The ING Renault F1 Team prepares for the seventh round of the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship: the Canadian Grand Prix. Fernando Alonso: "We will do everything to be on the pace in Montreal" Fernando, the team has spoken of a missed ...
The ING Renault F1 Team prepares for the seventh round of the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship: the Canadian Grand Prix.
Fernando Alonso: "We will do everything to be on the pace in Montreal"
Fernando, the team has spoken of a missed opportunity in Monaco. What are your thoughts on the race?
We were not able to achieve what could have been possible in normal conditions, and so it was disappointing. As we are not fighting for the championship, we tried to take our chances and that meant we took some risks, although they did not pay us back. But now I am looking forward to getting back in the car this weekend to see what we can achieve in Montreal, which is a very different circuit.
Canada is generally a popular venue for the teams. Is it a circuit that you like?
Yes, there is always a good atmosphere in Montreal. The whole city gets involved in the Grand Prix and it's clear that Canadians like motor sport and particularly F1, which makes it a very enjoyable race. I won the Grand Prix in 2006, so I have some happy memories, and I'm sure that this year we will have another interesting race.
The circuit in Montreal is demanding on the brakes. Is that an area you will concentrate on when you start working on the set-up of the car?
Absolutely. We must pay special attention to brake cooling and managing them in the race will be very important. But it's not something I'm worried about, and we will work on this in free practice on Friday. Overall I think that the R28 should work well.
A low downforce set-up is essential in Canada. Do you think that the car will handle well in this configuration?
There is no reason why it shouldn't as the team has been preparing for this race for several weeks, including a test session in Paul Ricard. We have made some progress recently and we are trying to continue moving forward as much as possible. Since the Spanish Grand Prix we seem to have been on the pace, and so should be in Canada as well, and we will do everything to try and make sure that we are.
Nelson Piquet: "Staying focussed"
You have now completed a third of your first season in Formula 1, and the last race in Monaco was a difficult one. How are you feeling?
Monaco is without doubt the most difficult track of the year. We had some problems in qualifying, but the start of the race went well and so I take some positives from that. Montreal will be an easier circuit and I am feeling confident, so I hope that I can go there and deliver a solid race.
Montreal is a low downforce circuit, and it will be the first time that we will see the R28 in this configuration. How do you think the car will behave?
It is difficult to say, to be honest. I hope that the car will handle well and that we can be competitive for the whole weekend. The team has made a lot of progress since the start of the year - we had new parts in Barcelona and we are trying to continue this progress and to always learn about the car to keep moving forward. We have to work hard in Friday practice with the set-up and hopefully get a positive start to the weekend.
You prepared for the Canadian Grand Prix during a test session at the Paul Ricard circuit two weeks ago. What areas will you concentrate on when we get to Montreal to improve the car?
It rained when we were working for Montreal and we were not able to do as much running as I would have liked. All we were able to do really were some practice starts. I still don't know what my programme will be for Friday, but I will try my best to improve the car and will work closely with my engineers to approach this weekend in the best way possible, as well as maximising my time on track. My priority will be to learn the circuit quickly as possible.
Exactly, you have never driven in Canada. Have you done any special preparation for this race?
No. Nothing specific. I have tried to approach this race calmly and remain focussed, as I have done for each race. My goal will be to learn the track quickly and to get comfortable with the car. Then I must make the most of each session to optimise the set-up of the car and to be in good shape for a strong qualifying session.
Pat Symonds: "We can approach Canada expecting a competitive weekend."
Pat, Monaco was a disappointing weekend for the team. Do you view it as a missed opportunity and what do you think might have been possible?
I think so. What might have been possible is hard to say in a race like that because so many factors come into it, but reducing the race to the simplest of facts, we can see that before Fernando's first problem on lap 8 he was 32 seconds ahead of Mark Webber, who went on to finish 4th, and so I think a strong points finish would have been achievable.
Fernando had an eventful weekend in Monaco, but he remains positive and seems to be enjoying his racing again - is that a fair assessment?
In the early part of the season he was getting a little bit frustrated, but we made a huge leap forward in performance for Barcelona and I think the car did become more enjoyable to drive. So, yes, I think it is fair to say that he is enjoying his racing, and I think that he has faith that the car will continue to improve.
Nelson is still on a learning curve and had another tough weekend in Monaco. How is his confidence as we approach the Canadian Grand Prix?
His confidence is suffering a little bit, but we hope to see him bounce back soon - he's definitely got the ability and we've already seen he's got the speed. He just needs to restore his self-confidence and that is something we will help him do.
We're a third of the way through the season now. What positives do the team take from the first six races?
The most positive thing is that we've shown our rate of development can exceed that of the other teams. We've pulled ourselves up the field in the first third of the season and there's every reason to think that we can keep improving. I'm not saying that we will be challenging for pole position and wins, but I certainly think that we've got plans in place that should allow us to out-develop those around us, which should help us get closer to challenging the BMWs and the McLarens in the next part of the season.
Canada is the first low downforce circuit that we will visit this year. How do you think it will suit the R28?
The R28 has shown well through the extremes of Barcelona and Monaco, but Canada is a different place altogether with long straights, chicanes and curbs - it's all about braking and traction. Of course aerodynamics is extremely important, because while the corners are relatively slow in Canada, you still need efficient aero to ensure good braking and traction. Traditionally Canada has been a place where our aero has been better than at the higher downforce end of the scale, so I think we can approach Canada expecting a competitive weekend.
The Canadian Grand Prix has traditionally been a race of high attrition. Why is it such a tricky place to get a result?
It is a race of high attrition and the statistics show that it is a race with a lot of accidents and a high percentage of transmission failures. In terms of the accidents, it's always difficult for the drivers when they go to a low downforce track because the car feels like it's lacking grip and it can be quite difficult for them to reset their sights and adapt to the lower downforce and lower grip levels. And Canada is an unforgiving track with plenty of places where a small mistake can lead to retirement.
It's tough on the transmission because there are a lot of chicanes where you are coming off curbs and trying to get on the power early. It therefore puts high shockwaves into the transmission and that's why components such as the gearbox and the driveshaft have been high on the list of failures over the years.
Renault at the Canadian Grand Prix
Renault turbo power raced in Montreal from 1978 until 1986 - yet it was not until 1985 that the French manufacturer's cars sat on pole position at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. However, when they finally did, it was in style, with a Lotus-Renault front row for Elio de Angelis on pole and Ayrton Senna alongside. The race proved a disappointment though, with De Angelis managing only P5 as Ferrari took a one-two.
Throughout the turbo years, the best result for Renault power was a P2 finish by Eddie Cheever in 1983, when team-mate Alain Prost, who was fighting for the world championship, could only manage P5. The previous year, both Renaults had retired from the Grand Prix while running second and third, having qualified in the same positions.
The V10 era, though, saw a change in fortunes. The first win for the Renault V10 came in Montreal as Belgian Thierry Boutsen led home Riccardo Patrese in 1989 for a Williams-Renault one-two. Another Williams-Renault victory was on the cards in 1991, until Nigel Mansell retired on the final lap, but Alain Prost set the record straight in 1993 with the 45th win for a Renault engine. In 1995, an all-Renault front row saw Michael Schumacher's Benetton take Renault's 100th pole position ahead of Damon Hill, while the following year, an all-Renault front row of Hill and Villeneuve was transformed into a Renault one-two-three with Hill, Villeneuve and Alesi on the podium.
Since 2002, however, ill-fortune seemed to have returned - although the Renault cars invariably performed well on the stop-start Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Fernando Alonso set fastest lap in 2003, but finished a place away from the podium. In 2004, the cars looked strong - but both retired with driveshaft failures. In 2005, Giancarlo Fisichella and Fernando Alonso both retired while leading the race, and it wasn't until 2006 that Fernando Alonso took a Renault victory - after the team's cars locked out the front row. It was win number 32 for a Renault chassis, and number 112 for a Renault engine in Formula 1.
Last year's race was the scene of a breakthrough drive for rookie driver Heikki Kovalainen as he raced through to 4th from the back of the grid on a chaotic afternoon. The team head back to Canada this year determined to deliver a similar result and to build upon the promise shown in recent races.
Montreal: Over at Red Bull Racing
Fabrice Lom, the Technical Coordinator for Renault at Red Bull Racing, looks back on the team's weekend in Monaco and reveals his hopes for Montreal.
Fabrice, what are your thoughts on the performance of Red Bull Racing in Monaco?
The performance was very good. On Thursday our car was not well suited to the track, but the engineers looked at the data in the evening and found some interesting avenues to explore. They worked extremely hard and the result was that on Saturday morning the behaviour of the RB4 was much better. The result? Both cars into the third part of qualifying. That was very encouraging.
How are you preparing for the Canadian Grand Prix?
The circuit is very different to Monaco, but certain characteristics are also quite similar. You have to work on the power delivery to ensure good traction at the exit of the slow corners. Montreal is also a low downforce track with high top speeds, and so you have to have good horsepower. We have also studied the weather so that we can adapt the air intakes accordingly.
Will the engines that were used in Monaco and then in Canada suffer?
It is clear that the over-revving associated with Monaco has given the engine a tough test. But, having said that, a large part of the race took part in wet conditions. So the problem should not be too bad.
What are the aims for the team in the Canadian Grand Prix?
Difficult to say. We did not think we would be comfortable in Monaco, but we scored good points there and were competitive. That suggests that our car is competitive on all types of circuit. The goal is therefore to continue scoring points and perhaps to move in front of Williams and to finish in the top 8 for the sixth race in a row.
ING Renault F1 Team in numbers
65,000 - That's the number of litres of Elf fuel that the ING Renault F1 Team use each season to cover all the races and tests.