A look at the strategies that allowed the Renault F1 Team to score its best result of the year so far on Sunday. The Renault F1 Team went to Imola slightly apprehensive: although pre-season testing just a week before leaving for Australia had...
A look at the strategies that allowed the Renault F1 Team to score its best result of the year so far on Sunday.
The Renault F1 Team went to Imola slightly apprehensive: although pre-season testing just a week before leaving for Australia had been promising, but the Italian circuit has never traditionally been one of the team's favourite tracks. However, after two days of practice, the engineers had found good set-ups on the two R24s, although both were still a little nervous.
Fernando Alonso and Jarno Trulli went to the grid with 34kg and 37kg respectively on board (fuel consumption at the circuit is at the rate of 3kg per lap). The set-up compromise actually had to balance out downforce levels and speed down the straights, so while the Renaults proved slower than their competitors in a straight line, they were nonetheless competitive over the whole lap. For example, the two R24s were quite a long way down the field in terms of maximum speed (Alonso 12th and Trulli 17th) but their grip allowed them to make up this time.
Fernando Alonso set the third fastest time in the first and third sectors, just behind Michael Schumacher and Jenson Button. Furthermore, the Spaniard was the fastest man through the speed trap at the start/finish line, at 181.7 kph. Indeed, Fernando and Jarno respectively set the third and fourth fastest laps during the race.
As for the circuit, it was still a bit green (and lacking in grip) at the start, following heavy storms on Saturday night. Having said that, the Michelin engineers admitted after the race that they had expected the situation to be worse than expected, and that the feared graining failed to materialise in any significant form.
When deciding upon race strategy, Pat Symonds and the Renault engineering team had to take into account that the pit lane speed limit at Imola was fixed at 80 kph, not 100 kph. Thus, the maths indicated that a three-stopper was the way to go. The first stops happened on laps 11 and 12 (ALO then TRU), and the second at the end of laps 30 and 31 (in the same order).
The team then swapped things around for the final stop, with Jarno stopping first followed by Fernando (TRU lap 46, ALO lap 48). This tactical decision allowed both R24s to finish the race ahead of Barrichello's Ferrari, in fourth and fifth places.
The consistency of the R24 was exemplary throughout the race. Fernando and Jarno's longest stint was of nineteen laps, between the first and second stops. During this period, the Spaniard's average lap time was 1:22.950 -- just three tenths of a second slower than winner Michael Schumacher, during his longest stint of 19 laps. This is all the more impressive when one notes that the difference in their fastest laps was 1.2 seconds.
Furthermore, at the end of this series of laps, Fernando did five laps all within one tenth of a second. Jarno's average lap time during this stint was 1:23.109 as he headed the group of four cars (TRU, RSC, BAR, ALO) into the backmarkers. Having said that, it was still better than Barrichello, in spite of the Brazilian having an average top speed 13 kph higher than Jarno!
In terms of reliability, Renault once again put two drivers in the points at the finish. At the end of the weekend, Fernando had spent 650 km on track (187 km Friday, 158 km Saturday and 305 km Sunday) against just 600 km for Michael Schumacher.