This year the teams have agreed on an in-season testing limit, but the change of schedule on Fridays at Grand Prix weekends gives a little bit of leeway to get some more test mileage on the cars. Instead of an hour each in the morning and afternoon, Friday practices have been extended to an hour and half per session. For Renault, this means an opportunity to continue with ongoing test programmes.
"Friday is now considered a test day and the grand prix build-up will really begin on Saturday," Denis Chevrier, head of engine track operations, told the team website. "Henceforth, the life-cycle of the engines will be four days for two grand prix weekends, and each V8 will cover fewer kilometres than in 2005 and 2006."
"As the number of private test days per car has been limited this season, we're going to use Friday to implement an ongoing technical agenda, and take advantage of this additional test day to spread out our development programme over the season."
The engine homologation rule may have given the engineers a bit of headache in the development stage but as far as trackside operations are concerned, it's not a major difference. "At every grand prix the engineers have to take up the challenge to get the very best out of the overall package at their disposal," said Chevrier. "This hasn't changed."
"The test team's work will be different as there'll be less experimental development to be carried out. Taking into account the reduction in the number of test days for 2007, part of the test workload will be completed during the grand prix weekend."
Renault supplies engines to Red Bull this season and Chevrier expects the two teams to have a healthy rivalry but, obviously, there has to be some interaction between them as far as the powerplants are concerned. In the case of an engine problem Renault will be on hand to make sure things are resolved.
"In certain areas our relationship with Red Bull will be very open but in other cases it will be completely separate from our 100% Renault activity," he explained. "We'll be rivals out on the track. The only exception to this rule will occur when we have to react very quickly to an engine issue. Then there'll be complete openness to make sure that the V8s are working in the best possible conditions."
McLaren's Fernando Alonso, who won back-to-back championships with Renault, and Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen are, in the opinion of many, the main challengers for the title fight this season but despite being the reigning constructors' champion, Renault doesn't seem to be inspiring the same kind of support. Whatever the case, Chevrier is confident that the team will be going all out to retain the title for the third consecutive time.
"I think everybody's expecting a very closely-fought championship with little difference between the teams," he commented, an expectation that will hopefully turn out to be right. "In this context the slightest little detail will have considerable importance and could play a crucial role in victory or defeat."
"It'll also be very important to reach a good understanding with the drivers to give them the best possible package. When the overall level of competition is as high as this, everybody's contribution matters and anything that can provide a performance gain must be taken into account. The whole team will have to give 100% to succeed in 2007."