Q & A with Jarno Trulli
|By Jonathan Noble
||Friday, February 12th 2010, 20:01 GMT
Jarno Trulli is gearing up for what could be the biggest challenge of his career, as he leads the Lotus name back into Formula 1 this year.
AUTOSPORT was at the team's launch in London today, where Trulli spoke of the great work already done by the Mike Gascoyne-led team to get this far, and the challenges that lie ahead in 2010.
Q. What made you choose Lotus, when you had other offers with established teams last year?
Jarno Trulli: I had several options and obviously I had them all on the table, but at one stage there was something growing up and becoming interesting - and that was Lotus. You know better than me, you are English, what Lotus is. I only realised afterwards, but afterwards I was thinking about it. Lotus is probably second only to Ferrari in motorsport.
And there was this one man, this crazy person, who was Mike Gascoyne - who we all know and I know very well. He was getting ready to get this brand back on track. So honestly talking, I worked with Mike, who is definitely a difficult person if you don't know how to handle him, but he is someone who is very straightforward and who knows what to do in F1. So, technically, I was quite happy to have someone like him leading the team.
Obviously in these days, you never know if there is enough money to do it, so eventually I met Tony [Fernandes] and I understood that there was really something serious going on – and I was right. At the beginning, when I first visited Lotus, I had to believe that something was going to happen because there were so few people there. There was nothing!
After three months, wow, I have seen the car and it was rolling in Silverstone. It was a green and yellow car hitting the track after 16 years with the brand Lotus. I think it is something that stands out in my mind and everyone's mind when you see it on the track.
We know it is not going to be easy and we are running out of time. What we have done and the guys have achieved is something great. I have great respect for the people who have been working on this project, but on the other hand for this year we have to be very realistic.
We know that we are heading to Bahrain and having to deal with a lot of troubles and solve the problems but the most important thing is that we stick together. We have to be patient and for the first year we have to be reliable, decent and showing good progress. We cannot believe that we can join the club and be on top straight away – that is unrealistic.
Q. Do you think it is possible to score points in year one?
JT: I think the steps are like – this was a big achievement, being here, and getting the car ready for the shakedown a few days ago. This was a big achievement on the technical side. Now, the next step is to try to discover and solve the problems as quickly as possible.
On my side I have to give the right direction as quick and as well as possible because we have very little time, and the budget is not unlimited these days for a Formula 1 team. So, I would say that an experienced driver is very important.
After that, we will be heading to Bahrain and we'll try to make it to the finish with both cars. I cannot say where we are going to be, because we have no idea exactly how good the car is going to be, but we first of all need to look decent and finish races. Afterwards, the next big challenge will be making a step forward in terms of aero updates – which will probably come in Barcelona. Then, after another five or six races, there will be another aero update.
So we want to start decent and then grow up. By the end of the season if we are fighting with the middle of the grid it will be great. Always when I am racing I am dreaming to score a point, and the first point I tell you will be especially emotional for everyone. It is only a point, but it will be extremely appreciated however it comes.
So I think we have to take things step by step. I know I have to be patient and I know it is a long term project, as is my contract, so all I have to do is build up a team as well as I have done before, and make it stronger and stronger.
Q. You've been in F1 a long time, and at teams with big budgets. How do you motivate yourself to start from scratch again?
JT: It is not a question of motivating yourself. You are motivated only if you love driving – and if you still think you can do something special. Especially if you are still quick, as I feel I am, you still feel that you can do something special on the track, get the best out of the car, and do things that maybe your team-mate cannot do. So this motivates me.
Obviously I know I am going to face a very hard season, but there is always a challenge inside a challenge. And this is what a driver really has to look for. I know that I cannot think to win a race for Lotus for this year. But I can only think that I can score the first point at the first race, and this will be a big achievement for me and the team. This will be a good motivation.
Q. Did you ever consider leaving F1? What was the NASCAR test all about?
JT: I did consider to leave, and there were some options. But the NASCAR thing, in the beginning, when I planned it originally it was two years ago, when I first visited a NASCAR race. It was a way to try something different. I had been driving a racing car for years and years, and I always drove a real racing car – like an open cockpit. I had never driven a GT car or a closed cockpit car. So when I first hit the track with the NASCAR it was something very strange. It was a good experience, and eventually also it became interesting and efficient, because I was competitive and I got into the rhythm very well, even though it was only a test and the racing is different.
But eventually the love for the open cockpit and the feeling that you have in the open cockpit was still inside me, and it was too strong. So, I was hoping always to get a good chance in F1. Looking at where F1 is heading, this is a good chance. Don't forget that unfortunately in the last year we have lost three manufacturers and F1 has changed dramatically. Now there are only a few manufacturers and a few top teams capable of fighting at the top. The rest you have to fight like an independent team, so as I said, there is always a challenge inside a challenge.
Q. Stefan GP is taking over the Toyota operation. Do you believe it will be on the grid?
JT: To be honest, I don't know. I am still in very good contact with a lot of people at Toyota, with the Japanese and everyone, I was getting on very well with them. But I didn't ask about it and I don't really know what is going on.
I am sure that the car can be competitive, there was a lot of development and the direction where it has been over the last few years, but as to what will happen I don't know. At the moment I have to concentrate to keep everyone together in this team and we will try to do our best.