Renault test driver AllanMcNish discusses the season so far Q: Are you pleased with the performance of the R23 this season? Allan McNish: Overall, the R23 has performed really well this season which is obviously a big part of the reason why ...
Renault test driver AllanMcNish discusses the season so far
Q: Are you pleased with the performance of the R23 this season?
Allan McNish: Overall, the R23 has performed really well this season which is obviously a big part of the reason why Renault are lying in 4th place in the constructors', and Fernando is lying 3rd and Jarno 8th in the drivers' championship. Aerodynamically the car is very competitive - Sepang, Barcelona and latterly Monaco are all examples of how well it is working. We've also had very few reliability issues, even in testing, which is really the ultimate test of how well the different components are working.
AM: I think that extending the points has worked well - Michael is certainly having to work hard to get near Kimi after Kimi had such a good start to the season, and although both of them are leading the field by a good margin at the moment, in the midfield things are much more competitive. On the testing programme, the Friday testing option has given some of the teams, Renault included, a really useful window on the track prior to qualifying allowing them to really tighten up each car's set up.
Outside of the race weekends the opportunities to test are fairly limited but the testing we do carry out is very intensive. Recently we were at Ricard and I completed the equivalent of two grand prix distances in one day which is obviously good for development of the car, but it's also great for driver fitness.
I think the one lap qualifying works really well because it allows no mistakes, however I think it would be even better on zero fuel like 2002.
The debate on driver aids and traction control has been going for some time. I think even with all the aids, it still takes a lot of skill to drive the car to the max - even with traction control. Now there is more emphasis on corner entry speeds - as much as corner exit speed - and in this area traction control has no effect. I am looking forward to banning launch control where, at the moment, no driver skill at all is involved and it is all down to the software engineers.
All in all I think the viewing figures speak volumes - people are turning Formula 1 back on and I think that's the most important thing.
Q: Do you think that Renault returning to a more traditionally angled engine is the best thing for the team next season?
AM: Flavio Briatore announced a couple of weeks ago that Viry-Ch?tillon will be designing Renault's new engine which will respond specifically to the demands of next season's new rules, ie one engine per race weekend. There's been speculation from all sides about the wide-angled engine we're running at the moment and it is doing the job for us, but there will be so much reliance on the engines next year that the team had to make the decision to go for a more traditional engine to ensure we can maintain performance and reliability over the race weekend. Renault have a lot of confidence in Viry, especially since they made a step up in power at A1 Ring.
Q: How do you feel about Bahrain and China featuring on the calendar next year?
AM: I think it's going to put more pressure on the teams because the long distance races always do - logistically it's far easier to get a team to Europe than it is to Asia. Having said that, the circuits themselves are going to be fantastic both in terms of the track layout, and the facilities - Sepang is a good example of a new track and how well it can work. Interest in Formula 1 is growing rapidly in Asia and I think it's important to recognise and react to that.
Q: How are you getting on with Jarno and Fernando?
They're great guys, we work really well together as a team and we all have a similar feel for the car which is useful. There's none of the animosity at Renault that you often find in other teams. The team's doing really well this season and the sense of team spirit is obvious for all to see.
Q: Are you looking forward to stepping into Mark Blundell's shoes as commentator over the Canadian GP weekend?
I'm really looking forward to it actually! I've been doing some relatively short interviews with ITV already, talking about HANS, the new rules and so forth but it'll be the first time I've been in the studio actually commentating. I'll probably get totally carried away and start cheering for Jarno and Fernando when things start getting really heated out on track!
AM: From my personal point of view, the main difference is that I don't race on Sunday; in all other areas I have to prepare as if I was racing in terms of car development, mentally and physically. This is not only so that I'm doing the job to the best of my ability, but also because as the third driver I may be called on to race. When we do test it's really important we maximise our track time due to the restrictions we have in the number of days. For my part, this is helped by having a detailed understanding of the car and its systems. If a test driver doesn't have that understanding, they can't give the team the feedback they need to continue to develop the car.
Q: What do you do on Saturdays and Sundays?
AM: Good question! I have to go to all the briefings and listen in on the radio through all the sessions because I can still have some inputs through the weekend. It's also important that I keep up to date with everything because I could be called on to race if something happened to Jarno or Fernando. Other than that, it's a case of doing PR and sponsor activity for Renault and catching up with familiar faces.
Q: Do you think you'll race again in Formula 1?
I hope so! I'm having a great season so far with Renault and with them taking up the option of Friday testing the role of test driver is an important one - although obviously it's not the same as being out on track on the Saturday and Sunday and being competitive. I think this year I've proved my worth with Renault and, coupled with my previous team's lack of improvement, people are realising the good job Mika and I did in 2002.