Australian Grand Prix, Renault drivers' preview Jarno Trulli: Q: Jarno, you have been coming to Melbourne for six years now.What are your best memories from the city? JT: Melbourne is always a special race because it marks the start of a new...
Australian Grand Prix, Renault drivers' preview
Q: Jarno, you have been coming to Melbourne for six years now.What are your best memories from the city?
JT: Melbourne is always a special race because it marks the start of a new season, and we all arrive with big hopes for the year ahead. We also arrive early to adjust to the time difference relative to Europe,meaning we get to spend time in the city, and do some training outdoors.The atmosphere is fantastic too: the organisers do a great job welcoming us. Personally, I will be attending a karting event with the Australian Trulli Karting Drivers in Geelong on Tuesday: it is always fun meeting young drivers, and seeing their enthusiasm.
Q: The team has announced ambitious targets for 2004: does that bring you added pressure?
JT: Not at all.The team management decide our objectives, and they didn't get them wrong in the past two years. But from a driver's point of view, we push no matter what: unless we are giving maximum effort, there is no point being there.The objectives for the year don't change that in any way.
Q: And what about your objectives for Melbourne?
JT: Talking about performance before getting to Melbourne is pointless: we don't know exactly how fast our rivals are and, until we do, how can we say? So far, we know that the R24 is quick in all circumstances, and the engine is performing well. I enjoy the circuit at Albert Park, especially the quick chicane at Turns 11 and 12, and the car will be good there. Every driver dreams of starting the season with a win, and maybe this time, we will be closer than ever before. But like everybody else, I'm looking forward to Sunday and finding out for sure!
Q: This time last year, you had never scored a point; now you are a GP winner.What's different from your perspective?
FA: The most important thing is that I go to Australia with more confidence: I know the car, the championship, what it is like to be in a top team. Last season, I had just spent a year on the sidelines testing, so I was apprehensive and not completely sure how things would go.This year, my approach is very different: I feel much more at ease.
Q: How will the R24 be better at Albert Park?
FA: The biggest improvement is definitely the engine: we have been reliable throughout testing, and have more power. But everything else has moved forwards too: Michelin have made big progress over the winter with the tyres, and the car has better driveability.The team has done a great job: 100% of our package is stronger.
Q: What moment of the weekend are you looking forward to most?
FA: The nice thing about Melbourne is that we get to spend some time in the city before the race.We have a trip to Tokyo for Mild Seven beforehand then will go to Australia to get used to the conditions, and do some promotional appearances: Jarno and I are playing tennis in the city centre with John Alexander and John Fitzgerald (Australian Davis Cup captain) on Wednesday.
There will be lots to do, but all of this just builds towards Sunday: I'm waiting for the lights to go out so we can go racing. And finally, imagine it is Sunday evening and you are looking back on the race. What result would you be happy with? I don't know, it's so difficult to predict before we all run. Let's say a podium...
Bob Bell, Technical director (chassis):
Q: How pleased are you with progress during winter testing?
BB: We have run very reliably, and that has been our primary focus, identifying all the problems that might catch us out later.We have completed our planned test work, and performed five full weekend distances: compared to this time last year, that represents a significant advance.The car behaves how we expected and responds to changes, which encourages us to think it will prove easy to set up during the race weekend.The winter has gone exactly to plan, and that gives us confidence for the early races.
Q: Reliability work has been very encouraging: how have performance preparations gone?
BB: So far, so good.We had an extremely useful test at Imola, which gave us good confidence in the car's performance at a circuit where we had traditionally not been particularly some minor aerodynamic performance developments for Melbourne, and will also have fixes in place for all the minor reliability niggles we unearthed during the winter.
Q: In terms of performance, what do you expect the strengths and challenges to be for Renault in Melbourne?
BB: During periods of last year's race, we ran as high as second place. That position was not maintained, reacted to its tyres: our consistency during the stints was poor.This year, we have a package that represents a good step forward in performance, and we better understand the tyres. Furthermore, as we saw last year, the Renault team reacts well to rule changes and adapting to a revised race weekend format will be one of our strengths.The drivers are highly motivated and confident, and we know how we want to run the car. There is no reason I can see not be
Rob White, Technical director (engine):
Q: How well do you think Renault, and other teams, have reacted to the engine changes?
RW: Extending engine life to last all weekend has been a big change for every team; indeed, we are working outside of our immediate experience in doing so. At Renault, every part of the RS24 has been designed and executed with the objective of satisfying the new rules. Extensive testing has been conducted on the dyno throughout the winter, and in the car since mid-January. Assuming all goes well, the engine that starts the race will be at roughly the same mileage as we would have finished the race with last year. For me, part of the spice of these new rules is added uncertainty, and I think we will all feel it on Sunday afternoon once there is nothing more we can do.
Q: How have pre-season preparations gone?
RW: During January and February, the engine portion of our work has concentrated on refining the mapping and calibration of the engine and its control systems. Naturally, simulated race weekend running has also been a priority, and we have completed full mileage five times, working through four different engine specifications including the final 'A' spec for Melbourne. I am very pleased with our preparations.
Q: Melbourne is generally reckoned to be something of an engine circuit. What are your performance objectives?
RW: In terms of pure performance, this will be our first chance to properly gauge the true level of our competitors. From my point of view, I would like to see a trouble-free weekend, in which we fully exploit every opportunity to realise the car's full potential.We are pleased to have achieved a level of engine performance for this race that exceeds our Suzuka 2003 level, in spite of the new regulations, and are now working hard on future developments.