Comments from the Renault team ahead of the Australian Grand Prix Fernando Alonso: Q: Fernando, how happy are you with preparations for the first race? FA: We are ready for Melbourne. We have done a lot of running since the new car was ...
Comments from the Renault team ahead of the Australian Grand Prix
Q: Fernando, how happy are you with preparations for the first race?
FA: We are ready for Melbourne. We have done a lot of running since the new car was launched, and learned a lot about the R25 -- more than in previous winters. In our last big test in Barcelona, we still had some reliability problems, but that is normal at this stage of the year and the team has worked hard to get on top of them since then. I think we understand the car well, and have made good progress with its driveability and performance in recent test sessions. Overall, it was a successful winter for the team.
Q: What is your assessment of the R25 after testing?
FA: I am much more confident with this car. It is easy to drive, and you can run on the limit without any nasty surprises in how the behaviour changes over long runs. It is a very consistent car.
Q: The Australian Grand Prix will also be the first race with the new tyre regulations. How do you view the tyre situation?
FA: Michelin have done an excellent job and in terms of performance and consistency, these are the best tyres I have ever had in Formula One. But we cannot get too excited, because we have only run on cold circuits over the winter and the first three races will be held in much warmer conditions. We will evaluate the tyre performance very carefully during the race weekend, and see where we stand after that.
Q: You will have to face a number of changes to the regulations in 2005: which will be the biggest of these?
GF: I think the new tyre rules are definitely the biggest change. In the last ten or fifteen laps of the race, the car will be much more difficult to drive because the rear end gets very loose as the tyres wear, and it's much easier to make mistakes. The key thing will be to make fewer mistakes than the other drivers.
Q: How does the R25 perform in these conditions?
GF: The tyre wear looks good with this car, and during testing in Barcelona I was able to set my quickest laps at the end of my stints. The R25 is a big step forward in every area, but in particular, the rear-end stability is much better and the balance is much more consistent on the long runs: that means it is a lot easier to set consistent lap-times over the race distance.
Q: Overall, what are your expectations for Melbourne?
GF: The Albert Park circuit is not my favourite, but my results there have always been pretty good, and I enjoy the atmosphere during the weekend. For the first time, I am going to Melbourne hoping to fight for the race win.
Bob Bell, Technical Director:
Bob, are you satisfied with the team's preparations for the 2005 season?
BB: We are ready for Australia. Since we first ran the new car, we have completed a lot of problem solving to iron out the issues with the R25, but that is what pre-season testing is about. There has been increased pressure this winter to do long-distance running for the tyres and for engine life, and we pushed hard to have two new chassis running very early in order to cope with that. Fortunately, the car's performance was encouraging from the first run, which allowed us to concentrate on getting the necessary reliability.
Q: Tyre management will be very important this season. How does the R25 treat its tyres?
BB: The car seems to be gentle on its tyres. We have seen that it is very competitive on the long runs in testing, when the tyres are getting towards the end of their life, and the tyres are being consumed in the manner we expected. It is hard to make a relative judgement, but I think we are doing as good a job as any of our competitors in this area.
Q: Are the drivers happy with the car and its handling?
BB: The feedback from both drivers has been very positive. The R25 gives them confidence to be aggressive on a single timed lap, but also allows them to drive consistently over a race distance. In that respect, it seems to be a versatile car. The other pleasing factor is that the car has been quick straight away, and it is easy to set-up. With very limited track time available to us at the race weekend, this characteristic will help us limit the very significant advantage of McLaren in particular, who will be running a third car on Friday and collecting information without worrying about tyre restrictions or engine mileage.
Q: Are there any unknown factors as the team goes to Melbourne?
BB: The only big uncertainty is our genuine competitive position. We are optimistic that we have closed the gap to Ferrari, but their big potential advantage is reliability as they are racing a known car in Melbourne; balanced against that is the fact that their competitors' cars have been specifically designed to the new rules where theirs has not.
Looking at test times, ourselves and McLaren seem to be the front-running teams, and we expect Ferrari to be part of that group in Australia. However, experience has taught everybody that winter testing times are not reliable indicators, so we must wait and see what Melbourne brings. But we have a good car, motivated drivers and a strong race team that adapts well to new regulations. We are very optimistic for the opening race of the new season.