Renault's winter testing progress

At this time of year, every team is pounding round the track in testing. So how are things at Renault? The Renault F1 Team today begins its fourth week of testing with the new R26, with a four-day test in Jerez -- three days in dry conditions ...

At this time of year, every team is pounding round the track in testing. So how are things at Renault?

The Renault F1 Team today begins its fourth week of testing with the new R26, with a four-day test in Jerez -- three days in dry conditions followed by a day of wet running on Saturday. Since running the car and engine for the first time in Jerez on 10 January, the team has already completed over 5000 km with the new package, seeking the fine compromise between reliability and speed ahead of the season opening race -- which comes in just 32 days' time...

Some measure of the quality of work done by the technical teams comes when this figure is compared to the equivalent stage in 2005. So far, the mileage on the R26 package is 15% greater than in 2005, in spite of the additional challenges of running a brand new engine design. It is a first indication of a job well done, in an environment where the "only reasonable goal for a front-running Formula 1 team is zero-defect reliability", in the words of Technical Director Rob White.

But as they complete thousands of miles, what are the teams working on at this time of year? Well, priority number one is to put miles on the car and check everything is working well. Number two, fix the problems that arise -- hundreds of little jobs and niggles that need resolving quickly, any one of which could potentially cause retirement at a race.

"We anticipated there would be lots of small problems to solve in the first weeks," explained Tim Densham, Chief Designer of the R26. "We have worked on putting the solutions in place quickly. Reliability ahead of the first race is paramount." Each problem dealt with is one less to worry about at the race...

After that, a team must begin understanding the car's performance -- doing long runs to see how it will perform in race conditions, and exploring the cars reactions to set-up changes such as spring and damper rates, changes in weight distribution and many other parameters.

But of course, the main part of the programme is tyre testing. With the challenge of the new rules, all teams are completing short, medium and long distance runs in order to give their tyre partners feedback on the performance and consistency of new compounds and constructions.

However, the questions always come back to one thing: who's quick, and who's not? At last week's launch, the World Champion was asked for his thoughts: "We have to wait," demurred Fernando. "We are testing with three or four degrees of track temperature, and the first races will be completely different -- with very hot temperatures in Bahrain and Malaysia for sure. So it is hard to have an accurate impression of the tyres. At the moment, the reference in the test session are Honda, Renault and Ferrari. But we must wait and see..."

With so many variables, reliable predictions are impossible. So there's only one answer for every team: take nothing for granted, and keep on working. Between now and March 12, Renault will continue pushing the limits of the delicate performance balance between reliability and speed. As the old adage goes, to stand still in Formula 1 is to go backwards...

-renault-

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Series Formula 1
Teams Ferrari , Renault F1 Team