Comments from the Renault team ahead of the Italian Grand Prix Heikki Kovalainen: "Monza is demanding -- and fun because of it!" Q: You put in a strong drive in Turkey... HK: Yes, it was. We did a very good job all weekend with the team, and...
Comments from the Renault team ahead of the Italian Grand Prix
Heikki Kovalainen: "Monza is demanding -- and fun because of it!"
Q: You put in a strong drive in Turkey...
HK: Yes, it was. We did a very good job all weekend with the team, and it paid off because we brought home three points. Of course, we all want to be capable of more, but it was important to get the maximum out of the car at the last race. We managed to do it, so that's a genuine reason to be pleased. It was a good race for me, chasing down Lewis in the final laps, and hopefully I can keep up the momentum in Italy.
Q: Monza is a very unusual circuit. Do you enjoy driving here?
HK: I think it is a very exciting race, because of the layout and also the atmosphere. This is a special weekend in the F1 season. The circuit is very fast, you run very light downforce and the drivers need to maintain total concentration throughout. You often see quite dramatic races here as well, and the Ferrari supporters will be out in force this weekend to cheer on their team. Our goal will be to put on a strong performance for the fans who are supporting us out in the stands too.
Q: What is the impact of the low downforce levels?
HK: It is very demanding for the drivers and the teams. The car feels very "light" to drive, and slides very easily in the corners. Lesmo 1 and Lesmo 2 are particularly tricky, because you take them in 4th gear at high speed and when the tyres are already a bit worn, like in race conditions, it is very difficult to control the car. Those are the unique challenges Monza offers.
Q: What will be the keys to a strong performance?
HK: Monza is a high-speed circuit, and it goes without saying that good top speed is essential. But I think it will be even more important to concentrate on the corner exit, so we can put the power down as soon as possible without sliding and losing time. We looked at these areas during the test and collected lots of data, which we will use to build our programme for Friday practice. We want to show once again that we are making progress, just like we did in Istanbul.
Giancarlo Fisichella: "I can't wait to race at home in Italy!"
Q: Giancarlo, Turkey was a tough race -- but you still pushed all the way to the flag...
GF: I really lost out in the incident at the first corner. I could easily have scored points, and that makes it all the more frustrating to finish in 9th position. But you have to put that behind you and look forward. There are still five races to go, and each one will be important for the team and myself. We are totally focused on the Italian Grand Prix this weekend, which will be a very special race for me.
Q: What does it mean to compete in your home race?
GF: It means even more because this is the only race in Italy this season, because we haven't been to Imola! I have always enjoyed racing at Monza, ever since I won here in Formula 3. I got on the podium in 2005 as well, the first Italian to do that since Alboreto. It is a challenging circuit for the drivers, and I have some good memories, so I am looking forward to seeing what we can do this year.
Q: Does competing in your home race bring extra pressure?
GF: Not really, in actual fact I would say it's the opposite because it pushes you to give even more effort because you are racing in front of your people, with friends and family watching on too!
Q: How will the R27 perform this weekend?
GF: We have been working hard to ensure the car can be competitive. Our test last week was spent preparing for the race, even though bad weather on Thursday restricted our running. Like the other teams, we have a specific, new aerodynamic package for this race, which is adapted to the specific demands of the circuit. We know that our engine is strong too, but even though we have tested here recently, it will still be important to make good use of practice to fine-tune the car, and find the right compromise for qualifying and the race.
Rob White: "The toughest test of the year for the engine"
Q: Rob, we are approaching the end of the first season of engine homologation. Has it been a success?
RW: The principle of homologation was introduced to reduce the cost of engine development. While development on the minor parts outside the homologated perimeter of the engine can still yield performance gains, they are not big. And while it would be possible to continue spending on engine development in search of ever-smaller gains, we have not done this at Renault. The development activity associated with short-term performance gain has been reduced, and we have made substantial savings.
So in terms of achieving cost savings with no negative impact on the show, I think the rules must be judged a success. But I do not think the 2007 rules are optimum yet, and I hope that future rules will allow us to build on this experience, in order to put on a better show at reasonable cost.
Q: Which teams gained and lost most from the changes?
RW: It is always difficult to have a clear view of the relative performance of the engine in the car, so a true 'pecking order' is difficult to establish. Between 2006 and 2007, limited modifications were permitted to re-tune the engines to 19,000 RPM, and a direct effect of the RPM limitation was that it forced the development objectives of the teams to converge to the same engine speed, which tends to bring the performance of the engines closer together.
Of course, 2006 was the first year for the 2.4l V8 engines, and it is possible that some lessons learned during the racing season were introduced during the 're-tuning' process for this year. In developing our engine for 2007, we at Renault were pleased to recover most of the performance loss associated with the substantial reduction in engine speed.
Q: Limited in-season development has been permitted in 2007. What areas have been worked on, and what progress has been made?
RW: The rules permit us to work on the inlet and exhaust systems and engine ancillaries, and we have done so. In collaboration with ELF, we have introduced fuel and oil developments. And as ever, we have worked on the operation of the engine at each circuit, and the control systems that allow the drivers to get the maximum from the engine. While we do not wish to discuss the scale of the gains, they are of course smaller than during previous seasons, when there was more development scope.
Q: The team has supplied engines to Red Bull Racing in 2007. How successful is the collaboration?
RW: I believe it has been successful, and mutually beneficial. From the beginning, both sides had a clear view of how we should operate, and we have remained true to it. We have built strong relations with Red Bull Racing at every level, and that has seen the relationship flourish. Viry has a long tradition of equitable engine supply, and this means Red Bull Racing has identical engines to the works team, and a dedicated track support group. We have been able to use the experiences gained in two teams to the advantage of both.
Q: Monza is the engine circuit par excellence -- and the following race at Spa is also severe for the V8. How tough is this challenge?
RW: The pairing of Monza/Spa is an arduous test for the engine, which must cope with very long straights and severe duty cycles. The engine must be capable of withstanding this pair of races, even if one of other driver does not end up needing to do the two with a single engine. It is certainly the toughest test of the year for the engine, but there are no 'easy' races. Wherever we go, our aim is to exploit the engine to the maximum.
Q: The 2008 season will see the introduction of the standard ECU. What is the impact of this on the engine?
RW: The physical changes will be modest, as the rules are not substantially different. Minor modifications will be needed to adapt the engine sensors to the standard ECU, but the major workload comes in the form of learning the new control systems, and how to calibrate the engines. We need to gain experience of the new electronics environment, and gather the data to be able to operate the engine correctly in 2008. The same process applies to the chassis team in terms of gearbox control.
Q: The 2008 rules also introduce bio-fuels into the sport. Does this have any impact on the engine?
RW: The fuel rules for 2008 require a minimum of 5.75% of oxygenates derived from biological sources. This is consistent with the EU directive on bio-fuel, which requires the same bio-content in road fuels by 2010. While the engine cannot change owing to the homologation rules, and while the regulations remain very restrictive, the introduction of bio-oxygenates provides an interesting new challenge to work on with ELF for the coming season.
Q: Fabrice, what was your assessment of the race in Turkey?
Fabrice Lom: It is not going to be remembered as one of our better races. We thought we had found a good level of reliability in the previous races, however it let us down again in Istanbul. In terms of performance, we are in a good position. But the competition is very tight in the midfield, and there are tiny differences between a strong and average position.
Q: Monza will be a special race, and a genuine challenge for the engine team...
FL: The circuit requires a unique set-up, and good reliability from the engine. With a slippery aero package and a strong engine, you can have a competitive race in Monza. The chassis team will also focus on ensuring good ride, so the drivers can use the kerbs without losing too much time. For the engines, the challenge isn't just the Italian Grand Prix - but the pairing of Monza and Spa, which is the most demanding of the whole year. So we are preparing for two intense weeks!
Q: The team needs a good race in Italy, to try and catch Williams in the standings...
FL: Absolutely. It is not over yet, and we will be aiming to our maximum once again in Italy. Mark will have a new engine, while David will be doing the second race with his V8... That is not a worry at this stage of the season, as we know the engine well, and we tested extensively in Monza last week.