A bat on the podium, going round the world thirteen times -- and the secrets of number 3873. 'Bat'-man hits the top step One of the nicest traditions that is slowly evolving in the Renault F1 Team, is Flavio's habit of sending unfamiliar faces...
A bat on the podium, going round the world thirteen times -- and the secrets of number 3873.
'Bat'-man hits the top step
One of the nicest traditions that is slowly evolving in the Renault F1 Team, is Flavio's habit of sending unfamiliar faces to the podium to collect the trophy on behalf of the team -- a gesture that reminds all 800 team members of their contribution to our success.
On Sunday in Sepang, it was the turn of Giancarlo's race engineer Alan Permane to take to the podium and collect the trophy for Winning Constructor. Of course, this is F1, so asking for 'Alan' in the Renault garage won't get you very far.
You need to be looking for 'Bat' and everybody knows who you mean. Why 'Bat'? Well, when he started at the team, he worked such long hours that they were convinced he only came out at night!
So what did it feel like to be representing the team? "What a feeling!" enthused Bat afterwards. "During the last lap, Flavio came on the radio and old me I would be going up if Fisi won. It was a great feeling -- to see the team down below, the anthems, the trophies, and then the drivers soaking me in champagne -- Fisi did a fantastic job today, and it's brilliant to see him bounce back like this. He will be dying to get to Melbourne, and I know he's going to be a force to be reckoned with."
It sounds like a prison number, or something of the sort -- a bit like '24601' and Jean Valjean in Les Miserables! In reality, though, 3873 is a very special code-name at Renault. For this is the identity of the RS26 V8 engine that ran the Malaysian Grand Prix in Fernando's car, and has therefore made an exceptionally successful debut under the new V8 regulations after its maiden victory in Bahrain last weekend.
Out of a possible twenty points, this engine has scored 18 -- a 90% success rate. Its sister unit in Giancarlo's car, has also made the best possible start to its life with a race win -- and with another round of the championship to come.
Renault's was the last V10 to win under the old engine regulations, and now that engine 3873 has completed its second race distance, we can legitimately say we are the first winners of the V8 era too.
So what does Rob White, Viry's Technical Director, make of the achievement? "We were pleased to win the first race of the new rules cycle in Bahrain last week. But our satisfaction was tempered by the DNF suffered by Giancarlo, especially because it was caused by a minor problem that had escaped out otherwise meticulous preparations."
"To see last week's winning engine on the podium for a second time, and for Giancarlo to get the result he deserved from his V8, was a great moment. Everybody at Viry and Enstone deserves to share in that feeling of achievement."
How many times round the world?
During 2005, the Renault F1 Team completed some 50,000 km of testing from January to December. That's nothing compared to the 520,000 km that had been racked up on the clock of one our engineers' rental minibus this weekend in KL!
But the number is important because the 2006 total testing mileage so far stands at just over 15,000 km since the beginning of the calendar year, and we will be adding yet more to it this week, as Heikki Kovalainen puts chassis R26-04 through its paces for three days in Le Castellet, from 22 - 24 March.
As is becoming clear after two races, the 2006 World Championship is destined to be closely fought by up to four teams, and that means two factors will be crucial: reliability, and development, as the team's technical chiefs explain.
"Our race in Malaysia hit all our predictions very precisely," explained Executive Director of Engineering Pat Symonds. "But there were some factors that made it easier as well. The first was the fact that Fernando eradicated much of his qualifying disadvantage in the opening corner, as he went from seventh to third. And secondly, Raikkonen's first-lap retirement removed one of the major threats to our success."
"Nobody in the team is resting on their laurels, and we know we have a fight on our hands. There were half a dozen new components on the car for this race, and there will be more aero developments for Melbourne in two weeks' time. We are pushing flat out to continue improving our level of performance."
For the engine team, taking nothing for granted is also standard operating procedure. "The work to achieve racing reliability is a key, integral element of our performance development process," explained Rob White.
"The natural consequence is that your work on reliability is never finished, and with every new development, the target remains the same: zero-defect performance. Being reliable is not enough, you need to be quick and reliable, and as we improve the engine, we will be constantly fine-tuning the critical balance between performance and reliability."