Comments from the Renault team ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix Giancarlo Fisichella Q: Giancarlo, you scored the team's first points of the season at the last race in Australia. How was you race? Giancarlo Fisichella: It was a tough race...
Comments from the Renault team ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix
Q: Giancarlo, you scored the team's first points of the season at the last race in Australia. How was you race?
Giancarlo Fisichella: It was a tough race for me. We weren't on the pace of the leaders, and I needed to be aggressive all the way through to maintain my position and stay ahead of Massa, who was attacking hard in the final laps. We knew beforehand that we weren't fast enough, but the first race gave us a clearer picture of where we stand -- and showed us the areas we need to focus on.
Q: The Malaysian Grand Prix has the reputation of being a particularly difficult race. Do you have to do any special preparation?
GF: Without a doubt, this is the toughest race of the season -- not just physically, but mentally too. The high temperatures and humidity make things very tough for the drivers and the cars too. For me personally, though, there are very good memories from my win last year, and I am prepared for the race this time round. I trained hard over the winter, I am in peak condition -- and ready to go.
Q: The temperatures and humidity levels are among the highest of the whole season, how do you take these factors into account when setting up the car?
GF: We tested in high temperatures in Bahrain during the winter, and that allowed us to make good progress. The conditions will be even more extreme in Malaysia, but we already know what we need to do in terms of cooling the car and engine, which is always a priority. Since then, of course, the team has tested in Sepang as well, so I think we will be well prepared for the race.
Q: Do you think the R27 can perform well in Sepang?
GF: Our aim for the second race is to have a car that is totally reliable -- and quicker than in Melbourne. Renault has always performed well in Sepang, and I think the R27 will be OK there too. The team has been working hard since Australia, and I believe things are moving in the right direction, with new developments on the car. Step by step, we are hoping to make up ground on the leaders.
Q: Heikki, you were clearly disappointed with your first race in Australia. How have you prepared for the race in Malaysia?
Heikki Kovalainen: My weekend in Albert Park was one to forget, but it is in the past now. Since Melbourne, my complete focus has been on the race ahead -- and performing to the level I know I can reach. I worked hard with the team during testing in Sepang to get comfortable with the car, and I have learned the circuit: it seems very challenging, and fun to drive. I am determined to put Melbourne behind me, and drive a good race in Malaysia.
Q: What areas will you concentrate on during preparations for the race?
HK: The temperatures are so high that the main focus is on finding the right cooling levels for the car and engine to get the maximum from the package. That means getting enough air to the engine, without sacrificing more downforce than is necessary. After that, of course we will work through the usual range of set-ups, looking at downforce levels, suspension settings and tyre pressures to find a good balance with the car on new and old tyres. As always, it will be about finding the most effective compromise between all the different factors.
Q: Are you expecting a difficult race in Malaysia?
HK: Yes, I think it will be a tough race, probably the most difficult of the season because of the conditions. The air is very hot, even on the straights, so you hardly get any cooling at all -- and that makes it very intense physically. It will be tough, but I have trained for this race -- and I am ready.
Q: You tested last week in Sepang, was that useful preparation for you?
HK: Without a doubt. We found a good basic set-up with the car, in conditions similar to those we will have during the race weekend. On a personal level, I have learned the circuit, the lines and the braking points, so that gives me a solid starting point for the race weekend.
Bob Bell, Technical Director
Q: Bob, the Melbourne race weekend was a tough one for the ING Renault F1 Team. What are the expectations as you head into round two in Sepang?
Bob Bell: Within the team, we are hoping to show that we have taken a step forward relative to Melbourne. At this stage, it is unrealistic to talk about catching Ferrari or McLaren -- but we need to show that progress has been made, and that we are starting to close down the gap.
Q: The in-season development process is now well underway. What will it bring on-stream in Malaysia?
BB:The main gain in Malaysia will be a new front wing package, which will help with the performance. However, it is quite possible that the hierarchy of relative performance will actually be dominated by how well teams have responded to the FIA's clarification of the bodywork regulations last week. The new testing methods for the floor will, I am sure, have caused some difficulty for all the teams -- and how well they respond to that change may well have a larger effect than any other performance developments.
Q: Historically, Malaysia is a circuit where the team has performed strongly, with victories in the last two races. How well will the R27 go there?
BB: The race weekend in Melbourne, and our testing last week in Sepang, showed that the car is well-balanced -- particularly on old tyres. That will be a definite strength. However, the other lesson from Australia was that we are lacking in overall grip, and this will certainly penalise us in the high speed corners. We hope to have made progress and moved closer to the pace-setters, but the real verdict will come out on the track.
Q: The team tested in Sepang last week -- and were near the bottom of the timesheets each day. Is that a cause for concern?
BB: I think it reflects our approach to the new testing restrictions more than anything else. We are now only allowed to test with a single car during the season, and there is so much development work to be done that you have to be very disciplined in how you run. That means putting miles on development parts and completing reliability work -- and a knock-on effect is that there is less of an opportunity to set quick headline times. Test times are never a reliable guide as to true competitiveness, and that is more true than before in 2007.
Q: Unusually, Melbourne saw a number of reliability problems for the team. Are you confident these have been resolved?
BB: Action has been taken to ensure they are not repeated. Especially in our current situation, where we are not on the pace, we cannot afford to sacrifice reliability as well. The car needs to be absolutely bullet-proof, and we hope to see that in Malaysia.
Q: At this stage last year, the team was riding high. The situation is very different in 2007. What is the mood like within the Renault camp?
BB: I think we all find it frustrating to be in this position, because we're competitive people, we want to win and we don't like it when we're not winning. We have a responsibility to improve our performance, and that is a very strong motivation. But there is no lack of focus or determination within the team. We are just as focused now as we were at the same time last year -- and working hard to improve the situation.
Q: Giancarlo drove a strong race to fifth place in Melbourne. What will the team expect from him in Malaysia?
BB: More of the same. It is important that we have a driver who is getting the maximum from the car -- no matter where it is capable of finishing. He needs to take all the points that are there to be had, not let his head drop -- and fight all the way to the finish. That is exactly what he did in Melbourne, and what the team will be doing as well. He certainly has the ability to lead by example in the coming months.
Q: Heikki endured a difficult debut in Australia. Will the situation improve for Sepang?
BB: I believe so. Heikki is determined to give a better account of himself than he did last time -- and he knows that Giancarlo is setting the bar high for him in terms of getting the most out of the car. He has had the chance to prepare well this week, and we are looking forward to seeing him achieve what we know he is capable of.
Q: Finally, the key to strong performance throughout the year will, as always, be to develop the car quickly. What programme does the team have in place?
BB: As always, we have an ambitious development programme in place for the car. Given our current situation, we will be pushing even harder to introduce new parts as quickly as possible. In past seasons, we had to balance our aggression with a degree of caution to avoid compromising our lead in the championship. This year, we have got nothing to lose -- and that will allow us to be even more aggressive.
ING Renault F1 Team run special branding in Hanjin tribute
The 2007 Malaysian Grand Prix will see the ING Renault F1 Team running special Hanjin branding in tribute to the late Chairman and CEO of Hanjin Shipping, Mr. Sooho Cho.
For this race, the team's Hanjin logo will be replaced by a tribute branding dedicated to Mr Cho.
Mr Cho was a long-standing supporter of Formula 1, making his first entry into the sport in 1994, when Korean Air, then part of the Hanjin group of companies, became a sponsor of the Simtek F1 team.
After moving from Simtek to the Tyrell F1 team in mid-1995, the company joined the Benetton F1 team in 1997, which marked the beginning of a long-standing relationship with the Enstone-based team.
Korean Air continued as a team partner until late 2001 when the works Renault F1 Team made its debut in the sport. The new car featured 'Hanjin' branding, promoting Hanjin Shipping, a major global shipping company, with operations at 80 ports in 35 countries.
Since 2002, Hanjin has shared in a total of 18 Grand Prix wins, 48 podium finishes and four world championship titles with the Renault F1 Team.