After a career spent working in Renault's quality department, Renault F1 Team Viry Deputy MD AndrÃ© LainÃ© joined the team in 2003. His aim? To put his savoir-faire to work in Formula 1. Formula 1 is a curious mixture of light and shade. Some ...
After a career spent working in Renault's quality department, Renault F1 Team Viry Deputy MD André Lainé joined the team in 2003. His aim? To put his savoir-faire to work in Formula 1.
Formula 1 is a curious mixture of light and shade. Some departments exist and operate under the glare of TV cameras and photographers' lenses on the Grand Prix stage. Yet the represent just the tip of the iceberg, and backstage, in the shadows, there are many departments whose role in a team's success is primordial, but never seen by the outside world.
One of those sectors is that of 'Quality' -- which covers everything from manufacturing processes, to inspection, to reliability. The work of these men and women was a key factor in last year's championship victory, when the team experienced just one engine failure in 38 race starts, and the savoir-faire owes much to Renault's work in production cars. Quality expert, and Viry Deputy Managing Director, André Lainé explains a key factor in building world championship success...
Q: André, how difficult is the transition from production cars to the world of Formula 1?
André Lainé: They are two very different worlds, each of which has its own unique demands, mentality and characteristics. However, they share the same goal: to achieve optimum, zero-defect quality. You cannot simply transpose road-car working practices to Formula 1, of course, but both projects have the same level of complexity -- just working with different constraints.
Q: What is unique about a Formula 1 engine?
AL: The engineers must push, but not exceed, the limits in every area. To achieve that, you have to the best methods, organisation and working practices in place. Formula 1 teaches you to be realistic: you need to make the right decisions and do it quickly. Their impact is immediately visible, and the penalty on track can be brutal. Lightning-fast reactions are not so important in the road-car environment, which demands longer design and development processes. But that doesn't make it any easier!
Q: In which areas of the F1 programme do you intervene?
AL: We have a very wide-ranging scope of activity, but every decision taken converges towards a single objective: improving the quality of the end product. Firstly, take the example of quality control on components, and the rigorous management of our suppliers. Those 120 companies must scrupulously respect our specifications, which we try to make as detailed as possible. This dialogue generates fresh ideas that allow both parties to improve even further.
Secondly, implementing precise quality performance indicators allows every department at Viry to measure what it is contributing to our project, and to do even better. Finally, planning is a very important part of our strategy: you must hit your deadlines, no matter what. The experience we have accrued in the recent and more distant past, ensures that any piece of knowledge or discovery is never lost -- and that we don't make the same mistakes twice. That is very important. It is important to stress the quality of our working relationship with Enstone, as well, which produces very positive results.
Q: How important is the financial aspect in this work?
AL: Very important, indeed primordial. We have a clearly defined budget, and every dollar we spend must contribute to winning races.
Q: Is that a handicap?
AL: I don't see it as a handicap, on the contrary. Strictly-defined limits mean we have to selective, and ingenious. You have to adopt a special way of thinking -- sometimes, when everything is possible, you lose the ability to make decisions...
Q: Finally, can individuals still make a difference?
AL: Of course! If even a single member of the team fails in their job, hundreds of other people suffer the consequences. At Viry, there is a unique team spirit. Some of our personnel have been with us for 20 or 30 years, and we have an open exchange of ideas -- regardless of hierarchy. It is one of the real strengths of the Renault F1 Team.