The official Mild Seven Renault F1 Team preview of the Brazilian GP, round 18 of the 2004 F1 season. Fernando Alonso: Q: Fernando, what are your expectations for Brazil? FA: I think we will be fast there. The car needs to be ...
The official Mild Seven Renault F1 Team preview of the Brazilian GP, round 18 of the 2004 F1 season.
Q: Fernando, what are your expectations for Brazil?
FA: I think we will be fast there. The car needs to be efficient aerodynamically, because we run quite low levels of downforce, and you also need good traction in the slow corners of the middle sector, and the out of the final corner to protect your position along the straight. These are areas in which the R24 is strong and we will also have some new parts on the car for the final race. We should be optimistic for the final race.
Q: What other challenges do you face in Brazil?
FA: The big challenge is in terms of fitness. Physically, it is another hard circuit - like Suzuka was. It runs anti-clockwise, there are lots of bumps and also it is at altitude. All those factors combine to make Brazil one of the physically toughest circuits of the season. Your neck can get very tired because the fast corners are all left-handers, so we work on that area in training to make sure I can attack all the way through the race, from start to finish.
Q: So will you be aiming to finish the season in style?
FA: Absolutely. It has been a long season but the whole team is very motivated to do well in Brazil and show everybody what we are capable of. The results have not been so good in recent races but I feel that I have been driving to the maximum and if the performance of the car is where we hope, then we can be very competitive. In Japan, we didn't do well enough in qualifying to fight at the front in the race, but I will be going for the podium in Brazil. That was how we started the year in Australia and it would be great to do it again at Interlagos.
Q: What has been your approach to the final race of the season in Brazil?
JV: Suzuka was a tough race for me so the team altered the testing schedule to allow me to run at last week's test in Jerez. The aim for that session was to get to know the car better and explore different set-ups but to also to get some more time to help with my physical conditioning. We didn't do as many miles as we would have liked, but it was important to get more experience with the R24. Hopefully, it will enable me to run more competitively in my last race for the team in Brazil.
Q: So what sort of performance are you expecting in Interlagos?
JV: I enjoy Interlagos - it is a tricky, challenging circuit, where we run the cars quite light on downforce, which means they can be delicate to drive over the bumps and through the middle sector of the circuit. It is also tough physically, so my run in the car at Jerez will be important preparation. In terms of results, I want to end my time at Renault with a good performance after two hard races and bring something back to the team. I definitely want to finish in the points.
Bob Bell: the team technical director reviews 2004
Q: Bob, as we arrive in Brazil for the final race of the season, what are the team's expectations in terms of performance?
BB: I think we can be more confident in our expected level of performance than at some of the circuits we have visited recently. It has been slightly difficult to judge exactly where we will be competitive this season but Brazil is a circuit with a large number of low speed corners and traction events, which we know play to the strengths of the R24. A strong performance, by which we mean a podium finish, is a very achievable target in the final race as Fernando has been driving outstandingly for much of the season. The whole team is extremely motivated to hit that target.
Q: In recent races, it has been perceived that the team has fallen off the pace relative to its direct competitors. How would you respond to that?
BB: We have continued to push hard on development of the R24 until the very end of the season and will be running suspension modifications in Brazil that constitute a good step forward in performance. The team has not let up for one moment in its pursuit of second place in the championship. However, BAR have done an excellent job this year. They have visibly matured as a team and are now able to capitalise on the performance of their package, getting both cars to the finish and scoring points in a way they were not at the start of the season. Our season has gone the other way and after a long series of two-car finishes in the first half of the year, our failure to score points with both cars in the second half of the season has severely penalised us.
Q: The R24 has acquired the reputation of being a more difficult car than its predecessor.
BB: The R24 is clearly a faster car than the R23, but we have also learned that it has a smaller sweet spot in which the drivers feel comfortable on the limit. We experienced difficulties with the handling at the start of the season, so concrete steps were taken to improve this and have done so: the car is now more constant in high speed corners. Those handling vices have also meant that it has been harder to extract the full performance potential from the car. But at those circuits when we did get the right set-up, where the drivers felt fully comfortable, we demonstrated that it was an extremely competitive racing car - one only needs to think of Monaco or Magny-Cours as illustrations of this. Equally, it shouldn't be forgotten that the R24 was a contender for victory in both Canada and Belgium before mechanical failures forced us out. Both of those races were certainly missed opportunities.
How would you analyse the strengths and weaknesses of the R24-RS24 package?
BB: In 2003, sole amongst our competitors, a fundamental decision was taken to use a different engine configuration as the basis for our development in 2004 in order to meet the reliability targets imposed by the regulation changes. Viry did a remarkable job to not only produce this engine on time for the first race of the year but also to develop it throughout the season and achieve significant performance gains. This decision was absolutely the right one and we certainly have scored more points than we would have done otherwise but we also had to accept certain fundamental compromises in terms of weight, size and centre of gravity. On the chassis side, the team produced a faster car but also a more difficult one. In trying to resolve these problems, we have learned a number of important lessons about the vehicle characteristics that will be applied next year in order to combine the strengths of the R23 and R24 into a competitive package.
Q: So how would you sum up this season?
BB: I think it is fair to say it has been a demanding year for the team on a number of levels, but also a successful one. We have learned important lessons that will allow us to continue our progress on the basis of very firm foundations. For 2004, we made significant advances over 2003 in many areas and produced a quicker car and better engine - contrary to the expectations of some observers. For next year, it will be a whole new ballgame in terms of the regulation changes that are set to be introduced and while it is hard to make comparisons at this early stage, we are very confident in how our development is progressing. I think the 2005 Renault car will be a much better-optimised vehicle in many areas.