Comments from the Renault drivers and technical team ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix Fernando Alonso: Q: Fernando, you have raced in Malasyia twice: how do you enjoy it? FA: The Malaysian Grand Prix is full of fantastic memories for me: I...
Comments from the Renault drivers and technical team ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix
Q: Fernando, you have raced in Malasyia twice: how do you enjoy it?
FA: The Malaysian Grand Prix is full of fantastic memories for me: I scored my first ever pole and podium for Renault at the circuit last year. I think it is the best circuit we go to in terms of facilities - they really did a great job on the paddock and garages - and the track itself is very challenging. I can't wait to start running.
Q: You say the circuit is particularly challenging: how so?
FA: Honestly, I think Sepang is perhaps the most difficult circuit of the year, and it is certainly one of the most technical that we go to. When I say technical, I mean that your car needs to be strong in every area: all the corners tend to be high-speed, so you need a perfect car balance and good aerodynamics. The long straights mean good performance on the brakes is an absolute must. The corners open out, so you need to be careful with tyre wear. Everything has to be absolutely spot on to go quickly at Sepang. And of course, it's fun for the drivers: lots of high speed corners and overtaking opportunities are what we look for from every circuit.
Q: You scored a podium finish in Melbourne: what can you do in Malaysia?
FA: Our main objective has to be to take points. From what we saw there last year, we should have a good car, and the tyres should work even better in the hotter temperatures. Realistically, we believe the car will become very competitive with the performance steps on the engine and chassis when we reach the European season, so the important thing during these first races is to be reliable, finish the races and score points. Finishing in the top five or six is our minimum target.
Q: Jarno, you are reputed to be one of the fittest drivers in F1: can you explain a little of the physical challenges of Sepang?
JT: For the drivers, the weather conditions are the extreme challenge: it is terribly hot, and also very, very humid. Fernando and I have done some training in the Maldives over the past week, to get used to physical effort in similar conditions, but you can't make that much difference in one week: this is the first race where your winter preparation really begins to count. In the car, we try and keep as cool as possible, and I run with my visor open a little further than usual to try and generate airflow in the helmet. But overall, the key is physical preparation and endurance to maintain concentration and speed.
Q: What is your perspective on the circuit itself?
JT: Sepang is an interesting, very technical circuit, and in terms of tyres and the forces they are subjected to, the most demanding of the year. The track itself is extremely high quality and the surface smooth: it was well designed, and has good run off areas everywhere except Turn 1. The layout is interesting, and overtaking is possible although, as always, it depends on having a big enough performance gap between the cars.
Q: Finally, how do you expect to perform in the Malaysian GP?
JT: Obviously, Australia was disappointing from my point of view, but in Malaysia, we can hope to be very competitive. I qualified on the front row last season and in spite of the collision with Michael, I think it was a kind of breakthrough race for me: from the back of the pack, I came through to finish fifth. Last year's car was very good there, and as the R24 is stronger in every area, that shouldn't change. I believe we can be very competitive.
Bob Bell:, Technical director:
Q: Indications from Melbourne suggest reliability among the top teams will be very strong this year. Given this, how much more important will it become to qualify well, particularly at circuits where overtaking is difficult?
BB: It will be crucial, and we certainly need to focus on our qualifying pace to bring it up to the level of our race speed. Firstly, we will look to setting the car up in such a way that it maintains the benefits of its pace on long runs while exploiting the first lap qualifying performance. Secondly, we will be able to do more with the engine to manage this gap later in the season as we get more power - we were slightly conservative from this perspective in Melbourne, and will be looking to push the envelope as the year goes on.
Q: Last year, we saw the Renault was particularly strong on the brakes into the hairpins in Malaysia: is there any particular reason for this?
BB: The performance of the R24 is very good under braking. The car has very good grip and is extremely stable aerodynamically. When braking hard from over 300kph, a car undergoes dramatic changes in attitude, particularly during the initial phases, and it is important that the aerodynamics can handle this without undue disturbance. This was certainly the case last year, and there is no reason to think it would have changed on the R24.
Q: After a solid start in Melbourne, how do you expect things to go in Malaysia?
BB: We were very heartened by our performance in Australia, and I think we have the potential for a good, solid result in Sepang. The circuit suits the strengths of our package and while Ferrari caught everybody out in Australia, I am sure we can close the gap at this race. A question mark remains over tyre performance, but we will have a clearer picture once we have run in the hotter conditions. In general, the level of confidence within the team is very high right now.
Rob White, Technical director (Engine)
Q: With performance steps currently under preparation, how satisfied were you with a debut podium for the RS24?
RW: It was good to get the first sight of our performance relative to the rest of the grid, and pleasing to be competitive. A podium in Melbourne was a great result for the team, after hard work at Viry and Enstone to maximise the performance of the whole car and to prepare for the season. We will approach Malaysia with the same rigour, include the lessons from Melbourne and aim for a weekend free of incident in which we get the most from the car.
Q: Superficially, Malaysia seems like a relatively straightforward circuit for the engine: the overall time spent at full throttle is relatively low, and the longest single full throttle period relatively short. Is this so?
RW: Malaysia will be less severe in terms of duty cycle than the simulation we use as the baseline for endurance testing at Viry, but there are no easy circuits on the calendar. With the 2004 single engine rule, finding the compromise between durability and performance is a real part of the task each race weekend, and the challenge is to manage the operation of the engine to realise the potential performance of the car. Every engine used at the track or in endurance testing at Viry adds to the knowledge of engine behaviour used to plan for each GP. Specific endurance tests customised to each circuit are used to verify the chosen parameters.
Q: How do you think the R24/RS24 will shape up in Malaysia?
RW: On the engine side, we are pleased to be able to be racing already with a useful increase in peak power and maximum torque over the best of our 2003 engines; this performance advantage is felt by the drivers whenever they are at full throttle - on the straights and in high speed corners. As well as the improved power curve of the new engine, work continues on the calibration of control systems to aid power delivery and driveability. In terms of the overall package, the R24 built on the lessons of its predecessors. The R23 was competitive on a variety of circuits and the R24 has been a quicker car throughout pre-season testing and during its first race. I am optimistic this will remain so in Malaysia.