The official Mild Seven Renault F1 Team Preview for the Japanese Grand Prix. Jacques Villeneuve: Q: Jacques, you had a solid first outing with Renault. How are you feeling ahead of Suzuka? JV: I know the circuit well and whereas I was still...
The official Mild Seven Renault F1 Team Preview for the Japanese Grand Prix.
Q: Jacques, you had a solid first outing with Renault. How are you feeling ahead of Suzuka?
JV: I know the circuit well and whereas I was still learning about the car in China, we will be able to work on the set-ups right from the beginning of practice in Japan. I got a much better feel for the car during the last race and it gave me some directions for how we can work on the handling. Plus of course, I won't get caught out on the first lap of the race this time.
Q: How would you describe Suzuka?
JV: It is one of the most difficult circuits, especially in how the turns link together. The track is very nice to drive, and you need a car that lets you flow through the corners yet also be precise. The surface can be very slippery which makes the car quite delicate to drive, and that means a smooth driver is rewarded in lap-time. You need to be mentally aggressive to put in a good lap, but not with the steering wheel.
Q: What sort of performance are you expecting?
JV: In terms of performance, the first thing I need to do is score the points that I missed out on in China. At Suzuka though, you have a lot of delicate moments around the lap when the car has lots of downforce at high speed, and you are turning and braking at the same time. That means the car needs to be very stable to really feel confident. If we can get the handling right, then I am sure we can score points: the team and myself are still very motivated to get second place.
Q: Fernando, how much do you enjoy racing at Suzuka?
FA: After Spa, I always find Suzuka the nicest place to drive. It is a very challenging circuit for the drivers. It is technical, so you have to work hard to get the car right with a good front end for the changes of direction, and a stable rear so you can have the confidence to attack the high speed corners. The other thing about Suzuka, though, is that you have to take risks in the corners - and all drivers like that. You push harder in most corners and a lot of them are blind on the exit, so you really need to have confidence in the car.
Q: What is the most challenging part of the lap?
FA: All of it is challenging, but the Esses are the most different section to what we have seen so far this year. You have ten to fifteen seconds of continuously changing direction, and that is very hard physically for the driver - you cannot relax at all and you are never running straight, so it is very demanding on your fitness. In terms of line, there is only one way through the sequence for a really quick lap, and you need to find the perfect position to take the corner you are approaching and the one that follows it as well.
Q: Finally, what result can the team expect in Suzuka?
FA: I said after the race in China that I thought the five points we scored would be important at the end of the year, and that is because I think we can be quick at the last two tracks. We have improved the car a lot this season and it is much more competitive and constant than it was earlier in the year. We need to find a good tyre, get it working well and put all the pieces together to have a strong weekend. We know it will be a very competitive race, but personally, I have more motivation than ever to beat BAR at one of their home races.
Bob Bell, Technical director:
Q: Bob, Renault were out-paced by BAR in China. With limited time for developments before the end of the season, will this now be the status quo until the final race?
BB: I think we will be much more competitive at the final two races than we proved to be in Shanghai. In China, our rivals got their car working better than the R24, and we were beaten by a faster package - even though both of our drivers extracted as much performance as possible, with Fernando particularly driving outstandingly well. At the next two races, though, we hope to see things swing back in our favour, Make no mistake, BAR will be very tough to beat, but we will be giving them a good run for their money and expect to be a lot closer at the next races.
Q: How pleased were you with Jacques' performance?
BB: There is a lot more performance to come from Jacques in the next two races, which are both at circuits he knows very well. He now understands the way a 2004 race works in terms of pace and strategy, and will definitely be a lot more competitive. His performance in China was encouraging, and he attacked all the way to end of the race. That is essential for us at this stage, as we push all the way to the end of the season.
Q: So overall, you are optimistic that the battle is still well and truly on?
BB: We are not giving up. BAR are a strong team, very motivated, and it will be a hard act to beat them. We are in a tight fight, but nobody here is giving up. If we manage to beat BAR, they will certainly be close behind us, so we need to ensure we score as many points as possible in the next races. If they make any slip-ups, we will be ready to pounce. The entire Renault team is pushing very hard to reclaim second place and our motivation to do so is second to none. We are up for the fight.
Denis Chevrier, Head of engine operations:
"At Suzuka, the engine's role is two-fold: not only must it provide plenty of power and good torque, but its characteristics have a big role to play in terms of maintaining the car balance through the corners and preserving the chassis handling."
"The circuit is characterised by the high average engine speeds we see, which are among the top five of the season. In general at Suzuka, the car is either in high-speed corners or accelerating to high gears out of the slower turns, such as the hairpin or the chicane, which means the average revs are in the high range."
"This factor, as well as a sixteen second full throttle burst from Spoon Curve to braking for the chicane, means that the fuel consumption at this track is the second highest of the year."
"The long corners at this circuit, as well as the sequence behind the pits, place severe demands on the chassis balance. The engine has a key role to play in these corners, as it must be as smooth and progressive as possible in the transition phases between the turns."
"Equally, we work to achieve the smoothest possible gearchanges so that the car balance is not disturbed. Everything in the engine's operation must be as fluid as possible: any brutality will be punished in the final lap-time."
"Indeed, when preparing the engine for the race, we work hard to ensure the driver is assisted as much as possible in this task by the way the engine and gearbox are configured. Through a section like the Esses, we select the gear ratios in order to put the engine in the best part of its power band during the short accelerations between each corner."
"In this context, a wide power band can be a definite advantage as it may allow the sequence to be driven without needing to change down, thus once more preserving the car balance."
"Finally, poor weather is always a possibility at Suzuka. These conditions always favour the good engine driveability that we have already said is necessary for other reasons at this difficult circuit."