Giancarlo Fisichella: "Montreal will show we're back on form" Giancarlo, you scored your best result of the season so far in Montreal. Are you pleased that the team is making progress? Yes, it's important for me and for the team to see we are...
Giancarlo Fisichella: "Montreal will show we're back on form"
Giancarlo, you scored your best result of the season so far in Montreal. Are you pleased that the team is making progress?
Yes, it's important for me and for the team to see we are going forward step by step, and that we are finding answers to the problems we have suffered since the start of the season. The team has worked night and day in the last weeks, and it is a boost to everybody's determination to see the first rewards on track. From my point of view, I am pleased to have put in a good performance at Monaco, because it is a real driver's circuit, and that shows I am performing well.
The next round is in Canada. Do you enjoy the race?
It's a fantastic race, in a great city. I have some very good memories from this race, because I have been on the podium four times! I hope to have another good race for me and the team this year as well.
What will be your approach to this, the sixth Grand Prix of the season?
The last test and race have given us some more confidence, and I think we will perform well this weekend. Of course, it's a street circuit, so it will be very slippery on Friday. But as the weekend goes on and the cars put rubber down, the grip levels will improve. When I start running, my focus will be on finding the braking points, rediscovering the line and keeping momentum through the chicanes, which is very important for a good lap-time.
What are your expectations for the race?
I think that we can be optimistic. Things have improved for us in the last weeks, the car balance is better, and the overall grip is higher too. Both factories are working flat out to improve the car even more, and all the members of the team are pushing to the limit. They have done a fantastic job so far. That hard work will definitely pay off, and I am confident that in Montreal, we will show we're back on form.
Heikki Kovalainen: "Expecting a better weekend in Montreal"
Heikki, you had a tough weekend in Monaco...
As I said at the time, there is not really much to take from the weekend. I didn't have a chance to set a good time on Thursday, and it got worse from there. I was doubly disappointed because I know how hard the team has worked to give Giancarlo and myself a more consistent and faster car. But that's in the past now. I am focused on the Canadian Grand Prix, and on continuing to improve my performance.
Canada is a new circuit for you. How did you prepare for it?
In general, when I am preparing for a race on a circuit I don't know, I try and get the onboard camera images from previous seasons so I can see what the track looks like from the cockpit, understand the racing line and work out things like braking points, and which kerbs you can use. Then, on Thursday, I do a lap of the circuit on foot with my engineers, and along with the data from previous years, we do a kind of inspection, talking about each corner. Then on Friday, we really get down to work, and I can begin to see if my preparation has worked out. I hope it pays off this weekend.
In technical terms, what factors do you have to take into account?
Canada is all about finding a good compromise between top speed, for which we use a low downforce package, and stability under braking and through the chicanes, in which we need good grip. There are some quite quick chicanes, in third and fourth gears, and we worked on this area in particular at the Paul Ricard test, as the circuit configuration we used included corners of this type, so we could evaluate the car in the right conditions.
The brakes are also used heavily in Montreal. Is this something you pay special attention to?
Yes, absolutely. We have to get the brake cooling right, and you often hear the engineers asking drivers to slow down to look after the brakes, which can be a difficult situation to manage in race conditions. We worked on this area as well during testing, and the team will be paying special attention to the brakes in the opening sessions to ensure we are in a good situation for the race.
Alan Permane: "Within striking distance of the teams in front"
Alan, the team scored its best result of the year in Monaco. It must have been a satisfying moment?
The only answer to that is 'yes and no'. Everybody in the team has been working very hard over the past few months to turn the situation around, and Monaco was the first sign of that work bearing fruit on track. It has traditionally been a good circuit for the team, and the improvements we have made to the car showed their worth on Saturday and Sunday. But although we finished fourth, we were a lap behind the leaders. That shows there is a still a long way to go...
How much of the improved performance can be attributed to the unusual nature of the circuit -- and how much represents a genuine step forward?
It is always difficult to separate out those two things. You only need to look at the balance of power between McLaren and Ferrari: after winning in Bahrain and Barcelona, Massa finished over a minute behind Alonso in Monaco. So the circuit certainly suits some cars better than others. We know that it is traditionally a strong track for us, but our work in testing before the race certainly gave us reason to feel optimistic for the next races -- not just Monaco.
Where do you think the team currently sits in the order of competitiveness through the field?
I believe that on a more normal circuit, we will be within striking distance of BMW. Until now, we have been racing with one eye on our mirrors, looking out for the midfield pack that includes Williams, Toyota and Red Bull. With the developments we introduced in Monaco, and those we have planned for the next races, I think we have given ourselves a cushion to that midfield group -- and added the performance that can allow us to race aggressively against the cars in front.
Giancarlo had an almost flawless weekend in Monaco...
It's a circuit he loves, it rewards his natural talent and he did a great job in Monaco. Right now, Giancarlo is driving as well as I have ever seen him. Circumstances have been difficult, but he has worked hard on getting the most out of the car, pushed hard on every lap -- and taken advantage of each small performance gain. He is in a very confident frame of mind, and the next two circuits are places where he has always raced very strongly.
Heikki endured a more difficult weekend in the Principality. Were there still positives for him to take from the experience?
It was a tough weekend mentally, because I think that it was very hard for him to learn from the experience -- he got blocked in qualifying through no fault of his own, and that basically dictated his result on Sunday. But Heikki has already demonstrated this year that he is a tough character, and that he bounces back quickly from disappointment. He is still learning and still improving; his attitude has been exemplary; and I think the developments we have put on the car to improve its driveability, will help him to start showing the level of performance we know he is capable of.
The team did not test in the week leading up to the Canadian Grand Prix, so how did you go about your preparations?
In terms of track work, our basic set-up work and tyre testing was completed at Paul Ricard before Monaco, running on a layout designed to simulate the demands of Montreal. We competed our aerodynamic preparation with an aero test ahead of the Monaco race weekend, checking the low downforce wings and their settings. At the factory, we have been crunching the numbers in our set-up simulations, preparing the cars for a demanding trip that will see them racing twice in the space of a week, and also ensuring that car complies with the rules clarification on rear wing flexibility that was published after Monaco. We didn't have any worries on this front, but you cannot afford to be caught out when you are racing so far from home.
Magic Moments: 30 Years of Renault in F1
The Canadian Grand Prix has never been a lucky race for the Renault F1 Team, and history shows that Renault power has never enjoyed its traditional success at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Since 1978, the company has scored just four wins, twelve podiums and six pole positions. Incidentally, Montreal is the only circuit where a Renault has ever competed in the Canadian Grand Prix: although the 1977 event was held at Mosport, Jean-Pierre Jabouille failed to qualify the RS01 for what would have been its fifth Grand Prix.
Renault at the Canadian Grand Prix
Renault turbo power raced in Montreal from 1978 until 1986 -- yet it was until 1985 that the French manufacturer's cars sat on pole position at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. However, when they finally did, it was in style, with a Lotus-Renault front row for Elio de Angelis on pole and Ayrton Senna alongside. The race proved a disappointment though, with De Angelis managing only P5 as Ferrari took a one-two.
Throughout the turbo years, the best result for Renault power was a P2 finish by Eddie Cheever in 1983, when team-mate Alain Prost, fighting for the world championship, could only manage P5. The previous year, both Renaults had retired from the ill-starred Grand Prix while running second and third, having qualified in the same positions.
The V10 era, though, saw a change in fortunes. The first win for the Renault V10 came in Montreal, heading a Williams-Renault one-two, with Belgian Thierry Boutsen leading home Riccardo Patrese in 1989. Another Renault victory was on the cards in 1991, until Nigel Mansell retired on the final lap, but Alain Prost set the record straight in 1993 with the 45th win for a Renault engine -- and number 48 for the Frenchman. In 1995, an all-Renault front row saw Michael Schumacher's Benetton take Renault's 100th pole position ahead of Damon Hill, while the following year, an all-Renault front row of Hill and Villeneuve was transformed into a Renault one-two-three with Hill, Villeneuve and Alesi on the podium.
Since 2002, however, the ill-fortune seemed to have returned -- although the Renault cars invariably performed well on the stop-start Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Fernando Alonso set fastest lap in 2003, but finished a place away from the podium. In 2004, the cars looked strong -- but both retired with driveshaft failures. In 2005, Giancarlo Fisichella and Fernando Alonso both retired while leading the race, and it wasn't until 2006 that Fernando Alonso took a Renault victory -- after the team's cars locked out the front row. It was win number 32 for a Renault chassis, and number 112 for a Renault engine in Formula 1.
On this day in history... 10 June
Twelve years ago on 12 June 1995, Michael Schumacher took the 100th pole position for a Renault engine in Formula 1. His Benetton-Renault lined up with Damon Hill's Williams-Renault alongside, making the front row an all-Renault affair. Twelve months ago, on the other hand, the teams were in action at Silverstone for the 2006 British Grand Prix, where Fernando Alonso put his Renault on pole position: number 163 for a Renault engine, and number 49 for a Renault chassis in Formula 1.