Comments from the Renault team ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix Fernando Alonso: Q: Fernando, you took your second career win in Malaysia: what was the feeling like afterwards? FA: It was a great feeling, to be able to lead all the way from...
Comments from the Renault team ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix
Q: Fernando, you took your second career win in Malaysia: what was the feeling like afterwards?
FA: It was a great feeling, to be able to lead all the way from pole position and take quite a comfortable win. The conditions were very demanding, and Sepang is never an easy circuit at which to race, but the car was easy to drive and after the first stint, I was looking after everything in the car and managing my gap to Jarno.
The team has done a fantastic job over the winter on the R25 and RS25: we tested very intensively to make the whole package reliable and so far, it has been . On both the race weekends so far, we have managed to get the most out of our package, and that's how we need to continue for the rest of the season.
Q: Looking ahead to Bahrain, what are the challenges of the circuit?
FA: In some ways, it is quite similar to Melbourne -- there is a lot of hard acceleration and braking, without any really long, high-speed corners. But the long straights mean we run downforce levels quite low in order to get good straightline speed in the race, so the car can be nervous under braking -- and if you run wide in the slow corners, like turns 10, 13 or 14, then you will be defending your position all the way down the next straight.
Good braking stability, to avoid locking the tyres in the race, lots of mechanical grip and a strong engine are what you really need to be quick in Bahrain. We will need to think carefully about the set-up to keep the rear end stable in the race when the tyres are worn.
Q: Giancarlo, how are you feeling ahead of the Bahraini Grand Prix?
GF: Obviously, it was disappointing not to finish in Malaysia but I am still second in the drivers' championship, we know the car is quick and that there are more developments coming. The team has had a fantastic start to the season, and the fact that we already have a gap in the constructors' championship is reassuring.
The car has performed well at every type of circuit we have visited this year, in winter testing and racing. The car is well balanced, easy to drive and looks after its tyres well. I am sure those factors will help us to be competitive in Bahrain too.
Q: What are your expectations for the race?
GF: We saw in Malaysia that the R25 was the quickest car in the field, so I am hoping that we can maintain the performance in Bahrain. The car is good over the timed lap, and gives us the confidence to really push to the limit to get the performance; and in the race, the balance is very consistent meaning we only need small changes during the pit-stops.
I know the team is working hard on developments for the European season, but we are not under-estimating our competitors: we will have a fight on our hands. But the car has good traction, good braking and the straight-line speeds have been very competitive at the first two races. That should provide us with the car we need to aim for the podium at this race.
Bob Bell, Technical Director Chassis:
Q: Bob, two wins from two races for the Renault F1 Team -- what is your assessment of the team's start to the season?
BB: I honestly don't think we could have hoped for a better start to the season. The entire team did a fantastic job over the winter, and these early successes have been a huge reward for that investment of time and effort. Viry have done a fantastic job to rise to the challenge of the two-weekend V10, while here at Enstone, the aero department has pushed hard to put performance on the car, with the design and manufacturing sectors making a big effort to produce a reliable car in as short a time as possible. To win both races has been a pleasant surprise, but the success is full deserved.
Q: Michelin has also won both races of the 2005 season, and took all three podium positions in Malaysia...
BB: Michelin has done an exceptional job on the tyre side, and their performance in Malaysia really spoke for itself. They got on top of the challenge of the new longer-life tyres very quickly at the end of last year, and that has been reflected in the opening races. Equally, they have made a good step forward on their wet tyres. I am confident they will be pushing very hard to develop the tyres through the season.
Q: The R25 has shown itself to be quick over a flying lap in qualifying, and consistent in its race pace: is there a secret to combining the two qualities?
BB: Our unique objective is to produce a fast race car -- a consistent, quick car that is easy on its tyres. If you have a good car in race conditions, then the one-lap performance flows from there. The other important factor is driver confidence: this year, and particularly on Sunday morning, the drivers go into their timed lap with very little information about the car and how it will feel.
In that situation, you need to be comfortable with how the car will react. It is clear that the drivers are happy with the car on the limit, and while you cannot quantify the lap-time this brings, it is clear the performance benefits flow indirectly from it.
Q: Looking ahead to Bahrain, what characteristics does the circuit reward?
BB: Last year, brakes were the main area of concern in the race -- and I think that will be true again in 2005. We had to carefully manage their usage throughout the race distance last year, and our Hitco discs performed very well. Brake wear management will be a key factor in this weekend's race too. As for the other performance demands, no one characteristic can be easily singled out -- which means the car needs to be good in every area that is tested, such as traction, braking stability, mechanical grip and straightline speed.
Q: Onlookers have said that Renault is now the team to beat -- what is your reaction to that?
BB: Our success in the opening races has obviously increased the weight of expectation, but we are taking nothing for granted at all. As soon as McLaren put together an incident-free race weekend, I still believe they will be our main opposition among the Michelin teams. Ferrari had tyre problems in Malaysia, but that is no reason to write them off -- and there is still the new car to come at this race.
Williams made a step forward between Australia and Malaysia, while we need to see if Toyota can confirm their speed at this race. Don't forget that we have only had two races out of nineteen, so we are still trying to draw conclusions from a very small sample of data. I think that it will only be when we are into the heart of the European season, that we see the true state of play emerge.