The official Mild Seven Renault F1 Team Preview for the Belgian Grand Prix. Jarno Trulli: Q: Jarno, are you happy to be returning to Spa? JT: Definitely - like I think every other driver is too. Through the lap, you need to be able to deal...
The official Mild Seven Renault F1 Team Preview for the Belgian Grand Prix.
Q: Jarno, are you happy to be returning to Spa?
JT: Definitely - like I think every other driver is too. Through the lap, you need to be able to deal with every type of technical corner, and you can make up time in lots of places. As a driver, it really demands total concentration - but you also must find the rhythm of the circuit and plug into it. You need to be right on the limit over the entire lap, but you are talking about 1 minute 40 seconds here rather than one minute fifteen. And at Spa, that limit is just a little bit harder to find than at more normal tracks. I think it is a circuit that really shows a driver's true potential.
Q: Will the R24 perform well here?
JT: Well, earlier in the year we seemed to struggle at the high speed circuits like Malaysia, but we have made good progress with the car since then. When we last came here in 2002, we were on course for points finishes in the race until retiring, and I think the circuit can suit the R24. Of course, choosing the tyres will be crucial, so Friday will be an important day to get a good understanding of how they will work on the long runs. But if we perform to our maximum, then we should be competitive around Spa.
Q: And on a personal level, what are you hoping for?
JT: I haven't scored points in the last three races, so my first priority will be to get the car to the finish and add to my championship total. I am still pushing 100% for myself and the team to try and consolidate my position in the championship, and also to help Renault to second place in the constructors' race. I had an excellent first half of the season, and I want to get that run of form back again for the last five races. That would be a good way to round off a very successful season for me.
Q: Fernando, you have scored three podiums in the last four races - things seem to be going well for you.
FA: Yes, I was happy with the result in Hungary, and indeed all the results since Magny-Cours. I have not had any mechanical failures in the races, I have not made mistakes and things are going as we expected now. We are around the podium at every race, and sometimes we make it, sometimes not, but we are pushing in all areas. Looking to Spa, I don't think we go there as confident as we were before Hungary, but we have seen this year that our feelings about a weekend can change as it progresses. It will be a tough challenge to get on the podium in Spa, but it doesn't hold any fear for us. The team is working well and the car is quick, so we just need to perform to our maximum all weekend.
Q: When setting the car up for Spa, what do you concentrate on?
FA: The circuit is different to any other, it has a different character, and as drivers we need to step up to its challenge. It is very difficult to have a car that is perfect in all areas around Spa, because the lap is so long, so you need to be pragmatic and try and feel confident with the car. We focus on the high speed balance, and getting the car stable in the quick corners, while making sure it is not too bad in the slower sections. After that, you need to do laps and gain confidence to push more and more from a driver point of view.
Q: Some people say that now it is taken without lifting, Eau Rouge has lost its challenge. Do you agree?
FA: Well, I hope they don't think it is easy. You come into the corner downhill, have a sudden change at the bottom and then go very steep uphill. From the cockpit, you cannot see the exit and as you come over the crest, you don't know where you will land. It is a crucial corner for the timed lap, and also in the race, because you have a long uphill straight afterwards where you can lose a lot of time if you make a mistake. But it is also an important corner for the driver's feeling. It makes a special impression every lap, because you also have a compression in your body as you go through the bottom of the corner. It is very strange, but good fun as well.
Bob Bell, Technical Director:
Q: Bob, what are your expectations for Spa?
BB: Aerodynamically, Spa requires a finer balancing act than a superficially comparable circuit such as Silverstone: although they both feature many high speed corners, the compromise between straightline speed and downforce is more delicate at the Belgian venue, making aerodynamic efficiency rather than overall downforce the key factor. We are confident we have made sufficient progress with the car's handling at high speed to be competitive in those quick corners, and the R24 has very good traction for the slow sectors. We believe we can fight for a podium finish.
Q: The team has scored three podiums in the last four races: are you satisfied with the current form?
BB: Our recent run of on-track performance has been very good, and Fernando's excellent drive in Hungary continued that trend. He was clearly fastest behind Ferrari, and did an excellent job to finish third. However, in recent races, we have not been so good at collecting points and indeed, while we have often been Ferrari's nearest challengers, we have not been collecting the points we should. Being quick and collecting points is not always the same thing, and with five races left in the season and a small gap to our closest rivals, scoring championship points is undoubtedly the name of the game.
Q: Are you continuing to push forward with development of the R24?
BB: Absolutely. We had a new engine specification in Hungary, which performed very well in spite of Jarno's unit suffering an accessory failure unrelated to the changes. Furthermore, the team in Viry has been pushing very hard to give us more revs throughout the engine's operating range, and we are continuing to make progress in this area. For the chassis, we still have developments to come on both the mechanical and aero fronts, but we are also focusing on reliability between now and the final race. Our minimum standard has to be to get two cars to the finish in every race, especially as both McLaren and Williams have come back with a vengeance after a disappointing first half of the year. Our aim at Spa will be first and foremost to ensure both drivers score points.
Rob White, Engine Technical Director:
Q: How satisfied were you with the introduction of the D spec engine in Hungary?
RW: I was very happy to see the efforts of the entire team at Viry translated into a very smooth introduction of the new engine during the Hungary weekend. However, we did of course suffer a failure with Jarno's car, when an o-ring seal between the oil pump and engine allowed the engine oil to escape. This is a timely reminder that even the smallest, simplest and least expensive parts can prove extremely costly unless they are perfectly executed at every stage of the design and assembly process. We are working on a counter-measure to ensure the failure is not repeated.
Q: Spa is a very severe challenge for the engines: does it require a special approach?
RW: Spa is one of the toughest circuits in terms of duty cycle, and indeed is a reference circuit for engine validations on the dyno: this means we actually do more simulations of Spa than any other circuit during the year. The lap is very long, placing high mechanical and thermal loads on the engine's internal parts. However, this severity does not change our approach: we must choose the parameters of engine use at any circuit with a view to the best possible race result, and while these additional demands must be taken into account, our philosophy is no more cautious than elsewhere.
Q: Eau Rouge is often mentioned as a major challenge on the circuit: is this true for the engines as well?
RW: Eau Rouge places extremely high structural loads on the car and engine, as the motion of the car on the track tends to bend the whole car in a vertical plane. This is the most severe load that the car and engine design must take into account for the entire season. Furthermore, as the car crests the hill, its motion creates a vertical acceleration that overcomes gravity. The downforce levels ensure the car is kept on the track, but this negative 'g' is a potential problem for the engine oil system.