After a second-consecutive points-scoring finish in Indianapolis, Technical Director Mike Gascoyne is looking to see the Mild Seven Renault F1 Team transform their late-season run of results into further points at Suzuka: "I think Suzuka is one...
After a second-consecutive points-scoring finish in Indianapolis, Technical Director Mike Gascoyne is looking to see the Mild Seven Renault F1 Team transform their late-season run of results into further points at Suzuka:
"I think Suzuka is one of the circuits that should suit us most this year. The R202 has been competitive on tracks with a lot of high-speed corners needing good aerodynamics, and I expect Michelin to provide us with a competitive tyre. We should perform strongly and look to challenge the top three teams more closely than at the last race."
As ever, Executive Director of Engineering Pat Symonds will lead the Team's performance over the race weekend and is looking forward to the challenge of the Japanese track:
"It's a great circuit! Not only do you need a car that works very well in a variety of corners but of all the circuits we visit, I think this is the one where the driver can make the greatest contribution. 'Local' knowledge gained by those who have raced in Japan earlier in their careers counts for a lot, particularly in the esses where it is very easy to overdrive and lose time."
Nevertheless, the engineers' focus will be firmly on finding the optimum set-up for the difficult circuit: "Having said that," continues Symonds, "the car is extremely important as not only is a very precise balance required, but just like at circuits such as Barcelona, the car needs very good aerodynamic efficiency. As the R202 appears to have this attribute, we should go well on this circuit."
Gascoyne agrees: "We will have further aerodynamic updates on the car and hopefully new developments for our qualifying engines. We will be looking to qualify both cars in the top eight and ideally one in the top six."
In order to cope with the demands of the eighteen-turn circuit, the cars will run in an aerodynamic configuration on the high side of medium downforce and traditionally use a two-stop race strategy because of the very abrasive track surface. One imponderable, however, is more difficult to forecast accurately: the weather.
"The October weather in Suzuka can often be quite cool, "explains Symonds, "and of course rain cannot be discounted. The recent progress made by Michelin on their wet tyres leads us to be much more confident if these conditions should prevail."
For Gascoyne, the final race of the season will mark the conclusion of a season in which the Team achieved its objectives, but could have hoped for more:
"Our aim was to finish fourth in the Championship and barring any major misfortune we will achieve that. However, we were let down by our reliability which definitely cost us more points. Furthermore, the gap to the top three teams has been too large on occasions and we must get closer to them: that is the target for the last race before looking to challenge McLaren and Wiliams more regularly next season."
Although the Suzuka race might mark the official end of the 2002 season, the unofficial start of the 2003 campaign is not far away, with work continuing apace on next year's car in preparation for a roll-out scheduled for late November:
"The new car is currently much more advanced than the R202 was at this stage last year," adds Gascoyne. "We will be looking to move on from where we are now when testing begins again in November."