Following a pleasing 2003 campaign, and in the midst of preparations for 2004, Renault F1 Team Managing Director Flavio Briatore talked about the road ahead. Q: You have now been at the head of the Renault F1 Team for two years. What is the...
Following a pleasing 2003 campaign, and in the midst of preparations for 2004, Renault F1 Team Managing Director Flavio Briatore talked about the road ahead.
Q: You have now been at the head of the Renault F1 Team for two years. What is the status of the integration between Enstone and Viry-Ch?tillon?
Flavio Briatore: The first thing to note is that the team has made progress in every area. Our results this season are the product of everybody's work, on both sides of the Channel. The team is better in every sector, and the integration is working. We are one single team.
FB: It has allowed us to optimize the coordination of Enstone and Viry. We know exactly where we stand. Both sites possess very good engineers, and our success depends upon how comfortable they are in their jobs. One of the consequences is that we are more responsive, and we have been able to prepare a strong engine for next season. What's more, the team has already begun looking at the engine for 2005. We are feeling confident. And confidence is important.
Q: So there have been no problems with engine-chassis integration?
FB: Absolutely not. We made our decisions over eight months ago, and have had plenty of time to design a car which takes into account the more traditional engine configuration. We have learned a lot about integration over the last two years, and it is not worrying us. The teams headed by our Technical Director, Bob Bell, and Mark Smith, the Chief Designer, have done a fantastic job.
Q: The improvement in performance during the year was spectacular: the team was an outsider at the start of the championship, but was a regular podium challenger in the final races.
FB: As I have said, there was an all-round improvement. The chassis was developed a lot, including the update at Silverstone which was a big factor. The engine also underwent an intensive development programme which proved its worth in the second half of the championship. The drivers got better and better. Furthermore, our strategies were good, and we adapted perfectly to the new regulations. Overall, I think the Renault F1 Team at Suzuka was better a team than the one in Melbourne.
Q: What were the effects on team morale?
FB: The fact that we were competing for pole position and the podium as early as the second race was a good reward for all the team's efforts. When you are on a roll, when performances are good and when you are competing for wins, motivation comes automatically. At Enstone and at Viry, you can feel everybody is prepared to give everything in 2004.
Q: Do you think your performance on track gave the critics some food for thought?
FB: A number of our choices, such as the decision to opt for Heathrow testing, gave rise to some sarcastic comments in the paddock. The podiums and the win were the best possible answer. Furthermore, we demonstrated we are a force to be reckoned with in the future.
Q: Ignoring the accepted wisdom and following your own convictions: might that be a definition of Renault's philosophy in Formula 1?
FB: Yes. Above all, we do what is best for the Renault group. We have our own ideas, and don't feel we need to do things the same way as Ferrari, Williams or McLaren. Why? It's simple: we want to beat them!
Q: The team suffered ten retirements in 32 starts. Was that disappointing?
FB: It is true to say that we had aimed to do better in terms of reliability: this year wasn't brilliant in every single area. We still have a lot of work to do in this domain. We knew that it would be a difficult season, and that it would be difficult to get our engine working perfectly. This is why, for 2004, we decided upon a concept which would be easier to master.
Q: How is the engine programme progressing for next year?
FB: The new regulations impose a reliability target of at least 700km, and that necessitates different technical choices. We have done the best possible job in the time available, and new developments will be coming fast. At the moment, everything looks very positive: the first endurance runs on the dyno went very well.
Q: So the signs are good then.
FB: Yes, but we haven't lost sight of the fact that the step forward we have to make in 2004 is bigger than those we have taken until now. But that's OK: we like a challenge.