Bob Bell, Renault's Technical Director, discussed testing progress in recent weeks, and gave an update on the new R26 ahead of Christmas.
Q: The team has completed three weeks of winter testing before Christmas. What have you learned?
Bob Bell: Our testing programme has gone very well. The drivers have noticed that we need quite a different set-up on the car, so we have worked hard to understand what is required, and give ourselves a solid baseline for our work with the new car in January.
Equally, we have done a lot of tyre development to begin adapting to the new regulations in this area, and we have reaped the benefits of a reliable package to conduct a lot of running and make good progress.
Q: Will Michelin's announcement last Wednesday, concerning their withdrawal from Formula 1 beyond 2006, have an impact on our work for next season?
BB: Not at all. We go into 2006 as world champions, and we are determined to defend those titles. I have no doubt that Michelin intend to do exactly the same. We have already seen enhanced collaboration between the Michelin teams this winter, and a rapid rate of tyre development. We are confident this will continue until the final round of 2006.
Q: You have announced that the R26 will run for the first time on January 10 at Jerez. Is everything on track?
BB: We are on schedule with the project. As always, the programme for producing the new car is very tight because we look to maximise our design time before production begins, and then running time once it is complete.
Indeed, for 2006 we have brought forward our first runs with the new car: this allows us to anticipate any issues that may arise when we run the V8 for the first time on track, and ensure we have a fully reliable package for the opening race in Bahrain.