Comments from the Renault team ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix Jarno Trulli: Q: Barcelona is obviously well known to every team, but what factors can catch you out during the race weekend? JT: The main factor is really following how the...
Comments from the Renault team ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix
Q: Barcelona is obviously well known to every team, but what factors can catch you out during the race weekend?
JT: The main factor is really following how the track changes, and adapting the set-up of the car to suit. Basically, lap times are quicker in cooler conditions, and tend to slow down as track temperatures rise. We need to monitor these changes, and ensure that the car balance stays the same during the long runs. The other factor is the wind: much like at Silverstone, this can have an impact on aero performance but also your choice of gear ratios.
Q: In terms of car set-up, what are the keys?
JT: You need a good car balance in the high speed corners so that you can really push and feel totally confident in the car, but the car also needs to be comfortable to drive in the slow-speed sections. As a driver you also get a strange sensation from the ripples in the track surface: they do not really need to be taken account of in terms of set-up, but they are slightly disorientating when you are in the car.
Q: What can we expect from you and Renault in terms of performance?
JT: I go to every race feeling optimistic, but especially Barcelona. I didn't get past the first corner last year, but the car was very strong, and we know the R24 is very competitive there too. I have had my strongest start to the season since I joined Renault, and we know this is historically a good circuit for our car. Our rivals are very strong at the moment, and the battle is very close, but we will keep pushing to improve our performance.
Q: Your home race must be a very special moment for you?
FA: We test at Barcelona all the time, but you only get to race there once a year. To see the grandstands full of 100,000 people and know that 95% of them are supporting Renault is a unique sight, and something it's hard to forget. It is a special feeling to be at my home race, in front of my people, and I am looking forward to that. The circuit will not be new for any of the drivers, but there is always something different about actually racing at Barcelona.
Q: What about the pressure and weight of expectation - does it affect you?
FA: For me, the attention adds motivation not pressure. Obviously, I need to make sure it doesn't disrupt my preparations, but the attention from the fans is definitely a big boost for me. When I am driving, it gives me something extra: somehow, you concentrate more, you focus more. I remember from last year on the last lap, how everybody was stood in the stands cheering - they are fantastic supporters in Barcelona, and the crowd definitely gives me a boost.
Q: All the drivers know Barcelona perfectly: where can you make a difference as a driver?
FA: It is much harder than at other circuits, definitely, but it comes from the car and also yourself as a driver. You can make up time under braking, and there are four fast corners where a bit more commitment, a bit more speed, can gain some time, particularly in the last two. But it is only small things, fractions of a second, and to create an advantage over your rivals, you must get every single lap right. It is very important to be as consistent as possible.
Q: And finally, what are your expectations for your performance here this weekend?
FA: We don't know - I don't want to create expectations and then fail to deliver on our promises. We need to be careful talking about performance because, in their own way, each one of the first races has been a surprise for us, and we have had different levels of competitiveness at each track. We will be doing our maximum, both me and the team, and we think a strong result may be possible. But let's wait and see.
Bob Bell, Technical director chassis:
Q: How satisfied were you with the team's result at Imola?
BB: Overall, I was very pleased with the result - our biggest points score so far this season. We know there is still basic performance waiting to be extracted from the car, but the drivers did a good job to bring the cars home in the points at a circuit that does not traditionally favour us. Our reliability was once again impeccable, and the team did a fantastic job with the strategy and the pit-stops. Ultimately, we left Imola with our championship position reinforced and, although the gap to our pursuers is certainly precarious, it is a real gap nonetheless. The levels of reliability and consistency are building a strong foundation for our future performance evolutions.
Q: Barcelona is a circuit that each team is extremely familiar with: does that change the way the team will work?
BB: We and our competitors are very familiar with the circuit, and this does level the playing field somewhat - indeed it could well be that the advantage of the third driver is slightly diminished because of this. However, our knowledge of Barcelona will not really change the way we run our race weekend. Under the current rules, every lap on Friday is precious and even the slightest hold-up can put you under pressure in terms of making the correct tyre choice. Thus far, we have been one of the teams that has run the highest number of miles on Friday, and this will, I am sure, continue in Barcelona.
Q: Finally, how well do you expect the R24 to perform at the race?
BB: In terms of performance, Barcelona possesses the high speed corners that suit our car and reward a good aerodynamic package. In terms of the drivers, Jarno has had his best start to a season since he joined the team, and I am sure Fernando will even more motivated than usual at his home Grand Prix. Once again, providing we qualify in the top six, I am certain that with our consistent performance over the race distance, we can fight for podium finishes.
Rob White, Technical director engine:
Q: Following the successful debut of the B-spec, what changes will we see to the engine for the race in Barcelona?
RW: Engines are built for each race, with the exact definition chosen to take account of the latest available results from dyno testing, track testing and the analysis of previous race engines. For Barcelona, it is particularly important to learn from the RS24B engines used in Imola - the first race for this improved performance spec. In addition, the operating conditions of the engine are tailored to the specific circuit. Building on the existing knowledge of the engine, the operating conditions customised for Barcelona are simulated on transient dyno at Viry-Chatillon.
Q: Barcelona is renowned as a comprehensive test of a car's capabilities - is this equally true on the engine side?
RW: Barcelona is more severe than Imola in terms of duty cycle. Barcelona is a circuit that is well understood from testing there, it is demanding in the medium and high engine speeds and the track engineers will work with the drivers and chassis engineers to optimise the behaviour of the engine to contribute to the performance of the car. Barcelona is not a circuit where driveability at very low speeds is high priority.
Q: After working through the winter with reliability as your major priority, how satisfying is it to have maintained a 100% points-scoring record in the opening four races?
RW: The results so far confirm the strategic direction to be correct. The work behind the scenes to sustain this level of reliability is immense. The importance is well understood and is a crucial part of the collaboration between Viry and Enstone. The work on reliability is never finished - as the performance of all the elements of car, tyres and engine improve, the environment becomes more severe. The reliability of previously reliable pieces must be re-approved with each performance step. This is a vital part of the battle in the constructors' championship, as any hiccup will cost us points and hand them to our closest competitors.