After the disappointment of failing to transform outright pace into points at the Hungarian Grand Prix, the senior technical staff of the Mild Seven Renault F1 Team are looking ahead to this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix with measured confidence,...
After the disappointment of failing to transform outright pace into points at the Hungarian Grand Prix, the senior technical staff of the Mild Seven Renault F1 Team are looking ahead to this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix with measured confidence, fully focused on performing as strongly as possible behind the top three teams.
"As qualifying in Hungary demonstrated, I think we are still the fourth quickest team on outright pace," commented Technical Director Mike Gascoyne. "However, Bridgestone are very strong at the moment, and as they supply our immediate rivals, this level of performance is slightly worrying. Nevertheless, if the tyre situation remains equal, I am confident that we can maintain our fourth place in the Championship."
In assessing the result from Budapest, Executive Director of Engineering Pat Symonds betrays the same focus: "While we were pleased with our qualifying positions, we were also fully aware that some of our competitors had not achieved their optimum performance. I think this showed that there is still a gap we need to make up."
As attention turns to the forthcoming race in Belgium, both men expect the R202 to suit the wide-ranging demands of the Francorchamps circuit, which sees the cars running in a medium-low downforce configuration.
"We are looking forward to Spa," comments Mild Seven Renault F1 Team Technical Director Mike Gascoyne. "It is a circuit which rewards a good aero package, and that is definitely one of the strengths of our car. It was undoubtedly our strongest race last season, and we will be hoping for good weather in order to be as competitive as possible."
Symonds echoes these sentiments in explaining the keys to a good lap time:
"This is a circuit where the car needs to perform well in high-speed corners. In particular, this means having very good aero stability and a car that the driver can trust in order to allow himself to commit fully to the many exciting corners.
"Equally, low-speed performance cannot be ignored and good traction out of the hairpin coupled with high-speed stability pays dividends all the way to the top of the straight.
"Overall, I believe Spa has many of the characteristics that suit our car extremely well. Unfortunately, there are a couple that do not. However, the Michelin tyre was extremely competitive here last year, and I would like to think this advantage has been maintained this year."
In dry conditions, the Belgian Grand Prix typically sees teams running a two-stop strategy, but the unpredictable weather patterns of the Ardennes can often see them forced to adapt in order to accommodate the prevailing conditions.
After just one wet race this season, at the British Grand Prix in July, any rain showers will see the Team running brand new compounds from Michelin.
"Rain is an ever-present threat at Spa," commented Symonds, "and Michelin would be the first to admit that their competitiveness in the wet under certain conditions has been lacking. However, they have worked hard at the problem, and we will have two new wet tyres available at Spa which have not yet raced, but have shown promise in testing."
While the race team is in action at Spa, the respective groups at Enstone and Viry will be hard at work preparing the Team's 2003 challenger.
"From a design point of view, we are now concentrating on 2003 and other major development projects," revealed Gascoyne. "Renault has a long-term objective of winning the World Championship, and there is a still a gap to the top teams. We are focused on closing that gap."
Amongst the drivers, Spa is unanimously considered the best circuit in Formula 1. The natural road circuit is both exciting and interesting, featuring several straights, climbs and descents as well as a number of corners taken at over 300 kph, notably Blanchimont or Eau Rouge, where the drivers face a 'wall' of tarmac and the exit is blind.
Spa-Francorchamps demands a powerful engine: average speeds are very high, and engines require both good performance and durability. The engine is at full throttle for 60% of the lap.
Furthermore, as rain can often be a factor at this circuit, the engine must be able to last 300 km in these conditions, and thus requires certain specific modifications: for example, a specific air filter is used in order to avoid an excessive absorption of water which would destroy the filter. In terms of temperatures, the characteristic mild temperatures in the area mean the engine is not pushed to its limits in terms of cooling.