British GP: Renault preview

The Renault F1 Team Preview of the 2006 British GP. Fernando Alonso Fernando, you tested at Silverstone in April and many drivers commented Fthat the circuit was very different. Can you explain why? A: The Fcircuit is certainly very different...

The Renault F1 Team Preview of the 2006 British GP.

Fernando Alonso

Fernando, you tested at Silverstone in April and many drivers commented Fthat the circuit was very different. Can you explain why? A: The Fcircuit is certainly very different now with the V8 engines, to how Fit was last year with the V10. We have a lot of high-speed corners at FSilverstone, and even though this year's cars have less power, there is Fmore grip thanks to the softer tyres. That means we are much quicker Fin the corners, and a lot of the first part of the lap is now nearly Fflat out. Certainly, this is the biggest difference we have felt so far Fbetween the V8 and V10 engines.

What does that change for you as drivers?

FA: First of all, it makes the circuit tougher physically -- with so many high-speed corners, and quite a bumpy track surface, Silverstone is difficult for the drivers to cope with. Then, of course, it is a question of fun.

It is always a nice feeling to be attacking high-speed corners and be right on the limit...Silverstone is one of the 'classic' races on the Formula 1 calendar. Does it have a special atmosphere?

FA: For sure. The British fans have a special feeling for Formula 1 -- not just passion, but very deep knowledge as well. That means there is a good relationship with the crowd at this circuit, and then of course, this is a little bit of a home race for us as well. The factory in Enstone is only half an hour away from the circuit, and all the people from the factory come to the circuit over the weekend to watch the race. So we know we are putting on the show for our team-mates as well, and that makes it fun to race there.

In recent races, we have seen the balance of power between the leading teams swing back and forth according to which tyre manufacturer had the upper hand. Will this be a 'Michelin' track?

FA: The Michelin tyres were very good when we tested in Silverstone a couple of months ago, and I am very confident that they will be strongest this weekend. But we have to run, to wait and see the conditions, before we make too many predictions. At the last races, we have seen the balance of power shift between the first day of practice and the race itself, so we will have to see how the track evolves, and what the tyre performance is like on Sunday afternoon.

What about the car set-up at Silverstone: what do you need?

FA: You need the car to have a little bit of everything -- good aerodynamic grip for the quick corners and a stable handling balance, good ride to cope with the bumps, and good mechanical grip for the slow section at the end of the lap. We basically have two circuits at Silverstone: a quick one in the first half, then lots of slow-speed corners in the second part of the lap. But it's a track that separates the good cars from the bad ones.

You have taken victories in the last two races: can you make it three in a row?

FA: I am feeling very confident ahead of this race. We had a good test at Silverstone and we know that the characteristics of the circuit are good for the R26, so there is no reason to think we won't be fighting at the front. There is no point making big predictions, saying we will definitely win. Ferrari will be very strong, McLaren maybe as well if they can maintain their speed from Monaco. It will not be an easy weekend, but I certainly think we can be fighting for the win.

Giancarlo FisichellaGiancarlo, you are third in the world championship as we arrive at the eighth race of the season. What is your verdict on the season so far?

GF: I think it has been a good start to the season, and I am in a much stronger position than at the same time last year. When I have a clean race, without problems, then I finish on the podium. And even when incidents like we had in Monaco mean I have to start down the field, I am driving aggressively and making up positions -- I overtook five cars on the track in Monte Carlo! I am driving better than ever, and it is great to be arriving at Silverstone, one of my favourite circuits in the whole season.

Silverstone is a legendary circuit in Formula 1 -- is it one you enjoy?

GF: Silverstone is a fantastic circuit. It is very important to do well there: we have all the people from Enstone watching us, so that makes the weekend even more important. I really enjoy racing there: the high-speed corners in the first sector especially are very exciting for the drivers. This is definitely one of the special races of the season. Tell us about the circuit with the R26...

GF: It felt really good in the test a few weeks ago. The difference this year is in the corners, because we are doing maybe 15 or 20 kph more on the entry than in 2005. So there are some places on the track, like Turn 1 at Copse, where we are doing 280 kph as we turn in. That's pretty quick!

What do you need to be quick in Silverstone? GF: It is a track where you need efficient aerodynamics, and a car that has a stable balance so you can carry speed through the quick corners. You need to feel really confident with the car to attack properly, and the R26 lets us do that. Once you have the confidence, then you can put the car on the limit, keep the momentum in the first part of the lap and do some good lap-times.

Monaco was a difficult race for you. Are you optimistic that you can have a strong race this weekend?

GF: I was quickest there when we tested in April so for sure, I expect to be right up at the front of the field. I think this is one of the circuits for our package. Ferrari will be the main competitors, I think, and probably very close in terms of performance. But I think we have the performance to win the race this weekend.

Denis Chevrier, Head of Trackside Engine Operations

Denis, Renault has a special relationship with Silverstone, having made its F1 debut here in 1977. Is it a special race for the team?

DC: Absolutely, this is always one of the big races of the year. Historically, this has been a key race in July, right in the heart of the decisive part of the championship. Unusually this year, we are going there a little earlier, but the championship is quite delicately poised at the moment.

In the 1990s, you worked as race engineer to Nigel Mansell among others, when he drove Renault-powered cars. Silverstone must have some special memories for you...

DC: Yes, I have some wonderful memories from this circuit. In 1991, for example, when Mansell stopped and brought Senna back to the pits sat on his sidepod after winning the race. Or in 1992, when Nigel was already comfortably on pole during qualifying -- but demanded another set of new tyres to go out again, even though he knew nobody would beat his time. He did it just for the fun of it, for the pure pleasure of driving a Formula 1 car. And indeed, the incredible opening laps of the race, when he built a three second lead over his team-mate between Becketts and Woodcote on the opening lap. There was an incredible connection between Nigel and his fans, and that was his opportunity to perform in front of them, to really show what he could do. They were fantastic years at Silverstone.

Silverstone is also a circuit that has evolved significantly over the years...

DC: It is a place that is always changing with the times, always modernising. Back in the mid-80s, with the turbo engines, this was a place that asked for real courage. Some of that spirit was lost as they made changes, but we still had 'landmark' corners like Becketts that separated the great drivers from the good. Now this year, some drivers will be taking corners like Copse flat out with the V8 engines. That is going to be impressive to watch, and in spirit, I think it makes Silverstone much more like the circuit it used to be twenty years ago.

How demanding a circuit is this for the V8 engines? We now spend over 70% of the lap at full throttle, and that's a big change compared to last year -- one of the biggest we have seen between the V8 and V10 engines. That means there are a lot of high speed corners taken either flat out, or at almost full throttle, which makes life tough for the engines. It is a difficult circuit for the chassis too. We run high downforce levels here and with the high speeds, the car is under heavy loadings for much of the lap. Of course, it's also a big challenge for the drivers. They need to maintain their pace and rhythm during a long, demanding race.

What is your assessment of the championship position after the first seven races?

DC: Renault is clearly in the position everybody else wants to be. We have a lead in the championship and as each race goes and we maintain it, the advantage swings towards us. At the moment, every race is a pressure race for the people trying to catch us.

So, are thoughts already turning to managing that lead?

DC: Not at all -- it would be suicidal to start racing defensively at this stage of the year. We cannot be secure with the position we are in at the moment, and we are still pushing and taking risks. We will approach Silverstone like every other race: pushing the limits of our performance, without endangering our reliability. We need to seize every opportunity that comes our way.

What do you believe has been the team's main strength so far this year?

DC: To my mind, the key factor has been the versatility of the R26 package. We have had one of the two quickest cars at every circuit we have raced on so far this year, and that consistency gives us the platform to achieve results. What's more, we have had the performance at the right times, in the strategic moments of the race. Silverstone is another race where the ability to call on maximum performance at key moments is likely to be crucial. I am sure we will see the race decided by very close margins; that's the kind of race we enjoy.

Finally, what is the health of the two V8 engines going into the Silverstone weekend?

DC: Giancarlo will be using a fresh engine, so there are no issues for him. Fernando's engine completed the Monaco weekend without any problems -- and although Monaco poses some unusual challenges, it is not a demanding circuit in terms of pure engine performance. So Fernando's V8 is in good condition for the weekend ahead. The next three races are all demanding in terms of engine performance, and all the teams will need a reliable specification capable of withstanding the rigours of those races. We are confident that we have it in the RS26.

Silverstone Tech File

The demands of the Silverstone circuit for the cars and engines has changed significantly with the advent of V8 engines in 2006. The first half of the circuit, all the way to turn 8, now sees very little braking at all and the engines under prolonged load. The second part of the circuit includes more slow corners, and places a premium on a good low speed balance and traction. Overall, Silverstone is a selective circuit, that allows a strong, harmonious chassis-engine package to shine.

Aerodynamics

Downforce levels at Silverstone are medium-high -- almost identical to Barcelona. The downforce is required for the quick corners in the opening part of the lap, and the relatively short straights and braking zones mean that any deficit in straightline speed is unlikely to see competitors overtaking you. The lack of heavy braking also means we run some of the smallest brake ducts of the year to optimise aerodynamic performance.

Ride

The circuit is not particularly bumpy, so achieving good ride is not usually a big problem. The exception to this is under braking for turn 8, where the uneven surface can unsettle the car. The drivers also tend to drift out onto the kerbs exiting the quick corners in order to take the fastest line, which can make the circuit seem bumpier than it is.

Suspension

We run the car with a forward mechanical balance at this circuit -- essentially, with a stiff front end and softer rear end. The stiff front gives the car a good change of direction in the high and slow speed corners, while the softer rear end gives better grip under traction, exiting turns 9, 11 and 16 in particular.

Tyres

The numerous high-speed corners mean Silverstone is a demanding circuit for the tyres, as they work hard over a lap. However, the difference compared with a circuit such as Barcelona is that none of the high-speed corners are particularly long. In general, if temperatures are cool and tyres are graining then the left-front will suffer in particular, while in higher temperatures, the left rear will be the limiting tyre.

Ambient conditions

As a former airfield, Silverstone is inevitably exposed to the wind -- and this can have a big impact on car performance. Gusting wind alters the aerodynamic balance of the car and makes handling unpredictable, particularly in the high-speed corners. The driver must be able to judge the direction and strength of the wind, and adjust his driving accordingly.

Engine

The percentage of the lap spent at full throttle has climbed significantly with the advent of the V8 engines -- from 59% last year to 71% this. Silverstone is now one of the harder circuits in terms of the demands it places on the engine, which also needs to be responsive at high revs as the drivers take the quick corners on either full or partial throttle. However, by race 8, issues such as cooling are well under control and, particularly after having already tested at the circuit, will pose no problems.

Renault hits the 200 mark!

29 years after making its Formula 1 debut at the 1977 British Grand Prix, when Jean-Pierre Jabouille qualified the famous RS01 'yellow teapot' turbo car in 21st position before retiring on lap 17 with, inevitably, a broken turbo, the Renault F1 Team will this weekend start Renault's 200th Grand Prix as a Formula 1 constructor, at the 2006 British Grand Prix.2006 marks Renault's 14th season as an F1 constructor (1977 -- 1985, 2002 -- present) and in that time, the company has scored 30 race wins, 47 pole positions, 24 fastest laps and 1 Constructors' Championship. The company took just one win at Silverstone during the turbo era, in 1983 with Alain Prost at the wheel; it also took a single pole position, with Rene Arnoux in 1981. Since 2002, its best finish has been second position last year with Fernando Alonso, who also took pole position.

However, the 200th GP start will not be Renault's 200th GP participation. That came four weeks ago Barcelona, when Fernando Alonso took a lights to flag victory in the Spanish Grand Prix. However, both Renaults failed to qualify for the 1979 US GP West in Long Beach and, of course, failed to take the start last year in Indianapolis at the ill-fated 2005 US GP.

As an engine manufacturer from 1989 -- 1997, Renault also established an illustrious heritage at Silverstone, taking seven consecutive victories from 1991 to 1997, as an engine supplier to Williams and Benetton, including home victories for Nigel Mansell (1991, 1992), Damon Hill (1994) and Johnny Herbert (1995).

Eye of the Tiger

The 2006 British Grand Prix will see the Renault F1 Team debut the first of its 2006 artwork liveries -- with more to follow later in the year.

The livery has been designed by Taiwanese design studio 'DEM Inc.', run by the brothers Demos and Edward Chiang, which also conceived the 'Phoenix' motif that saw Fernando Alonso to victory in the 2005 French Grand Prix.

The Tiger is one of four mystical guardian figures that, in ancient Chinese tradition, accompanied the emperor on the battlefield. It has been designed to convey the same protective power on Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella in their challenge for victory this weekend.

The powerful eyes of the tiger are displayed on the front and rear wings, while on the sidepods, the animal is portrayed crouched, ready to pounce.

Alert to its constantly-changing surroundings, instinctively using attack as the best form of defence, the tiger is the perfect motif to symbolise the Renault F1 Team's challenge at this weekend's British Grand Prix.

-renault-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Giancarlo Fisichella , Johnny Herbert , Fernando Alonso , Nigel Mansell , Jean-Pierre Jabouille , Alain Prost , Damon Hill , René Arnoux
Teams Ferrari , McLaren , Williams , Renault F1 Team , Benetton