Comments from the Renault drivers and technical team ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix
Jarno Trulli: "The key factor will be adaptability"
Q: When arriving at a circuit you have never visited, how much preparation can you do?
JT: Our main preparation comes on Wednesday or Thursday when we do our circuit walk with the engineers: before that, you can discuss some points, but a map can only really tell you which way the corners go. The test will come on Friday, because we will be learning the circuit, deciding about tyres and trying to set the car up: for sure, that will be a big challenge.
Q: And what about visiting Bahrain for the first time: are you excited?
JT: For sure: it will be my first time out in the desert, and in the Middle East, so I am anticipating an interesting week. The circuit will definitely be one of the best we go to in terms of facilities, and we can expect safety standards to be very high. There will be a lot of new experiences in the city as well, which is always something to be enjoyed.
Q: Hot conditions are expected, although a little cooler than in Malaysia: the car seemed to perform well in high temperatures?
JT: The R24 seemed to go well in Malaysia, but we did see the handling change quite a lot with the temperature, and we were slightly surprised by what happened during the race. But we have learned from that, and overall the car performs well in high temperatures: it will be a hard race, just like in Sepang, but we can be quite confident I think.
Q: First impressions have suggested the track could be very slippery, and windy conditions may see grip levels varying throughout the weekend: as drivers how can you cope with this?
JT: The main key is to be adaptable: the only circuit you can drive on is the one you find at that particular moment. It definitely makes our life harder, because we are used to racing in predictable conditions during the race, and we make set-up decisions accordingly. Whatever happens though, we must deal with it and adapt - that is always true during a race, but it may prove to be even more so in Bahrain.
Fernando Alonso: "It is impossible to make predictions"
Q: A new circuit, but also a new country: have you visited this region before?
FA: No, never. It will be interesting for everybody, I think: for sure, adapting to the circuit and the technical side will be a challenge, but it will also be an interesting week away from the track: every time you visit a new country, you learn something new, see new things and have experiences that are different from home. It is one of the nice things about Formula 1, visiting new places and new cultures. I am looking forward to it.
Q: In terms of learning the circuit, how long will it take you normally?
FA: To be honest, there is no substitute for lots of mileage: the more you do, the better you will know the circuit. But under this year's rules, we are much more restricted than last year with the Heathrow testing. All in all, after ten or fifteen laps, you normally feel comfortable with the circuit, and know which kerbs you can use.
Q: In a weekend where the teams are mostly starting from a level playing field, what factors are the most important?
FA: To be honest, it's the same as usual: a combination of getting everything right. You need the right tyres, a good car, engine, the drivers cannot make mistakes and also some luck. I don't think the factors change just because it is a new circuit.
Q: And overall, what are your feelings on how the team will perform?
FA: Bahrain will be similar to Malaysia in terms of tyres and cooling, so I think we can be confident in those areas. It will certainly be a tough race for the drivers. But beyond that, who knows? It is really impossible to make predictions but, with even more work to do than usual, the weekend will need to run very smoothly to fight at the front of the field.
Bob Bell (Technical director): "A tough challenge from the reliability viewpoint"
Q: What is the principal challenge of running at a new circuit?
BB: Possibly the most important factor is that there is more opportunity to make mistakes, because you are always working in less familiar territory than at a circuit you know well. We have learnt useful lessons from our result in Malaysia, particularly in terms of tyre management during the restricted running time of practice, and go to Bahrain confident the factors that caught us out will no longer pose a problem.
Q: In terms of the demands placed on the car, what will the key factors be in Bahrain?
BB: I expect the race to be a severe test of a car's overall reliability: there are a number of areas where extremely heavy braking is required, placing the onus on good durability and consistent braking performance. Equally, extended periods of full throttle will place a premium on reliable, strong engine performance. The weekend will be a tough challenge from the reliability point of view and for us, the reassuring thing is that we have a 100% finishing record thus far.
Q: And finally, looking at performance: what can the team expect from Bahrain?
BB: We went to Malaysia believing a strong podium finish was achievable and, had the results in qualifying been different, I think this was a legitimate hope. While superficially, Bahrain may play less to the known strengths of our package, we believe our car is fundamentally capable of challenging for podiums at every circuit we visit. That was our belief pre-season, and remains so today.
Rob White (Technical director engine): "Striving for a perfect weekend"
Q: The pre-season goal of reliability has so far been attained. How is development progressing with the Imola performance step?
RW: The first thing to stress is that the reliability task is never finished: it is a constant factor during our engine development. The scheduled performance evolution is still on course for introduction at Imola. To approve the reliability of the new pieces, as well as the carry-over pieces in the new environment of the Imola specification, requires rigorous endurance testing on the dyno at Viry and verification in car testing. The signs are favourable as we enter the final phase of optimisation and approval.
Q: Ambient conditions, and particularly the sand, could prove particularly problematic for the engine. Does that lead to caution in engine specification, or usage?
RW: We have known for a long time that we would be running in Bahrain, and precautionary work has been done to mitigate some of the risks. Like every other race, the build of the engine and the conditions of operation are specified to achieve the correct performance / reliability compromise. Bahrain is outside our direct experience, but we are optimistic not to have overlooked any significant new threat to the engine, so anticipate operating as normal during the weekend.
Q: So taking this into account, what are expectations for performance in Bahrain?
RW: From our experiences in the first two races, I am confident that we will be competitive if we play to our strengths. If we err, we will be punished by our competitors, who are perhaps - in some cases - advantaged by the 2004 rules. We must strive for a perfect weekend.