Franck Montagny, the Renault F1 Team's third driver, talks about testing in recent weeks, and driving a 2005-configuration car.
Q: Franck, what have you done since the end of the season?
Franck Montagny: I had some time off after Brazil - I attended every race at the end of the year, but came back to Europe in between in order to test, so I took two weeks off, went to see my parents, went to Spain and Morocco, and just took the opportunity to relax. After that, the next two weeks were spent preparing for winter testing: getting back into training, visiting the factory.
Q: You did plenty of mileage in the sessions.
FM: We spent four days in Barcelona, then eight at Jerez, which meant we could get plenty of work done, even though the first session at Jerez was disrupted by rain. I still managed to beat the record for the longest day's running last Thursday though: 151 laps!
Q: Were you driving a 2005-spec car?
FM: Yes, we did a lot of running in the new configuration.
Q: What is it like to drive?
FM: Slippery! It slides a lot!
Q: Did you have to change your driving style to get the best out of the car?
FM: It's a different challenge. There is much less grip, which you really notice in the medium-speed corners. The rear of the car will also slide more readily, which is fun for the driver. but it costs you in terms of lap-time. Of course, the drivers have also lost the fun of running with new tyres all the time. But overall, it is a different kind of challenge, that's all.
Q: Do you need to be more disciplined on the long runs?
FM: You need to be able to manage the tyres from the start to the end of a race, and not simply drive flat out throughout the stint.
Q: Is it a fundamental change?
FM: No. I think that car set-up will be even more important than it was in the past. Until now, a new set of tyres could mask a small problem with the chassis but that will no longer be the case for 2005. What's more, even the smallest handling imbalance will have a big impact after 300 km.
Q: Are you optimistic for 2005?
FM: Yes. We are only beginning our adaptation to the new rules, and performance levels will increase. At the moment, every team is doing their own thing, and that's why the times at the end of each day often look jumbled up. At Renault, the dominant feeling is one of quiet confidence. I haven't seen the R25 yet, but I am going to the windtunnel at Enstone tomorrow. I can't wait!