Since the end of last season, the Renault F1 Team cars have covered almost 20,000km. All thanks to the hard work of the test team. Christian Silk is chief test engineer for the Renault F1 Team, and responsible for running the team's cars at each...
Since the end of last season, the Renault F1 Team cars have covered almost 20,000km. All thanks to the hard work of the test team. Christian Silk is chief test engineer for the Renault F1 Team, and responsible for running the team's cars at each session.
Q: How crucial a role does testing play in the overall competitiveness of the team?
Christian Silk: We work extremely closely with the race team on coordinating our programmes. The driver's own race engineers come to the tests to ensure continuity, and we are obviously in direct contact with our counterparts on the race side. Essentially, one way to think of the test team is that we do the race team's 'homework', covering all the bases to ensure they can use their time as effectively as possible at the races.
Q: Since the R24 began running, what have been your priorities?
CS: The way we work with a new car is in a very clear order: our priorities are safety, then reliability, then performance. So far this winter, the reliability of the new package has been extremely good, and that has allowed us to begin looking at all the different aspects of performance development.
Q: The team has run last year's R23 alongside the R24 for a number of tests: what benefit does this bring?
CS: We can still learn a good amount from running last year's car. At the first test, when you have not run the car before, it serves as a benchmark to judge everything is working correctly. After that, three more factors come into play: the first is tyre development, which can be conducted effectively with the old car; the second has been getting our test driver, Franck Montagny, as much mileage as possible in an F1 car ahead of the coming season; and finally, we engineers can consider the old car as something of a 'laboratory' in terms of set-up.
Absolute performance is no longer our objective with the R23, and that means we can afford to be a little more radical and free-thinking with our set-ups, and perhaps explore avenues we would not otherwise be able to.
Q: Now the first Grand Prix has almost arrived, it might seem that the test team's job is over for a few weeks: is that accurate?
CS: No, not at all. We will be testing with the R23 between the flyaway races, but our pace of development will be constantly high throughout the year. In 2003, with the limited testing permitted under the Heathrow Agreement, we succeeded in improving significantly the efficiency of our work while testing.
This year, we will look to combine the extra running we now have available, with this improved efficiency, to take our work a further step forward. We have an excellent team of people here, and have worked hard over the winter to prepare the new car: we are under no illusions that there will be plenty of work to do, but everyone is raring to go.