Comments from the Renault team ahead of the French Grand Prix Jarno Trulli: Q: Jarno, how would you assess the team's situation at the halfway stage of the season? Jarno Trulli: I believe we are doing very well, but we cannot forget that BAR...
Comments from the Renault team ahead of the French Grand Prix
Q: Jarno, how would you assess the team's situation at the halfway stage of the season?
Jarno Trulli: I believe we are doing very well, but we cannot forget that BAR are performing better than us in some areas, and at some circuits. We need to concentrate on getting the best from our car at the next races and work very hard to improve our performance at the same time, if we want to keep this position at the end of the season. I know this team very well know, and I am confident that we can. On a personal level, my aim is to finish third in the drivers' championship.
Q: You are always a fan of 'technical' circuits, which challenge the drivers and engineers with set-up. Does Magny-Cours meet those criteria?
JT: Yes, definitely - it is exactly what I would call a technical circuit. You have all types of corners around the lap, and the car needs to respond well everywhere. In order to be quick, though, you need responsive handling and a good change of direction - especially through the fast sections at turns 2 and 3, turns 6 and 7 and 11 and 12. This can mean the car is not ideal in the slow hairpins, but we have to drive round that because the high-speed areas are critical for lap time, and also to make sure you do not get overtaken in the race.
Q: You have always had lots of support in France - are you looking forward to racing there?
JT: This is a significant weekend for me - it is like a second home race. I have always enjoyed wonderful support in France, and I would like to repay my supporters with a strong performance. Plus, of course, the race is very important to Renault, as their national grand prix. I will just be aiming to drive as well as possible, and get the most out of the car and myself in qualifying and the race. It would be a fantastic boost for me and the team to win this race.
Q: Fernando, as we reach the halfway point of the season, how does your current position compare with your expectations at the start of the year?
Fernando Alonso: Overall, it is better than I had expected - but more in terms of our position in the Constructor's Championship than my own place in the drivers' standings. It is a bit of a surprise for us to be second - McLaren and Williams have dropped down, but the performance of BAR has been a surprise. However, they are behind us now, although I think we can expect a very close battle through the summer. Personally, for me, I do not think it is too bad to be fifth: I have not finished three races, and started from the back in two of them. So I am reasonably pleased, but I expect to be much stronger in the second half of the year.
Q: What are the priorities for the driver at Magny-Cours?
FA: Magny-Cours is a strange circuit, because you need to get different things out of the car on different parts of the track. There are very quick corners, where you want a stiff car for good downforce at those speeds, but also the very tight hairpins at turn 5 and before the final chicane, which need good traction and confidence under braking. You need to find a compromise, and that can be difficult. The other important factor here is the tyres - the temperatures can change a lot on the track, and it is very important that you do not get caught out by that with tyre choice.
Q: This is your second 'home' race of the year, and the 25th anniversary of Renault's first ever F1 win. What does that mean to a driver?
FA: Like always when you have lots of supporters, lots of fans cheering for you, it brings motivation; we are the only French team, and it is special to be racing in Renault's home country. The fans are happy to see us racing, to see us out on the track, and that brings us a great welcome. We just hope we can reward them with a strong result!
Bob Bell, Technical Director:
Q: Bob, what was your assessment of the team's performance over the North American flyaway races?
BB: By the time we reached Indy, I think it was as much about damage limitation as anything else. We were not expecting to be so competitive in Canada, but lost the opportunity to score a significant number of points. In Indy, we recovered well from a difficult start to the weekend to finish fourth with Jarno. But undoubtedly, with better reliability and - in Indianapolis - a little more pace, we could have continued to strengthen our championship position.
Q: Speaking of the championship, you must be concentrating on maintaining that position?
BB: We are totally focused on maintaining second place in the championship. We must achieve consistent reliability again, and we certainly cannot afford to lose the opportunity of podium finishes. Obviously, there are circuits that we expect to run well at in the second half of the season, much as Monaco and Canada stood out in the first half, but we also have a programme of incremental performance gains planned. If we do not slip up, then I am convinced this team is capable of doing it. But make no mistake, it will be a close, tough battle.
Q: What developments can we expect on the car the coming races?
BB: For Magny-Cours and Silverstone, we will have a package of aerodynamic updates and we also intend to introduce suspension modifications at the French race.
Q: In terms of competitiveness, how well do you expect to run?
BB: I think Magny-Cours will be a standard circuit for us - it is very much an average track in terms of the challenges it presents - and we go there with our usual expectation of challenging for podium positions. Its peculiar characteristics do reward an experienced and astute engineering team, which we undoubtedly have and of course, it is given added importance by the fact it is our home race. We will be keen to perform well there.
Looking further forward to Silverstone, we have tested there recently and at that point, seemed slightly behind our closest competitors. From what we have seen so far this year, it is not the R24's strongest type of circuit, with a large number of high-speed corners. However, we made good progress with the car during that week of testing, and I hope that the developments we introduce before then will help us close some of that gap. Equally, we will have the additional challenge of adapting to the new qualifying format at this race, and as a team, making the most of the opportunities such changes offer has always been one of our strengths. We will arrive at Silverstone optimistic of a strong weekend.
Rob White, Engine Technical Director:
Q: How satisfied were you with the results of our trip to North America over the last two races?
RW: Jarno's 4th place from the back of the grid in Indianapolis was a great result in itself. It is a reminder of the strength within the team that everyone was disappointed not to have returned from North America with a greater haul of Championship points. In terms of raw pace, Canada was very strong for us, so our double DNF was particularly frustrating, and clearly a missed opportunity for a good result. Indianapolis produced a tight grid and an eventful race. The strategic choices of the team were correct and both drivers made the most of their chances, allowing to Jarno recover from the glitch in qualifying and Fernando to be strongly placed at the moment of his retirement.
Q: What engine developments will we see for Magny-Cours?
RW: The development of the RS24B continues with an evolution in Magny Cours. New internal parts allow the useable engine speed to be increased, which in turn delivers more performance by better utilising the power curve. In terms of the approval process, it is always tough to increase engine speed as the mechanical and thermal loads are increased throughout the engine. To approve the revised spec, and endeavour to ensure the reliability of the engine and car, we have tested extensively on the dyno and at the track.
Q: How important is it for the team to perform strongly at its two home races?
RW: This is a long Championship, and all the races carry the same points. As for every race, we will approach the back-to-back races at Magny Cours and Silverstone with a view to racing competitively and securing a good result. Of course there is the added frisson of racing close to home under a little extra scrutiny, but the objective remains to achieve race weekends free of incident in which we realise the performance potential of the car.
Q: Halfway in the championship, and a solid second position: can we look to close the gap to Ferrari before the end of the season?
RW: Behind Ferrari, there is everything to play for. The battle for second in the championship is very tight. We have seen that the team is functioning well and that the car is competitive on a variety of circuits. For the second part of the season we hope to be able to take the fight to Ferrari on our strongest circuits, and fight with our immediate competitors to defend our position in the championship. Reliability remains key, any failure hands points to our competitors. We will continue to seek to give both drivers the equipment to race competitively, and support them in their efforts to extract the best possible result on the day.