Pat Symonds, Renault's executive director of engineering, talks about the changes the team faces in 2007 Q: Pat, the most significant change for trackside operations in 2007 comes in the form of the transition to Bridgestone tyres. How has the...
Pat Symonds, Renault's executive director of engineering, talks about the changes the team faces in 2007
Q: Pat, the most significant change for trackside operations in 2007 comes in the form of the transition to Bridgestone tyres. How has the team coped so far?
Pat Symonds: I believe we have made a very solid start in understanding and getting the most from the Bridgestones. We were able to conduct extensive simulation work before we began testing, and this proved a good starting point. However, a tyre is a very complex component of the car, and comprehending its nuances always requires track testing.
Our three tests before Christmas were focused on building our understanding, correlating our simulations with the data from the track, and giving ourselves a good basic platform to work from. The running produced no major surprises, and I think it is realistic to hope that by the time we reach Melbourne, we will start on a level footing with our competitors who have greater experience of working with Bridgestone.
Q: What adjustments have been needed to get the most from the tyres?
PS: The adjustments can really be divided into two groups: fundamental modifications, and tuning. The nature of the Bridgestone construction has pushed us to adjust certain fundamental aspects of the car's dynamics, such as the weight distribution, in order to generate maximum performance from the tyres.
The tuning aspect, in terms of how we adjust our suspension settings for example, is more focused on getting the most from the compounds. We need to understand how to best use the tyres over a race stint, how to balance the car effectively on the new tyres, and other subtleties that we will continue learning up to the opening race.
Q: It was announced during the winter that you will be taking on a revised role during 2007. Could you explain a little about what that will entail?
PS: The successful management of any racing team is not just about succeeding in the present -- you have to be pro-active in planning for, and shaping, the future. In 2006, we began a gradual transition towards a new race engineering structure that would allow some of our younger engineers to take on new responsibilities; this has continued in 2007 with the appointment of Alan Permane as Chief Race Engineer.
His role will be to coordinate the engineering activities during Grand Prix weekends, which in turn will enable me to focus on longer-term projects associated with the major rules changes on the horizon for 2009 and beyond -- while remaining on hand at races to provide guidance if required. The process will not disrupt our trackside activities in any way. Quite the contrary in fact: it is further proof that we are embracing change to ensure a successful future for the team.
Q: The sporting regulations also allow for a third car to be run on Friday, which is now considered a test day. What will this change in the team's operations?
PS: Our philosophy will be very much based around the strategy we adopted in 2003, when we ran on Friday mornings under the Heathrow Agreement. The opportunity now exists to complete significant amounts of running, and conduct a large amount of test work, during these Friday sessions: in effect, they represent eighteen one-day sessions in addition to the 30,000 km of private testing we are permitted under the terms of the new testing agreement.
They will, of course, be of great benefit to Heikki as he gets up to speed in his rookie season, as he will have plenty of track time to learn the subtleties of each circuit. There may be opportunities to run a third driver at some circuits, but we do not yet know whether we will choose to do so. We have planned our strategy for the opening races in order to extract maximum benefit from the Friday tests, but we will be constantly appraising it as the season develops.
Q: If the team completes significant amounts of running on Friday, will this mean Saturday mornings are lacking in action?
PS: I don't think so. The one-hour session on Saturday gives us time to asses final set-up changes and will also be required for checking the engines to be used during qualifying and the race. I expect Fridays to be very busy in comparison to what we were used to during 2005 and 2006, and for the teams to complete a broadly similar amount of work during the Saturday sessions. Many observers are talking about 2007 as the beginning of a new era for Formula 1, with significant changes at every top team.
Q: What are your expectations for ING Renault F1 Team's performance?
PS: I am expecting the performance levels between the teams to be closer than in recent seasons -- and especially at the start of the season as everybody settles in. At Renault, we are lucky to benefit from a very stable situation with Giancarlo and Heikki. Fisico is a race-winning Formula 1 driver, and I am confident he can raise his game in 2007. I also have great faith in Heikki's ability to rise to the challenges of Grand Prix racing.
The atmosphere within the team is one of excitement as we approach the first race, and we hope to be at the front of the field, fighting among the top teams. It would be foolish to make predictions about our performance compared to our rivals, but I will certainly be disappointed if we don't emerge from the new season with several race wins under our belt.