Comments from the Renault team ahead of the European Grand Prix Giancarlo Fisichella: "We are going in the right direction" Q: Giancarlo, we have passed the mid-season point. The last two races were quite tough, and you lost ground to BMW. Do...
Comments from the Renault team ahead of the European Grand Prix
Giancarlo Fisichella: "We are going in the right direction"
Q: Giancarlo, we have passed the mid-season point. The last two races were quite tough, and you lost ground to BMW. Do you think you can turn things around this weekend?
GF: It is fair to say that the last two races were a bit disappointing, all the more so because they were our home races. We knew that it would be a tough battle with BMW: all of the teams are making progress, and our challenge is to do so faster than them in order to get ahead and try to close the gap in the championship. We are going in the right direction, and everybody is doing their maximum. I am convinced that if we carry on like this, our hard work will pay off.
Q: This year's only German race is the European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring. Do you enjoy the circuit?
GF: Yes, I have some good memories here. It is a famous circuit, and the new, slow section at the start of the lap is demanding for the drivers and the cars. From my point of view, the old Nurburgring was definitely the best circuit in the world, so I am pleased to be racing here again.
Q: What does the car need to do well, in order to set a quick lap at the Nurburgring?
GF: The most important thing is good traction on corner exit. We use quite high downforce, and the main worry is the understeer, which can be quite high. So we try and soften the front end to get good grip, by playing with the springs and anti-rollbars, while keeping the rear stiffer. That will be a major focus for us during the practice sessions.
Q: This will be the first race in Germany since Michael Schumacher's retirement. Do you think that will change the atmosphere?
GF: Maybe there will be fewer spectators, maybe not. Racing in Germany without Michael will be very different, but there are a lot of racing fans there and the Nurburgring is an historic venue. We need to make sure we put on a good show for everybody.
Heikki Kovalainen: "Still a long way to go this season"
Q: Heikki, the last two races showed the team still has work to do in order to beat BMW. Is it difficult to stay motivated during these times?
HK: Not at all! Everybody in the team knows that we have only just passed the halfway point of the season, and that there is still a long way to go. The team has done a fantastic job to fix the problems we had at the start of the season, and I think we are all determined to show that we can bounce back. I still think that third place in the championship is achievable. It's going to be tough, but I believe we can do it!
Q: This year's German round of the championship will be at the Nurburgring. Would you have preferred Hockenheim?
HK: No, not really! In GP2, I had a very good race at this circuit, and it's probably my best memory of that championship. I won the first race on Saturday after starting from P17 on the grid. It was a consistent drive, we had a very good strategy and everything came together. At Hockenheim, I wasn't very competitive when I raced in GP2, so I'm pleased that my first F1 race is at the track where I did well! And to be honest, I think it's a more enjoyable circuit too, with some quite tough high-speed corners.
Q: This season has already seen a number of races take place in unusual weather conditions. If we encounter hot conditions at the Nurburgring, as you might expect in the middle of summer, what will that affect in terms of the set-up?
HK: I think we are well-prepared for a race in hot temperatures. Malaysia is always the toughest race from this point of view, and the most important factor will be to avoid disrupting the car's aerodynamic performance if we need extra cooling. Like at every race, we will push the cooling to the limit, while maintaining optimum aerodynamic performance. That's always a difficult compromise to achieve.
Q: What areas of the set-up will you be focusing on with the R27?
HK: I have never driven an F1 car on this circuit, but as always, I think you need a stable balance in the high-speed corners. On the way back up the hill from the hairpin, there are two high-speed right-left sections, and a good balance is important if you want to gain time.
The other crucial factor will be to have good braking stability, to ensure we can attack the braking zones and corners with confidence. We will work on both of these areas during Friday practice, and also on Saturday morning during our qualifying preparation. Qualifying in the top ten is absolutely vital, and finding a good set-up for that single timed lap will be a major focus for us during practice.
Bob Bell: "Maintain our upward trajectory"
Q: We have just passed the halfway point of the 2007 season. How would you summarise the year so far?
BB: It has been a mixed bag, to be honest. Initially, we were all disappointed to see that the car was not performing as we had predicted. But since that initial realisation, I have been extremely heartened and motivated by the team's response. Everybody in the organisation, from top to bottom, has just got their heads down and grafted to improve the situation. We have already made significant improvements to the car, and that will continue during the second half of the year. I'm very optimistic we can maintain our upward trajectory.
Q: The team has been conducting a phase of problem-solving since early in the season to make up its performance deficit. What is the current status of that process?
BB: We are reaching a key point in the process, because we now have now identified and understood the problem. Simply put, there was a discrepancy between the car's predicted performance in the wind tunnel and its behaviour on track. We therefore began an extensive test and analysis programme to correct this.
Some of the problems we discovered had their roots in the 2006 season, but had in fact been masked by our competitiveness at the time. We have now identified, and modified, the parts of the car that were causing the problems, and our simulations correlate well with the car's on-track behaviour.
Q: You said earlier this season that when the problems had been solved, you had a car capable of fighting with the best. Why is this not yet the case?
BB: It is an illustration of the relentless pace of development in Formula 1. As we have been working to understand and solve our problems, we have fallen behind in the normal development of the car. The gap to our rivals reflects that.
So what can you do about it? The solution is very simple: we need to accelerate our pace of development in the second half of the season. It will be a big challenge, but it's one that the factory is ready to take up. Our commitment is as strong as ever.
Q: What will the targets be for the second half of the year?
BB: The target is clear: to continue closing the gap to BMW on track, and to begin doing so in the championship. If you look back to the opening races of the year, it was as if we were in a different race to them. Now, we are regularly qualifying in the top ten, and according to the type of circuit, racing with our direct rivals.
Giancarlo and Heikki are both pushing very hard and getting the maximum from the car. They now need a more performance to fight on equal terms with BMW. That is what we are focused on providing them throughout the second half of the year, beginning this weekend at the Nurburgring.
Over at Red Bull Racing with Fabrice Lom for the European Grand Prix
Q: The team's results seemed to tail off a little in Magny-Cours and Silverstone. What are your expectations for the second half of the season?
Fabrice Lom: Our performances improved in Barcelona, Monaco and Montreal -- and then seem to have stalled. The competition took a step forward on its side, and we had some reliability problems. So there are a number of different factors, but the car is certainly better than recent results show. Our primary objective at the moment is to improve our reliability. Then, we will need to find more performance to get a decisive advantage over our current rivals, Williams and Toyota. We have made a lot of progress since the start of the season, but there's still a long way to go!
Q: Germany will host just one race this year, at the Nurburgring; is this a tough circuit for the engine?
FL: When it comes to comparing Hockenheim and the Nurburgring, the latter is much less demanding for the engine, both in terms of the maximum time spent at full throttle -- and the percentage of the lap spent at full throttle. Furthermore, the Nurburgring is at altitude, which means lower air pressure and less load on components such as the pistons. The engine doesn't have any severe challenges; our aim is to ensure it runs like clockwork and causes no problems.
Q: What are your expectations for the European Grand Prix? It is a relatively standard circuit for the engine, interesting for the drivers, and I believe that there is real potential in our package. It's now down to us, to make the most of it. We are expecting a big upgrade in Hungary, but we worked hard during testing at Spa last week to improve our reliability, which should help us to hit our target of scoring more points this weekend.