The ING Renault F1 Team prepares for the ninth round of the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship: the British Grand Prix, which marks the mid-point of the season. Fernando Alonso: "I am always determined" Fernando, you scored a point in the...
The ING Renault F1 Team prepares for the ninth round of the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship: the British Grand Prix, which marks the mid-point of the season.
Fernando Alonso: "I am always determined"
Fernando, you scored a point in the French Grand Prix, yet you had other hopes for Renault's home Grand Prix?
Yes, after the qualifying session I thought that for the first time this year we could aim for the podium, so I was understandably disappointed with the final result. My race didn't start well as I lost some ground, and after that I was not able to find the pace I had shown on Saturday. The car had good straight-line speed, but I still couldn't make any progress. I scored a point, which is something, and I'm determined to do better this coming weekend.
How are you approaching the British Grand Prix this weekend?
I am positive because we saw in Magny-Cours that we are making progress, although we know there is still a lot to do. We did three days of testing at Silverstone last week with Nelson when we worked on the set-up of the car, tested some new parts, evaluated the tyres, and so we now have a good feeling for the track. That will certainly help for the first practice session and for improving the car throughout the weekend.
The factory in Enstone is less than an hour down the road from Silverstone...
After Magny-Cours, this is another home race for us and there will be lots of members of the team there to support us on Sunday. A good result there will be very important for the whole team.
What can you tell us about the Silverstone circuit?
It really is a classic circuit on the F1 calendar. The track is very demanding for the cars, just as it is for the drivers, especially through the quick corners where the chassis needs to be well balanced. It's also quite a physical circuit with lots of G-forces for the driver to cope with. A good lap at Silverstone is always exhilarating because the car and the driver must both be at their optimum.
Nelson Piquet: "I hope I can carry this momentum into the next part of the season"
Nelson, you scored your first points in France. How special was that?
It felt great to score my first points as I have been waiting for this moment since the beginning of the year. It took a bit longer than I would have liked, but the early races were not easy for me or the team. In France everything just came together for us - we ran without any problems and improved the car throughout the weekend, and so I was well prepared for the race and felt comfortable with the car.
Has the result given you more confidence for the second half of the season?
I hope I can carry this momentum into the next part of the season, starting with the next race at Silverstone, but this result hasn't changed anything inside me - I knew what I was capable of and that things would come right eventually. I think I will have a stronger second half of the year as I have more experience to draw on and I have learnt an enormous amount from the first eight races. Every second you spend in the car, you learn a bit more, and you become a bit more confident: it's just a natural learning process and it takes time.
What are you hoping for from Silverstone? Isn't it one of your favourite circuits?
Yes, I like the track and we tested there last week so we have the car quite well sorted already. Obviously the aim is to score more points, and to be matching my teammate, but, as we saw in France, the midfield pack is very competitive and a lot of the cars are fighting on the same level: just a few tenths can be the difference between qualifying in 8th or 16th. And qualifying will be especially important at Silverstone because overtaking is not easy due to the high-speed nature of the track.
Silverstone is the second home race for the team, and you also live in the UK. Does that make it more special?
I guess it will feel a bit like a home race for me, and it's also nice for the members of the team who are based at the factory in Enstone to come and support the team. But all the races are just as important as each other, and I will approach the race in my normal way by pushing to the maximum all weekend and aiming for another points finish.
Bob Bell: "We're pretty upbeat about Silverstone"
Bob, the team came away from France with its first double points finish of the season. Happy with the result?
Although we're obviously very pleased to see both cars finish the race in the points, I don't think we can be totally satisfied with the result. I think Nelson got as much out of the race as he was ever likely to given his starting position, but it was obviously a great disappointment that Fernando was unable to bring home a potential podium finish, which is ultimately what we were aiming for.
Fernando's qualifying form was again exceptional, but he struggled in the race. Is it fair to say that the team needs to work on improving its race pace?
We were fairly confident that we could convert Fernando's grid position into a podium finish, but he lost pace in the race, primarily in his first stint, and after that it was all over in terms of our hopes for a podium. We don't fully understand yet why that was the case and so we are examining the data to try and get to the root cause of why he lost performance. So, yes, overall it is fair to say that we have seen more improvement in terms of our qualifying pace than we have seen in race conditions, and we need to address that.
Nelson had a great weekend and scored his first points in Formula 1. How did you assess his performance?
I think that Nelson did a very creditable job and he kept improving throughout the race weekend. In the practice sessions on Friday he was quite a way off Fernando, and yet by the end of the weekend he was right up there with him and ultimately brought home more points. So it was a really positive weekend for him, which is great for his self-confidence. Hopefully it will act as a launch pad for the second half of the year as we travel to some of the European tracks that he has raced on before. I think this is a real opportunity for him to show his true colours.
Looking ahead to the British Grand Prix, what can we expect from the R28?
I think we're pretty upbeat about Silverstone. It's a medium / high down force track with some high-speed corners - a bit like Barcelona - and the R28 has generally gone well in this configuration. You need good change of direction; good traction; good high-speed performance and so I think it will suit the strengths of the car. And having tested at Silverstone last week we should be able to dial the car in quickly to the circuit and find a good set-up.
Will there be further developments in time for the British Grand Prix?
We hope to have some new parts on the car for Silverstone, but they will probably be very late additions and we cannot say for sure whether they will make the car. We ran them in the test last week and hopefully they will allow us to take another small step forward.
Silverstone will be the second home race for the team - is it a special feeling to race there?
Yes it is. It's pretty much the home Grand Prix for Enstone, and it's a special race for everyone who works in England in the Formula 1 industry. With our factory being so close to the circuit, we are always determined to put on a special show there.
We're approaching the half-way point of the season. What is the target for the second half of the year?
It's very much as it was for the first half of the season. We have got to keep developing the R28 to put us in a position were we're regularly challenging BMW and McLaren and fighting for podiums by the end of the season. We need to do that so that we can go into 2009 feeling confident that we can move on from our current position to where we should be, which is at the front.
Renault at the British Grand Prix
Silverstone, the place where it all began for the Formula 1 world championship in 1950 - and for Renault's F1 adventure in 1977. During the turbo era, the British Grand Prix alternated between Brands Hatch and Silverstone, which meant that Renault engines raced at the old airfield just five times from 1977 to 1986. During that period, Renault power took three podiums - a second place for RenÃ© Arnoux in 1979, a win for Alain Prost in 1983 and a third place for Jacques Lafitte's Ligier-Renault in 1985. The 1981 race had promised much, with an all-Renault front row and the cars running one-two in the early stages, but failed to deliver with Prost retiring, and Arnoux classified 9th after retiring before the flag following a distribution problem.
The V10 era, though, was the beginning of something quite different. In 1989, Patrese spun out of a potential podium position, while in 1990, Thierry Boutsen finished on the second step. But 1991 was when things really got going, as Nigel Mansell took charge around the sweeps of Silverstone. Dominant victories in 1991 and 1992 followed, with team-mate Riccardo Patrese completing a one-two in 92. The run of victories then continued unbroken until Renault retired from the sport, with Prost taking victory in 1993, Hill in 1994, Herbert's Benetton in 1995, Villeneuve in 1996 and the Canadian repeating the feat in 1997 - leading home Jean Alesi and Alexander Wurz (on his debut) for a Renault 1-2-3.
The third era of Renault's F1 participation got off to a slower start, with an unremarkable performance in 2002. 2003 saw Jarno Trulli lead the race from P2 on the grid, but he could manage only P6 at the finish. Not until 2005 did the first podium come, a hard-fought second place for Fernando Alonso, followed by a dominant weekend in 2006, during which he set pole, took the win and clocked the fastest lap for good measure.
Last year, Heikki Kovalainen and Giancarlo Fisichella both scored points, finishing in 7th and 8th places. As the team return to Silverstone this year, there is no doubt that Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet will be determined to score points on a circuit that they both enjoy. In total, Renault power has taken 9 wins, 18 podiums and 10 pole positions at Silverstone since the very first start in the 1977 British Grand Prix.
Silverstone: Over at Red Bull Racing
Fabrice Lom, the man in charge of Renault's technical operations with Red Bull Racing, reflects on the French Grand Prix and looks ahead to the next round of the season in Silverstone.
Fabrice, how was the French Grand Prix for Red Bull Racing?
If we look at the overall result, we have to be satisfied with finishing 6th with Mark Webber, which meant we were in the points for the seventh time in eight races. However, we are now used to scoring points and the performance of the car meant that we were hoping for an even better result. So we have mixed feelings...
The RB4 seems to be working well. Is this due to specific circumstances or more a sign of the progress made by Red Bull Racing?
I would lean more towards the second explanation, but perhaps it is difficult for me to be objective with this question! We are confident for Silverstone as it is a track that should suit us... so long as the wind does not cause too much disturbance.
The reliability has been good up until now...
Yes, we have had 100% since the start of the season. That was our objective over the winter and the result proves the quality of the job performed by the team.
This weekend we are in Silverstone. What is the team aiming for?
We want to continue our progress. The test session here last week allowed us to approve a lot of things, but we were disturbed by some incidents which meant that we could not complete the whole of our programme. So there remains a little work for us to do during the weekend. In terms of the engine, the drivers will have new V8s, which is a good thing for Silverstone as to perform well you need to have lots of power. But we must not neglect the reliability as the load on the engine is significant. A good result would be to see Mark and David among the top eight.