come from nowhere to be the best of the new teams. To come from a new team to race with established teams, that’s an even bigger step and that’s what we got to do next year.

Continue reading to check out the rest of the transcript.

HARVINDER: You have worked with different Formula 1 teams previously and working with Lotus Racing, is it different?

MIKE GASCOYNE: I think for me personally it is different, I think the fact that I helped start this from scratch with Tony and the shareholders, they were brave enough to back me and the people here to set this team up so it gives you a more of a personal feeling about the team. I think the fact that we brought the Lotus name back into Formula 1, is something fantastic.

For me I was born ten miles down the road and went to school at Windham college, a couple of miles down the road and I grew up when Lotus was racing in Formula 1 and winning races, so to come back to Norfolk to set up a Formula 1 team and to bring the Lotus name back into Formula 1 is personally something that I’m very closely personally involved in, more so than in any other team. And I think the challenge is just greater.

We got three fantastic shareholders, Tony, Din and Nasa. They’ve supported us, they’ve invested in us and the team here, and I think you’ve got a group of people that are very much determined to repay their investment for them. We’re a multinational team, I know you’ve met some of the race engineers, you know Mexican, Italian, French, German and a lot of Malaysians sitting behind us in the drawing office, so we’ve got a real good blend here and we want to repay the shareholder’s faith in us and deliver a fantastic racing car.

HARVINDER: What do you think of the performance of Jarno and Heikki this year.

MIKE GASCOYNE: I think the shareholders were really brave enough to make a real statement of intent, by employing two race-winning drivers, experienced drivers, not payed drivers; you do that in your first year, you’re certainly going to do that in years two and three. I think the drivers were very brave, as they were obviously going to step to the back of the grid, they knew that, and that’s not easy for any experienced driver, but they had faith in the project, they had faith in Tony and the shareholders, faith in me and the technical team, and now it’s time to repay that faith.

I think they did a great job, we were always in tenth place, whenever there was a result to get, Heikki and Jarno got it, Jarno had less luck in the race but, especially towards the end of the season, last half dozen races you saw the old Jarno back in qualifying, fantastically quick, car was more to his liking. I think Heikki was more reborn this year, really started enjoying his motor racing again after a couple of difficult seasons at McLaren, as Lewis’s team mate.
I think we have a great balance, they get on well, they push each other and next year they’re going to be given a car where they can really start going racing and then they’ll start repaying our investment in them.

When we give them a car to go racing, there are two guys that can sort of make that little bit that’s going to make the difference, going to out-qualify someone, going to get you into Q2, Q3, going to get you points where maybe you could have finished 11th, but you don’t, you get the points. I think next year it’s time for them to repay us.

HARVINDER: Do you see switching drivers beyond 2011, or maintaining both of them?

MIKE GASCOYNE: I think stability always is good, I think for 2011 we have to see. We’ve got long term contracts with both of them but also we’ve got Fairuz as a driver in the team and we’ll have to look at his development as a driver. We’ve got the GP2 team, where we’re looking to bring up drivers, we’ve got the Air Asia driver development programme, we have Nabil driving for us at the straight line testing so we’ll have to see what happens in the future, but stability is always good within a team as long as you’ve got drivers performing at the top level.

HARVINDER: Talking about Fairuz, How’s his current relationship with the team, what is he going to do next year ? What is his future with the team?

MIKE GASCOYNE: We’re in discussions with him about the future, He did a very good job for us in the P1 sessions, very difficult, it’s very difficult for third drivers in Formula 1 because there are not many opportunities to go testing. The sort of reserve driver roles, test driver roles, especially if you’re not doing regular P1 sessions at Grand Prix’s, are very difficult. He did a great job for us, he’s a very professional, very likeable young driver, so we’ll be sitting down with him and working out with him what he’s going to do in the future. (Fairuz Fauzy is no longer the test driver for the team).

Harvinder: Any new test drivers coming up?

MIKE GASCOYNE: We have to see, we’re looking at combining with Team Air Asia at GP2, we’re obviously looking at drivers not just to do GP2 but with a view of racing for us or being test or reserve drivers in the future. So that’s something I’m sure you will see sometime in the future.

HARVINDER: Now that the team has secured new gearboxes and engine, where do you think the team will be placed next year on the grid?

MIKE GASCOYNE: I think our aims are very very clear, Tony is very good at setting ambitious aims, which is good, but we target teams that finished sixth to ninth. Williams, Force India, Toro Rosso, Sauber. That is clearly where we want to be. Formula 1 is very close at the moment. We were probably, best a second off that group, and we’re very confident of closing that up and we want to be racing in that group. We’ve targeted seventh or eight in the championship; I think that would be a fantastic step.

But from race one we want to be getting into Q2 and racing in that second half if you like. I mean you’ve got to be realistic, in 18 months you’re not going to build up a team that is going to race Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren or Mercedes for race wins, that’s three or four years down the road but we clearly next year want to be a regular points scoring team, so we have very very clear aims.

HARVINDER: What are your comments on the Team Lotus name issue with Group Lotus?

MIKE GASCOYNE: I think it is a great shame, I think on one level Tony has stressed to everyone that the team is about people in the team and whatever we’re called isn’t going to change what we are as a team. We’ve built up that team and the fan base around the world and in Malaysia. We built up that team and that isn’t going to change. And our view from me as an engineer, whether painted green, black, pink, or bright red doesn’t… how fast the car goes in the first test, won’t be affected at all by what the team called. Having said that I think we’re all intensely proud of what we’ve achieved this year as Lotus Racing, bringing the name of Lotus back into Formula 1.

That could never be taken away from us, I was born and bred in Norfolk, as I said, to me it was a great sense of pride to bring back the Lotus name back into Formula 1 and I think we brought tremendous value to the brand, and I think we want to continue to do that. It is a great brand it has great heritage and for me Lotus is about engineering. It’s about building engineering and racing, racing cars. That’s what Team Lotus did, it did it in Norfolk and that’s what we’ve done here in Norfolk and we’ll continue to build and race. Was Colin Chapman and Lotus about branding a French car as Lotus? I’m not so sure it was.

I think Colin Chapman was one of the great innovators in Formula 1 when he brought sponsorship into Formula 1, I think he thought that he’d be receiving it not giving it out. But that’s for Tony and the shareholders to work on. We feel that we’ve got the best shareholders in Formula 1. We’re very proud to work for them. We’re going to repay them by working hard and designing them a quicker car. They can call it anything they like and we’d still be doing that job for them. There is a sense of pride for bringing Lotus back into Formula 1.

HARVINDER: What do you have to say about Group Lotus sponsoring Renault, as renaming Lotus-Renault and coming in next year?

MIKE GASCOYNE: I think it’s very hard for the fans to understand. Personally I struggle to see what that major investment, what benefit it gives Group Lotus, for such a huge investment, when effectively they’ve been having that benefit for free. But the politics of that are not for me as an engineer to be involved in. As I’ve said we’re intensely proud of what we’ve done this year, we’re proud of where we’re going to be as a team, Tony will let us know I think the one thing is that, it isn’t effecting of anything we do here and engineering wise it doesn’t affect anything we do here.

I think the marketing team have got a bigger job and one of the things you have to realize is that in a rebranding exercise it’s very simple, we make the car whatever colour you like in the last week in February and go racing. Just little things like all the sea freight for the first race goes in January. That carries all the banner systems for the garage, the furniture for the catering area, well all the cushions on the chairs are green and yellow, all the banners are green. If it’s not green you’ve got to repaint them, but they go in a couple of weeks time. So for the marketing department and logistics, there’s a huge job. How quick the car goes in February? Won’t change one millionth of a second. (Group Lotus has officially purchased a stake in the Renault Formula 1 Team, now known as Lotus Renault GP).

HARVINDER: Will it affect the passion in team? When I come here I see that they’re all proud of what they’ve achieved. If the name Lotus is taken away from them, will it affect their morale?

MIKE GASCOYNE: I don’t think it will. I think there’ll be a sense of hurt. I think people don’t understand having put so much effort and done such a good job, why it would be taken away. But I know all these guys here. A lot of these guys here moved up to Norfolk, moved their families up here, did so because they wanted to be part of the Lotus project.

If the name was taken away, I think maybe a sense of hurt, and then maybe a sense of anger and a desire to get some revenge. I think one thing you could be sure of that our head wouldn’t go down, it will lift up and we’ll be sure that we’ll be beating everyone out on the track as soon as possible. These are all professional guys who’ve got great experience in motor racing and I think it would act as a spur to achieve quicker rather than the opposite.

HARVINDER: If it were to go Group Lotus’s way, meaning you can’t use Team Lotus as the team name any possibilities on other names?

MIKE GASCOYNE: I think thankfully it is the shareholders and the marketing team’s responsibility. I’ll stick to racing the 4000 parts on a motor racing car, because that’s a lot easier than to work out a new name but that one thing is that Tony Fernandes, he understands brand, and brand value better than anyone in any business. I’ll leave it to him. But it’s not something that worries anyone here.

HARVINDER: Regarding the wind tunnel, you said that the original plan was to have a wind tunnel soon. So when is that coming along, is it next year?

MIKE GASCOYNE: No, soon is 18 months to two years time and we’re in the planning stages. Planners are very keen for us to develop the site and working with us and that’s fantastic. But, realistically it’s 18 months to two years away. If you look at the example of Red Bull which just won their first world championship, it took them seven years and they bought an existing team, which was a Jaguar team, which was a Stewart team, but when I went to Benetton, to bring Renault back into Formula 1, again that was an existing team, we started in 2001 at the back of the grid, podiums the next year, we won our first race in 2003 with Fernando in Hungary and they won the World Championship in 2005.

So even with an established team that won the World Championship, it took five years to turn it around into a winning team. You have to take that sort of length of view, so 18 months to two years to bring the wind tunnel on site. We’re developing everywhere. We’ll be getting stronger and stronger as an organization and don’t forget with the resource restriction agreed with in Formula 1, the teams with 600 people are going to have to come down to 300 people. So they’ll be coming down to our size rather than us having to grow up to them. But you’ve got to have a five year plan, the shareholders are very realistic about that. We’ve made a good start, but it’s very much the first step along the road.

JOURNALIST: In terms of the driver, do you have any specific target for the drivers?

MIKE GASCOYNE: Not specific target, because ultimately the target depends on the performance of the car. The driver can make a small difference and ultimately the driver must not make mistakes. They’ve got to get the best out of the car in qualifying, they’ve got to be consistent in the race and they’ve got to make no mistakes. It’s not that we say ‘well you have to qualify this high or that’, because its not just up to them it’s up to how good the car is so it’s our job to give them a quicker car. And I think that we’ve got experienced top performers. As long as they’re matching each other, then there is many more to come from the car.

HARVINDER: Has the plan of setting up a HQ in Kuala Lumpur, has that been completely scrapped?

MIKE GASCOYNE: No, I don’t think it has at all. Tony, when he came into this project was very keen, even initially, to move everything to KL and I always felt that it was possible. One thing I’ve got to say about Tony and the shareholders are that they’re very quick learners. They came into the business and they rapidly realized that with the amount of specialist support companies you need, the pool of experienced engineers that you need to tap into, you’ve got to be in the centre of that, and that’s in the UK. I still think that we want to set something up in KL, possibly in Sepang.

I think there’s a lot of talent in Malaysia, you can see by the number of engineers that are sitting outside. But I think some production facility, you’ve got facilities like CTRM and also utilizing all the skill sets in the universities, we have close links with UTM. So I still think we’ll be looking at the technology centre in KL. So the plans have rescaled, but I think that’s just a function of telling shareholders, realizing, learning about the business, realizing the strengths of being here, but also Tony’s very keen to put things back into Malaysia. Inspire young Malaysian engineers, not just engineers but mechanics, people in PR, marketing. In fact this morning we were having a meeting on running show car events next year, a lot of which are in the Asian region.

It may well make sense for us to base the show car programme out in Malaysia in Sepang, so we’ll have a small team running that programme and hopefully look at Malaysian mechanics. We’re a Malaysian team and we’re proud of that. Hopefully in a few year’s time you’ll see Tony up in the winner’s podium getting the trophy and the Malaysian flag being pulled up. But we’re very proud of that, undoubtedly there will be a technology centre in KL.