Comments from the Renault team ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix Fernando Alonso Q: Fernando, it was a tough weekend for you in Germany... Fernando Alonso: Yes, probably the hardest of the season because we didn't expect to have the problems...
Comments from the Renault team ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix
Q: Fernando, it was a tough weekend for you in Germany...
Fernando Alonso: Yes, probably the hardest of the season because we didn't expect to have the problems we did. We were not competitive throughout the weekend but even so, I think we had the performance to get on the podium without the tyre blistering in the first stint. The important thing is that the team is still working well, and taking the maximum from every race. We did it again on Sunday. Now, we need to have confidence in ourselves and improve the situation for Budapest.
Q: Is it realistic to expect things to turn around in just one week?
FA:I don't think we will see a repeat of what happened in Germany. Personally, I am calm and I know the team has been working hard to understand what happened. The tyres in Hungary are very different to what we need in Germany, and Michelin have reacted to the problems as well. People are talking about Michael closing in, but I was never over-confident when I was leading -- and I am not panicking now. I am confident we can have a strong race.
Q: Of course, Hungary will always be a special track for you, after taking your first win there three years ago...
FA: I have fantastic memories of Hungary and that first win. It is a circuit I really like, very challenging physically and mentally because of the heat and the circuit configuration. There are so many corners that you are very busy in the cockpit, always fighting with the steering wheel, and at times it seems almost like a go-kart circuit! I enjoy every lap I drive there.
Q: Last year, it was one of only two races in which you failed to score points...
FA: Yes, it was a funny race last year. I had an accident at the first corner, and then I was running at the back with cooling problems. But it shows how quickly things can turn around in Formula 1, because one week earlier I had won in Germany. It will be a different picture this year I think, and the V8 engines and softer tyres will mean we are much quicker in the corners. I am expecting a good race, and there is no reason why Renault cannot come out on top.
Q: Giancarlo, the Hungaroring is a circuit that is constantly evolving through the weekend. How important is it to get a good feeling from the opening laps?
Giancarlo Fisichella: You need to be comfortable straight away, and confident with the car and the circuit. The circuit is slippery and dusty at the beginning, so you need a good feeling to understand what changes you need to make to improve the performance of the car. Then, as we run more and the circuit rubbers in, the grip gets better and better.
Q: Is it a challenging circuit for the drivers?
GF:Yes, it is. There are a lot of chicanes where you need to use the kerbs -- but not too much. We have long corners which make it tough physically towards the end of the race, and lots of braking into very slow corners. You also need to avoid mistakes because the circuit is very dusty off line, and getting the tyres dirty can make it hard to defend your position.
Q: We saw in Monaco that you achieved the impossible -- overtaking on a circuit where it is supposed to be impossible. Will a repeat be possible in Hungary?
GF: To be honest, I would prefer to get pole and keep the lead! But if that doesn't happen, then it is certainly easier to overtake now in Hungary than it used to be, and we have a good opportunity under braking into turn 1. I had some good overtaking manoeuvres in Monaco, so hopefully I can repeat that if necessary in Budapest.
Q: Finally, it was a disappointing race for the whole team in Germany. What do you expect for the coming weekend?
GF: We were missing something in Germany, not just compared to Ferrari but the other Michelin teams as well. The team has been working hard to understand the problems, and come up with good answers for this weekend. I am confident Michelin will bring competitive tyres, and we need to get the maximum from them this weekend. I will be pushing to the limit, just like in Germany, and aiming for the podium.
Renault's Executive Director of Engineering has explained that the championship leaders will maintain their aggressive approach after a difficult outing in Germany.
Q: Pat, Renault experienced their toughest race of the season so far in Germany last weekend. What is the mood like in the team at the moment?
Pat Symonds: Honest and self-critical. After a performance like we experienced in Hockenheim, we make a critical analysis of each decision made before the event, and how it has affected car performance. A result like this only goes to show the quality of the people we have in this organisation. They have worked calmly, redoubled their efforts and implemented solutions for Budapest.
Q: Last weekend was the first race where you did not run the mass damper, and this coincided with the team's worst performance of the year. Is it fair to draw a causal link between the two?
PS: This was not the only factor that contributed to our unsatisfactory result but it goes without saying that removing the mass damper degraded our performance, otherwise the component would not have been on the car throughout the season. After using the device for the first time in the final races of 2005, the design and development of this year's car was optimised with it in place. The ride and the behaviour over kerbs of the R26 at the last race was certainly not as good as we have been accustomed to this year. But there were other factors at work as well.
Q: What were they?
PS: We were aware before the event that tyre management at Hockenheim could be particularly difficult. It is a circuit that puts a lot of energy into the rear tyres, which can lead to blistering problems. As a result, we took compounds with the lowest chance of blistering, but in spite of this we had severe problems with rear blistering during the race -- worse than any other Michelin runner. Equally, when using tyres designed to limit blistering, other compromises must be accepted: one is a reduction in grip, the other that the car balance can vary between new and used tyres. This proved to be the case, with the drivers suffering too much understeer in qualifying and oversteer in the race.
Q: You have said that the team has worked calmly to implement solutions. What are they?
PS: Firstly, we received notification on Monday that the FIA will recommend to the Court of Appeal that teams who have used the mass damper in Hungary should not have retrospective penalties applied when the hearing takes place between before Turkey. In light of this, we will use the device again in Hungary. We have also re-analyzed the other updates added to the car in Germany. A new rear suspension geometry was introduced for this race and in light of the fact that our problems were focused on rear tyre degradation, we will probably revert to the previous specification until we can track test the evolution further. However, our substantial new aero package performed in line with our predictions and will be maintained for Hungary, where we hope to demonstrate its true effectiveness.
Q: Have you also worked with Michelin to respond to the blistering problems?
PS: Michelin have responded quickly to the performance in Hockenheim. All of the partner teams suffered from blistering to a greater or lesser extent in Germany, and Michelin are therefore offering their partner teams the chance to change one of the tyres that had been selected for Budapest. It has been a fantastic response.
Q: In terms of the championship, you have seen Ferrari eating into your lead in recent races...
PS: That's true, and it hasn't been a comfortable sight, but don't forget we are still leading both championships. It seems that the Ferrari-Bridgestone combination has had an upper hand at the hot circuits we have visited recently, but having recognised this is the first step to reversing it. We certainly do not consider the recent swing towards our competitors to be a permanent one.
Q: So are you confident you can rebound in Hungary?
PS: This season has been a dangerous one for making predictions, but I am optimistic of a much-improved showing in Hungary. We have not made any knee-jerk reactions to the race in Germany, and this would be the wrong time to be timid and conservative. Our approach to the problems has been honest and pragmatic, and it is now up to us to turn things around. Last year, we showed that we can come back and fight a competitor who appeared to be faster than us. Hearing people write us off this year has only strengthened our resolve. We will be doing everything in our power to turn the tables on Sunday in Budapest.