Denis Chevrier, Renault's head of trackside operations, talks about how the new regulations affect the team
Q: Denis, there are a number of changes to the sporting regulations for 2007. Can you explain them?
Denis Chevrier: The main change comes in the regulations governing the format of the race weekend. Friday is now considered a testing day, and the Grand Prix event begins on Saturday. That means engines are now only used for four days over their life cycle of two race weekends, and each V8 will complete fewer miles relative to 2005 and 2006. What's more, we expect to run more substantial technical programmes during Friday testing than last year, and also to complete part of the testing workload during this time, given that we will be limited to single-car tests throughout the season.
Q: The team's trackside engine operations will alter as well, as Renault is now running engines in two cars -- the works cars, and those of Red Bull Racing...
DC: We are very much looking forward to this new challenge, which is part of Renault's racing tradition that stretches back to the 1980s. Our past experience with customer teams has taught us how important it is to establish very clear operating principles from the outset, to ensure we are collaborating in an honest way and that we can form a trusting relationship.
Q: Is there a potential conflict of interest between the works team and the customer team?
DC: Not at all. The relationship between Renault and Red Bull will be one of open doors in some areas, and brick walls in others. Our engineers will be completely integrated into the Red Bull team as soon as they get to the track, and Red Bull will be a competitor like any other for Renault.
The exception to that rule will come if we need to react to a technical incident with a Renault engine. From that point onwards, there will be complete openness to ensure every engine is operating in the best possible conditions. We will be looking to derive maximum benefit from every kilometre completed by a Renault engine, to improve the performance and reliability of all four engines out on track.
Q: What impact has the engine supply agreement had on the team's trackside operations?
DC: The first non-negotiable element of the new structure, was that the works team could not suffer any drop-off in trackside engineering support as a result of the new engine supply requirements. The second was that we needed to assemble and train a high-performing group of engineers, that could begin the process of integrating with the Red Bull technical group.
At Renault, we have built our trackside teams based on a long term cycle, and we now need to start the same with our new partners. This is not the work of a moment: we have reached an impeccable level of understanding and communication with our Enstone colleagues, but this has grown over six years. We are only at the beginning of the process with Red Bull.
Q: How will the engine homologation rules affect the work of the engine engineers at the track?
DC: They do not represent a huge change. At a Grand Prix, race engineers have always been set the challenge of achieving the maximum with the fixed package at their disposal. That has not changed. The work of the test team will alter somewhat, as there will be less 'experimental' development work than in the past, and they especially will no longer have the challenge of approving new internal mechanical developments.
Equally, part of the testing workload is likely to be completed at the race weekend, owing to the testing restrictions for 2007. Overall, the work of the test and race engineer is likely to be more similar than in the past, but we will remain open to fine-tuning our approach as the season goes on.
Q: Although the trackside operations may have changed for 2007, the basic task remains the same: to try and be as competitive as possible. What are your expectations for the coming season?
DC: I think everybody is expecting smaller gaps between the teams, and closer competition than before. Furthermore, with stable chassis regulations and severely restricted scope for development on the engine, the differences that can be made in each area are smaller. In that environment, success will be a result of getting every detail right -- and making as few mistakes as possible.
It will be important to have a good understanding with the drivers, in order to provide them with the very best package possible. It will be crucial to approach the first race with the same focus as the final one. When the competition is so close, the contribution of every individual matters -- and no source of gain can be neglected. The entire team will have to be at its maximum to succeed in 2007.