Following the first four Grands Prix of the season, Patrick Faure, President of the Renault F1 Team, reflects on the start of the season, and Renault's place in the world of Formula 1. Q: How do you assess the Renault F1 Team's performance after...
Following the first four Grands Prix of the season, Patrick Faure, President of the Renault F1 Team, reflects on the start of the season, and Renault's place in the world of Formula 1.
Q: How do you assess the Renault F1 Team's performance after the first four Grands Prix of the 2002 season?
"We can already see that we are in much better shape than we were at the same stage last year. The 2001 season was very tough, but I don't think it is arrogant or pretentious to say that we are presently at the top of the second division, just behind the top three teams."
"What we have to do during 2002 is to graduate from to the top of the second division to the bottom of the first. Whatever happens, the team fulfilled its obligations at the start of the season. We are where we were hoping to be. The next job is to close the gap bit by bit to the top three teams."
Q: How do you rate the opposition from what you have seen so far?
"Clearly, Ferrari is still the team to beat. Behind, I think Williams has recently stolen a lead on McLaren - although it is a little premature to say anything definite because McLaren will doubtless raise its game and fight back. Generally, I see Ferrari as favourite with Williams as a strong outside bet."
Q: How does Renault feel about the new regulations that have been proposed for F1, such as limiting the number of engines you can use per weekend?
"Financially, the world of Formula One is going through a fairly tough period. Tobacco sponsorship will be ruled out from the end of 2006 and we have to think hard about cutting expenditure while maintaining a healthy level of competition between all the teams. Given that limiting costs is a priority, we fully support two of the vital measures that have been proposed for forthcoming seasons."
"First of these is to restrict the number of engines we use, because they are very expensive to maintain. To help moderate costs, Renault favours the proposal to limit drivers to a single engine per grand prix weekend from 2004 - in other words one that has a life expectancy of 800 to 900 kms. The second money-saving measure that has to be addressed is to cut back the amount of private testing we do, because it costs an absolute fortune. You need a separate team to run everything, and then there are travel costs and extra trucks."
"Testing is vital to help set up both chassis and engines, especially at the start of the season. So why not use the Friday of a grand prix weekend as a test day? The team personnel will already be on site and so will the spectators. Cars could run for three, four or even five hours, and there would be very little extra cost involved. That could replace a number of test days that are presently too expensive. Everybody would benefit from this regulation and it would create a level playing field for all the teams."
Q: Jean-Jacques His was recently appointed managing director of the Renault F1 plant at Viry-Châtillon. Has that altered the way the team is structured?
"Obviously things are a bit different nowadays because the team is 100 per cent Renault. When Renault Sport was just an engine supplier there was only a single political structure to be defined. Now there is an integrated Renault F1 team and it is Flavio Briatore and I who, generally speaking, make the strategic decisions."
"Today, Viry-Châtillon is an engine development and assembly facility. Jean-Jacques His's appointment was clearly expected and he works mostly in conjunction with Mike Gascoyne on the technical side. He also contributes to discussion that Flavio and I have about political or strategic matters. What you have to remember is that Viry no longer has political independence. Rather, there has to be a single political system that applies to Renault F1 as a whole."
Q: What level of support does the team get nowadays from the Renault group?
"It is very significant. To begin with, Renault finances a considerable part of the team's budget - including the whole engine development programme. The Enstone side of the team pays for itself through sponsorship and TV rights. Elsewhere, Renault is heavily committed to the F1 programme on a technical level, especially at the Technocentre."
"In Guyancourt and Rueil, technicians who work on Renault's road cars and engines are lending their know-how to the F1 programme. At the moment there are about 15 Renault engineers at Enstone and a few at Viry. They are helping their Renault F1 colleagues to hone their skills while, at the same time, learning about the mutual respect and rapid reaction times that are vital to the F1 project."