The Renault F1 Team's new Technical Director Bob Bell sat down for an interview a few days after assuming his new role. Q: Bob, prior to this week's announcement, you title was that of Deputy Technical Director. What did the job entail? Bob ...
The Renault F1 Team's new Technical Director Bob Bell sat down for an interview a few days after assuming his new role.
Q: Bob, prior to this week's announcement, you title was that of Deputy Technical Director. What did the job entail?
Bob Bell: As Deputy Technical Director, my primary responsibility was co-ordinating the team's design groups, which involved day-to-day direct management of these teams and their programmes. The role has a particular importance here at Renault, where the twin-shift system depends upon two chief designers (Tim Densham and Mark Smith): when conflicting issues arose, and technical direction was required, my job was to provide it.
Also, in Mike's absence, I was responsible for all technical aspects of the company. In that respect, his departure has changed nothing, apart from the fact that I now have this responsibility full time. Stepping up to the role of Technical Director brings a big responsibility: the buck now stops with me for all technical matters.
Q: You have been part of a championship winning team earlier in your career, at McLaren. In light of that experience, how do you assess the team of people at Enstone?
BB: Having worked in several teams previously, I think I am qualified to say we have a very high quality group of people here. I have long respected the depth of ability, experience and understanding in this team, and that has been supplemented in recent years by the recruitment of additional high-calibre personnel. We are a very strong, well-motivated team, and buoyed by this year's achievements, morale is high. The 2003 season gave all of us a sense of achievement, and we are looking to get more of it.
Q: Will the changes in the technical department have a detrimental impact on how the team performs?
BB: I am not concerned in the slightest by the changes. If you look at the other top teams, such as Ferrari, McLaren or Williams, the key ingredient to their success is stability: the fact that the groups of people working there have been stable for a long time is a major factor in their achievements. The structures we have in place were established to enable us to recover from any losses, enabling us to promote internally and thus providing a sense of security and continuity. I have every confidence in our structure and the people who inhabit it.
Q: Externally, the new engine concept for 2004 might be viewed as another unknown variable in terms of performance.
BB: I don't think we are looking at an unknown at all because, if you break them down, the impact of the new regulations, and the choices we have made to best meet them, are easily quantifiable. We are very aware of the characteristics of next year's engine, and where it sits in comparison to what we currently have. The team at Viry-Châtillon is very confident of achieving their technical milestones in terms of the 700km engine, and hitting reliability targets. I am confident that we had the speed to win the final race of the season, and we intend to keep on moving forwards from this level of performance in 2004.
Q: And finally, tell us a little about next year's car. How is the programme progressing?
BB: The R24 is very much on time at the moment. It is scheduled for completion in early January, and there is no reason to think that will be jeopardised. We have very strong continuity in the design concepts between next year's car and the R23, and the design 'handover' between our chief designers is now an established, smooth process. In terms of stiffness and weight, we are where we should be. On the aerodynamic side, the regulation changes for next year generate inherent losses in aerodynamic performance, and that means we do not expect the kind of spectacular gain we saw with this year's car. It will, however, represent a sensible step forward over the R23B. Overall, we are achieving our technical and performance milestones for the programme.