Comments from the Renault team ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix Fernando Alonso Q: Fernando, you arrive in Canada on the back of a hat-trick of wins in Spain, Monaco and Great Britain. What's your goal for this weekend? Fernando Alonso:...
Comments from the Renault team ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix
Q: Fernando, you arrive in Canada on the back of a hat-trick of wins in Spain, Monaco and Great Britain. What's your goal for this weekend?
Fernando Alonso: Canada was one of the races on my 'to-do' list at the start of the season. I have never finished on the podium there, and that was one of my goals for 2006. So I will be really pushing to get a strong result there.
Q: How competitive will the Renault be on the long straights and in the tight corners?
FA: In the past few years, this has always been a very good circuit for the Renault car. I didn't finish in 2005 or 2004, but we were very quick in both races, and I set the fastest lap in 2003. It will be a good track for us, I think.
Q: What are the main demands on the car?
FA: This is always a tough race for the teams. We see a lot of retirements during the race, because the engines are stressed hard, there is heavy braking, and the transmission has a tough time from launching out of the slow corners. I think the brakes are probably the most important area though. We have low levels of downforce, so you need confidence on the brakes because the car feels very light, and we work hard to get the right feel.
Q: How do you cope with changing circuit conditions, as the grip levels improve through the weekend?
FA: We go there knowing that the circuit will change a lot during the weekend. For sure, there will be more grip in every corner, every braking zone, every corner exit on Sunday, than on Friday. That means we have a moving target for the set-up, because the track is changing constantly, and we need to make the best estimates of what we will require -- for the tyres as well. But we have good data from previous years, and by Sunday, we always have a good car. So I don't think it will be a problem.
Q: Finally, you go into this round of the championship with a 23-point lead over your main rival. Can you now start to manage the advantage?
FA: Definitely not -- the season is not even at the halfway stage yet, and in Ferrari, we have very strong competition. Last year, we were fighting against teams who had reliability problems -- but that won't happen with Ferrari. They will be there at every race, and very strong in Canada as well. So we are still attacking, still being aggressive, putting new parts on the car and trying to push the limits at every race. That's the only approach we can afford to take this season.
Q: Giancarlo, you now know you will be a Renault driver in 2007. A big boost for you?
Giancarlo Fisichella: Of course, it's a massive boost. It is fantastic to be staying with a team that will be fighting for the world championship next year -- and to be able to build upon the experience I have had here in 2005 and 2006. At the moment, though, my focus is on the next race. I have had some strong races recently, but the results have not quite been there for me, so I want to put things right in Canada.
Q: It was one of the team's strongest performances in 2005...
GF: Yes it was -- but also our worst result of the season. We had a strong package there in 2005, and I was leading the race when I retired. I have a great memory of the first part of that race, and I want to carry on where I left off last year -- at the front of the field. The Renault package should be very strong in Canada, and we want to be fighting for the win.
Q: Tell us about the demands of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve...
GF: It is a difficult circuit. The downforce levels are low, which makes the car delicate to drive, and you have to be very precise on the chicanes: you don't have the grip to recover from a mistake if you get the wrong line. So you need to find the right balance between being aggressive and driving smoothly. I have always really enjoyed the challenge of this circuit.
Q: So it's a question of touch, of feeling as well as scientific engineering?
GF: Exactly. On Friday, we know it is low grip -- but you need to get out on the track, to try the limits and get a good feeling with the car. A little bit like the way we run in Monaco. Obviously, the circuit is very slippery then and it's easy to make a mistake, but the grip improves all the way through the weekend. The important thing is to have the feeling with the track.
Q: History shows you have had that "feeling" in past years. What's the objective for this race?
GF: Well, I have been on the podium four times in Canada -- twice in third, and twice in second. So there's only one place missing from my record... I think we can go to Canada and be confident of fighting for the win. We need a clean weekend of course, to get maximum track time and make sure there are no problems in practice or qually. But if we get that, then I will be aiming to make it five podiums in Canada -- and to do it from the top step of the podium.
Bob Bell, Technical director
Q: Bob, Canada's been a bogey circuit for Renault in the past two years, with double retirements in 2004 and 2005. You will be hoping to change that for 2006...
Bob Bell: Yes, we want to put this race to bed -- and score the result we should have had the past two years. In performance terms, we have been very quick in Montreal for a number of years now. We could have won both of the past races there, and even scored a one-two in 2005. So there's a very real sense of unfinished business for the whole team.
Q: Three of the four retirements were reliability-related in the past two years. Are you confident you are on top of those issues now?
BB: Certainly, our package is more reliable this year than it was last. In 16 starts so far this season, we have had only one DNF, which is a very strong run. Canada is a very tough race mechanically-speaking, because of the stop-start nature of the circuit. But I am confident that we will be OK from a reliability perspective.
Q: Will the demands of the circuit suit the R26?
BB: I think so. In Canada, you need to stop well -- and accelerate well. Our car has excellent aerodynamic efficiency, a strong engine, good traction and is stable under braking. What's more, it's easy to drive which will allow both drivers to attack throughout the race. I think the characteristics of the Montreal circuit play to the strengths of our package.
Q: We are in the middle of a very close battle between Michelin and their rival tyre manufacturer. Where do you expect the advantage to lie in Canada?
BB: I don't think we have any worries about the tyres at all -- we are confident that Michelin's products will be extremely competitive at the next races. Michelin have been fantastic this year, taking lessons on-board, pushing their development hard and coming up with the goods on Sunday afternoon. They are determined to win two more titles this season.
Q: In terms of chassis development, Canada obviously requires a special low-drag package...
BB: Exactly. We develop a special wing package for this circuit, with lower drag levels to ensure we achieve competitive speeds on the long straights. We also have a significant number of developments going on the car for these races. I think these will in fact bear fruit at both North American races, because none of our rivals will have the time to test in between the races and respond. Our development is very aggressive in every area.
Q: So the goals for the weekend are...
BB:... to come away from the race with a good points-scoring finish. There is no reason why we can't challenge for the win, and we will hope to maintain the championship gap to Ferrari. In fact, over the next two races we want to extend that lead slightly. If we can go past the halfway point in the championship with this kind of advantage, then it means our rivals have to not only replicate our performance in the first-half of the championship, but go even further. That won't be an easy thing to do.
Q: Does that mean you see the next pair of races as strategically important for the championship?
BB: Yes, I think they are. This is the time of year when people make big choices about how hard to push their development processes to the end of the year, and if we can maintain that lead, then that may influence how they make their decisions. A strong North American campaign will bring a real psychological boost, and allow us to go to Magny-Cours on the offensive. We want to push home our advantage in the coming races.