Comments from the Renault team ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix
Giancarlo Fisichella: "I love driving in Monaco"
Q: You personally had a tough race in Spain, but we also saw suggestions that the team's overall level of performance had improved. Do you think that can be sustained in Monaco?
GF: My race in Barcelona was a tough one, because of the refuelling problems, but I think our level of performance during the weekend was better. Hopefully, we can carry on moving in the same direction. We are not on the pace of the leaders yet, and we are honest about it, but we are moving forward, and that's important for the motivation and for the team. We are determined to bounce back, and everybody is working flat out to make sure that happens as soon as possible. Monaco is the next challenge for us, and we will be aiming to give our best.
Q: You have always been reputed as something of a Monaco specialist. Can you explain why?
GF: I can't really put it into words. I like the circuit a lot, I usually have a good feeling straight away, and it is one of the unmissable events in motor racing. The races are full of incidents in Monaco: you have to be ready to take every opportunity, and push all the way while staying at maximum concentration to avoid making mistakes. It's a pretty fun challenge to be honest, and I can't wait to get out on the track on Thursday.
Q: Monaco is the most glamorous race of the year. Does that make it extra-special to drive in?
GF: There is a really special atmosphere in Monte-Carlo, for sure. The paddock is in the middle of the city, plus the circuit is fun for the drivers and the engineers because it's so different to a normal track. You feel much closer to the people and, at the same time, you can sense this is a place full of history, one of the legendary places in motor sport. It is a Grand Prix unlike any other, and that makes it really interesting.
Heikki Kovalainen: "Looking forward to a fantastic challenge"
Q: Heikki, you raced in Monaco in GP2. Are you looking forward to racing on the streets in an F1 car?
HK: I can't wait! This is one of the most interesting races of the whole year because the circuit is so unusual. On a street circuit, you simply cannot afford to make mistakes. If you brake a bit too late, you are in the wall, and that's game over. You have to concentrate for every instant. I have good memories of my GP2 race in Monaco, when I set pole, led most of the race and, in spite of pit-stop problems, I finished fifth. I am really looking forward to seeing what the circuit is like to drive in an F1 car!
Q: It is a very narrow circuit. Do you feel that at the wheel?
HK: To be honest, I think it is tighter and even more narrow than what you see on television! The corners are tighter, the walls are always too close... It is almost impossible to pass unless you are much faster -- or your competitor makes a mistake. You are so close to the buildings that the sound is bouncing off them, and that means you hear your engine much louder -- and the engines of the cars around you; it's a really strange feeling in the opening laps! Monaco is a spectacular Grand Prix, and it will be an interesting race.
Q: What are the main factors to take into account when you are setting up the car?
HK: Downforce is important, and I think everybody will race with their maximum levels. But in my opinion the crucial things are mechanical grip and the suspension, because they are what help you be quick through the slow corners. You also need to have good braking stability, because the driver needs to feel confident to be able to attack the big braking zones. Those are the areas we will concentrate on in practice on Thursday.
Bob Bell: "A racing heart at Renault"
Q: Bob, the team appeared to make a small step forward in competitiveness in Barcelona, although that was masked by problems during the race. Is that a fair assessment?
BB: Yes, I think so. We certainly saw a small improvement during the weekend in Barcelona. Our new suspension and aerodynamic developments were clearly working well, and the drivers both felt more confident with the car than they had done at recent races. They were ultimately hindered by the refuelling problems we experienced, but I think it is fair to say that we managed to unlock a little more of the potential that we know is in the car. We hope to see the trend continue again this weekend in Monaco.
Q: Results during the first races of the season have clearly not met expectations, yet there doesn't seem to be any panic at ING Renault F1 Team. Why is that?
BB: I think it comes down to honesty and discipline. We have completed a lot of detailed, targeted analysis to understand our problems. That has been an extensive programme, but it is well mapped-out, and we are making good progress. In difficult times, you have to go about you work in a logical manner, and adopt a very disciplined approach. When you have a nasty surprise with car performance, it is very easy to head off in many directions at once without a clear strategy. In contrast, we have taken our time and resisted the temptation to react in a knee-jerk manner. It is beginning to bear fruit.
Q: That must make you proud of the team that you are leading...
BB: It certainly does. We have a racing heart at Renault, and even though we are not fighting at the front right now, the competitiveness and hunger of the team are constants. When we were leading during the last two years, we never coasted, never let up and never thought things were easy. This year demands even more of those same characteristics: we are fighting hard to understand the problems, and working to unlock the potential we know is in the car. The circumstances may be different, but there is the same deep drive pushing us forward.
Q: Does the team have the resources to cope with the problem-solving, as well as continuing development of the car?
BB: Absolutely. It is no secret that we achieve very good results with sensible budgets at Renault F1 Team, and that is a genuine source of pride. But we are lacking nothing in our efforts to rebound. Development is on-going, our problem-solving is progressing well, and as at this time every year, work is beginning on 2008. Does that mean we are giving up on 2007? Certainly not. But it also shows that we are staying disciplined, and determined not to let our current situation affect work on next year's car.
Q: How do you expect the car to perform in Monaco?
BB: It is often said that Monaco is a lottery. While it is true to say the circuit is unlike any other we race on, it is nevertheless easy to underestimate how important a role the car plays. There is no magic wand in Monte-Carlo: a bad car doesn't suddenly become a good one. You need plenty of downforce but, more than anything, the drivers need to be able to trust the car. At the moment, the R27 is not the easiest car to take to the limit with confidence, so that may make life more difficult for Giancarlo and Heikki. As always, we will be going to the next race with our heads held high -- and determined to take everything we can from the weekend.
Over at Red Bull Racing -- with Fabrice Lom, Principal Engineer, Red Bull Racing Trackside Engine Support
Before each Grand Prix, we will bring you an update of progress at Red Bull Racing, to whom Renault supplies identical specification RS27 V8 engines to those used by the works team. Since 1983 when Renault began its tradition of equitable F1 engine supply, customer Renault engines have won a total of 80 Grands Prix.
Q: Fabrice, what is your assessment of the start to the season made by Renault's partner team Red Bull Racing?
Fabrice Lom: I am feeling very optimistic about our partnership. I think it has been an intense start to the season for all the team: everything is brand new, and needs to be put into place. That has required Herculean efforts from the team, but the start to the season has been positive, and our results are encouraging. We know we have a promising package, and even though there are still areas that need working on, we can see we are making progress all the time -- and we believe the package has real potential.
Q: You are preparing for the most unusual race on the entire calendar: Monaco. What demands does this place on the engine?
FL: Monaco isn't generally known as an engine circuit, but there are still some important factors to take into account when tuning the V8's behaviour. It must be as smooth as possible; there are a lot of bumps, which means a real risk of over-revving, so everything must be set up to ensure gearchanges happen at the right time. Prior to 2007, our worry was about not exceeding the physical capabilities of the engine with too many revs; this year, we will be adapting to the slightly different challenge of ensuring we do not exceed the rev limit of 19,000 rpm.
Q: You prepared for the race at Paul Ricard last week...
FL: Yes. The team's main focus was on chassis testing. On the engine side, we were paying attention to the engine's behaviour with very closely-spaced gear ratios, particularly in second and third gears; to the driver's feeling about the engine characteristics; and to cooling, which is a factor that can never be neglected in the Principality.