Comments from the Renault drivers ahead of the German Grand Prix Fernando Alonso: "A win in Germany is worth more than ten points" Q: Fernando, what is your outlook for the coming races? Fernando Alonso: I am feeling very optimistic. We had...
Comments from the Renault drivers ahead of the German Grand Prix
Fernando Alonso: "A win in Germany is worth more than ten points"
Q: Fernando, what is your outlook for the coming races?
Fernando Alonso: I am feeling very optimistic. We had a strong first half of the season, and they key thing now is to keep going and finalise the job. The Renault team is ready, and I am ready. I think we can finish 2006 the same way we started it.
Q: This seems to be a season where, more than ever, people are talking about tyre performance...
FA: We are in the middle of a good fight between the tyre manufacturers at the moment. Michelin and Bridgestone are pushing each other hard at every race. We have fantastic tyres on the car and Michelin are giving us the extra performance, that's why we are leading the championship. I am confident for the rest of the year and certain that Michelin can become champions again.
Q: The other key theme is in-season development. How does Renault compare to its rivals?
FA: I think we are developing the car in a good way at the moment. We began the season with a fantastic car, so maybe that left us a little less room to improve than the other teams. But even our competitors are developing and trying to come back, we are still winning races. The team hasn't stopped improving the car and engine, they have done a really good job.
Q: Ferrari beat Renault on home turf in France... Would beating Michael Schumacher at his home race be an important win?
FA: It's important to beat Michael at every race, not just Hockenheim! We know that at this stage of the season, we have to be finishing in front of the Ferraris. But I think that a win in Germany could be worth more than ten points because of the psychological aspect. I try to win all the races -- but it would mean a lot to take the victory here.
Q: What are the demands of the circuit in Hockenheim?
FA: It is a very physical track. The temperatures are always extremely hot, which makes it very demanding for the drivers. In terms of the car, straightline speed is still something you need in Hockenheim -- not like in the old days, but the circuit has long straights even now. In the slow corners, the grip is always low but you need good mechanical settings and a driveable car. It is a delicate compromise to find to be quick here, and not an easy one to find.
Giancarlo Fisichella: "It's difficult to find a perfect set-up at Hockenheim"
Q: Giancarlo, you had a dramatic race last year -- passing Michael Schumacher on the penultimate lap. What do you remember of it?
Giancarlo Fisichella: It was a great race! I started having some problems with the brakes in the middle of the race, and especially towards the end it was really tough because we didn't know whether we could get to the finish. I was having to brake 100m early into the corners, but Michael had some tyre problems so I could stay with him easily. Then, my engineer gave me the all-clear with two laps left, and I got Michael going into turn 6. It was a good move -- and a good result for me in the end.
Q: How will you be looking to set the car up for the race?
GF: Hockenheim is a difficult circuit when it comes to getting the right set-up for the race. There is a very long back straight where you need good power and speed, then lots of slow corners which need good traction. The temperatures are always very high in the race, which makes life hard for the tyres, especially the rears. You need to find a good set-up so that the tyre performance doesn't drop off too quickly on the long runs.
Q: What kind of performance are you expecting in Germany?
GF: We know that the Renault package is a very strong one, good enough to win races. At the moment, though, the tyre factor is playing a big role, so it is hard to make too many predictions about performance between the teams before we start running. But France showed us that Toyota are now at a strong level, so there are maybe four teams fighting for the podium. My priority in the summer is to race consistently, and get on the podium as often as possible. I have to beat Massa and Raikkonen. They are my rivals for third place in the championship and I know that if I am beating them, I am helping Renault for the constructors' title too.
Hockenheim Tech File
Although the current Hockenheim layout inevitably invites unfavourable comparison to the 'classic' -- and rather uninspired -- traditional circuit that existed until 2001, it has been the scene of close, exciting racing in recent years. Sat in the middle of a pine forest, the race is typically run in sweltering conditions with high humidity. This makes life hard for the tyres, particular at the rear of the car owing to numerous slow corners and traction events.
In an ideal world, Hockenheim would demand medium downforce levels to find the best compromise for optimum lap-time, as we need grip in the medium-speed corners towards the end of the lap. However, we do not work -- and more importantly race -- in an ideal world. Like all Tilke tracks, Hockenheim features long straights followed by slow corners that make overtaking possible. As such, the downforce settings we use leave the drivers short of grip in the stadium section in order to have the top speed necessary to defend position -- and overtake rivals. Thus, we end up running medium-low downforce levels -- much as in Bahrain, for example.
The long straights and slow corners of Hockenheim demand contrasting suspension set-ups: stiff to maintain aerodynamic performance at high speed, and soft for optimum mechanical grip. In general, we will achieve this with relatively soft settings, and bump rubbers to maintain stable ride heights at speed. The car is run with a forward mechanical bias (stiffer at the front than the rear) in order to optimise grip under traction and braking. Indeed, braking stability is particularly important at this circuit at turn 6 -- where the cars slow by more than 200 kph -- is the key overtaking opportunity. We therefore pay detailed attention to this area.
Conditions at Hockenheim are traditionally extremely hot, with some of the highest track temperatures of the whole year. The heavy traction demands of the circuit means that the rear tyres are often the focus of much attention, in order to control the risk of blistering and avoid excessive wear that will make the car balance unstable.
Furthermore, the circuit has the unusual characteristic of narrowing significantly where the new tarmac joins the old, particularly in turn 12. This is one of the quickest corners on the circuit, and the circuit narrows on entry. It makes it easy for drivers to go off-line and damage the car here in the large gravel trap if they are pushing hard.
Hockenheim has always been a demanding circuit for the engines, but its relative severity has in fact decreased this year. Although the engines will spend about 10% more of the lap at full throttle than last year (71% of the lap in 2006), the delta from 2005 to 2006 is among the smallest of the season. This is because the circuit contains very few high speed corners, which is where the difference in throttle usage between the V10 and V8 engines has been most apparent this year.
Nevertheless, with nearly three quarters of the lap at full throttle, this remains a demanding circuit for the engines, and it not only demands a powerful engine, but also one that pulls strongly from low revs. Good torque is important in order to launch the cars out of the many slow corners.
As is always the case, high temperatures mean the engine experiences a phenomenon known as 'acoustic offset'. This occurs at high temperatures and means that peak power is developed at higher revs, essentially shifting the power-band of the engine upwards. In these circumstances, the ability to use greater rpm represents a performance advantage -- meaning the C specification RS26 engine that both drivers will be using will play to their advantage in the hot conditions.