Comments from the Renault drivers ahead of the European Grand Prix Fernando Alonso Q: Fernando, two wins and two second places, including last race in Imola. Were you pleased after that result? Fernando Alonso: Absolutely. I went there...
Comments from the Renault drivers ahead of the European Grand Prix
Q: Fernando, two wins and two second places, including last race in Imola. Were you pleased after that result?
Fernando Alonso: Absolutely. I went there saying that second would be a good result for me, because Ferrari have always been strong in Imola. They were competitive, like we expected, but I think that in the race, the Renault was very close in performance -- and maybe even a bit quicker in race conditions. So far, I have had perfect reliability this season, and we are working hard to make sure that continues -- while adding performance as well. This has been a dream start for me, because there is such a high level of competition in the field. I hope it will continue!
Q: Looking at the Nurburgring, what are the important characteristics at that track?
FA: I think the most important thing is that you need good traction. There are a lot of slow corners, which means lots of hard acceleration out of the turns. With the V8 engine, this will be less of a problem. That's because we have less power this year, so the car is not so much on the limit in terms of the traction. But that is the area we always concentrate on for this circuit, as well as finding a good balance. And we have already seen that the R26 is very strong in both those areas.
Q: Conditions can often be cold at the Nurburgring. Will that be a worry for tyre performance, like we saw in Melbourne where people struggled?
FA: Honestly, I don't think it will be a problem for us. In Australia, the car was really good in cold conditions and using its tyres well. The same was true in the winter: when it was cold, we were very competitive. So if the conditions are similar at the Nurburgring, it will be good for us.
Q: Are you optimistic ahead of this race?
FA: I am expecting a big fight again. I think the level of competition is much closer than the championship standings suggest, and there will be some big challengers. The Michelin tyres have performed very consistently at every circuit this year, and they have done a great job. It will be the same in Germany, I am sure, so we will see a big push from McLaren-Mercedes at their home race, running on the same Michelin tyres as us...
Q: And how about Ferrari and Michael Schumacher?
FA: What we don't know at the moment is how consistent Ferrari will be. So far, they have been strong at the same tracks as in 2005, and not so good at others. It is too early to say if it will be the same this year, so we can't write them off -- and Michael is racing in front of his people too. We must concentrate on our job though, at Renault. I have the new B spec RS26 engine, which is a good step forward, and there are new developments on the car at every race. So I am sure we can be fighting for the win again on Sunday afternoon.
Q: Giancarlo, Imola was a disappointment for you... what happened?
Giancarlo Fisichella: I pushed as hard as possible in the race but from eleventh [his qualifying position], there was not so much I could do. The car was very heavy in the first stint and difficult to drive. The handling came back in the next stints -- but there is only so much you can do with the strategy at Imola, and it is hard to make up places. I got stuck behind Barrichello at one point but even so, nearly got sixth place. It is frustrating, but we know we lost the chance of a good finish in qualifying. We made some mistakes, and it won't happen again.
Q: How hard is it to bounce back from a race like that, where you don't reach your potential? It must be massively frustrating...
GF: Of course. But you have to keep your concentration, and your motivation. If you lose that, you cannot go on. Behind me, there is a team working at the maximum to support both of the drivers, and giving us the same possibility to win. So I want to win for them as well, to pay back their hard work and their commitment.
Q: Going to the Nurburgring often means rain... is that a worry for you?
GF: Yeah, that's true -- it can be cold and raining too, at some point in the weekend and sometimes in the race. But I don't think it's a problem because I feel very comfortable in the conditions and my smooth style works well in the wet. Michelin made a big step on their intermediate and wet tyres last year, so rain won't be a worry for me or the team.
Q: The Nurburgring looks like a 'complete' circuit with a bit of everything -- is that accurate?
GF: It is a good circuit, for sure, and one that I enjoy driving. There are a few slow-speed corners, like turns 1 and 6. You have a slow-speed chicane where you jump on the kerbs and the car feels nervous. There are quick curves, some of them you have to attack aggressively, and they link together so you need to get a perfect line to be quick. It is an interesting circuit, and it should suit the R26.
Q: So what are your predictions for the race?
GF: I think we will be right up at the front. I still have another race on the B spec engine, but we have had excellent reliability on it, so we know the performance will be there. The car was very quick last year at this track -- I went from the pit-lane to P6 in the race, so we had strong pace and the Michelin tyres worked well. The R26 will be quick, like it has been at all the circuits. I am sure the competition will be strong too, from the usual teams. But we will fighting for the podium, and to score the maximum points possible.
European GP tech file
The Nurburgring has a reputation as a 'complete' circuit: it includes high speed corners, medium-speed chicanes that upset the car balance and some very slow corners with high traction demands. The R26 will need to meet all of these challenges this weekend.
Aerodynamics: The Nurburgring is one of the highest-downforce circuits of the season. We usually find ourselves trying to control understeer at this circuit, except perhaps in turn 8 where the car is always nervous. However, the high downforce level allows us to compensate for that, and make the car more driveable, and stable during the changes of direction and under braking.
Tyres: Tyre choice is always tricky here owing to the variable weather conditions, and the fact that temperatures can be very cool. As always, we will be looking to find the best compromise between a tyre soft enough to give good single lap performance but which may risk some graining, and a harder tyre that will last well, but not offer the same performance. Generally, rather than taking the risk of a hard prime and a soft option, we choose two tyres according to possible weather conditions, with for example a prime for cooler conditions and an option in case the temperatures are higher.
Braking: The brakes will not be a problem at this circuit. We will monitor them closely, but there is no reason to think that wear levels on the discs and pads would be abnormally high, as the braking zones are not particularly severe.
Atmospheric pressure: Located in the Eifel mountains, the Nurburgring is at an altitude of roughly 500m above sea level. The lower air density means the engine generates less power (approximately 5%) but also reduces the loads on some parts such as the pistons.
Circuit configuration: The layout of the Nurburgring does not contain any intrinsically severe demands for the engines. The flowing layout includes elevation changes which make the circuit enjoyable for the drivers, but the high number of corners means the time spent at full throttle is just 66% of the lap. The engine needs to pull strongly from low revs to launch well out of the slow corners, but there are no particularly long straights, with the longest single period at full throttle being just 10s, a low value for the season.
Over-revving: While the layout of the Nurburgring is not intrinsically severe, the circuit is bumpy in a number of places, notably turns 4, 7 and the chicane at turns 13/14. If the drivers take the wrong line, this can potentially damage the engine by either excessive use of the limiter, or over-revving. It is a point that is studied with some care during practice to avoid any problems in qualifying or the race.