Comments from the Renault team ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix Fernando Alonso Q: Fernando, that was a great start to the season in Bahrain... Fernando Alonso: Yes, it was the perfect way to begin the year I think. We had a very exciting...
Comments from the Renault team ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix
Q: Fernando, that was a great start to the season in Bahrain...
Fernando Alonso: Yes, it was the perfect way to begin the year I think. We had a very exciting race for the spectators, and I think we can expect a very interesting start to the season. As we thought from testing, there are four teams fighting to win at any type of circuit -- Honda, McLaren, Ferrari and Renault. We can all win races, so it will be a fun time in the coming weeks.
Q: What about the circuit in Sepang? It has always been a special place for you?
FA: Sepang has always been one of my favourite driver's circuits, and I seem to have important moments of my career there too -- my first pole and podium in 2003, and the first win of my championship in 2005. I am arriving on the back of a win, at a super circuit, so I am very happy and hopefully we can win again. Traditionally, this is a strong track for Renault.
Q: Finally, let's talk tyre performance. Michelin seemed to narrowly have the edge in Bahrain...
FA: I think the tyres should be ready. Michelin have done a fantastic job with the new rules, and the high temperatures are not a problem at all. I think they have the tyres to win again in Malaysia.
Q: Giancarlo, what are the physical demands of the race in Malaysia?
Giancarlo Fisichella: I think this is the toughest track physically, but also mentally because we need to maintain our concentration on a very demanding circuit in terms of driving, and in the heat. I am prepared, and in good physical condition, so it won't be a problem but for sure, we will see who is fit during this race. Malaysia is one of the best circuits I think, the atmosphere is good, and I really enjoy it.
Q: What are the demands of the circuit in terms of the car?
GF: I call it a complete circuit. You have everything to make a very challenging circuit in Malaysia. There are many different types of corners. You have high-speed, low-speed hairpins, and it is all good fun to drive.
Q: How are you feeling after the disappointment of retirement in Bahrain?
GF: I am very positive. Last year, I won the first race then had a difficult season. This year, I hope it will be the other way round -- a bad race then a lot of good results! I will have a fresh engine in Malaysia, and we know that it was not a problem with the V8 itself. My approach will be the same: to try and go for the win. I think the Sepang circuit will suit our strong points with the R26, maybe more than Bahrain. It has all the characteristics we believe suit our package.
Denis Chevrier, Head of Trackside Engine Operations
Q: Denis, we are one race into the season. Can you begin drawing any conclusions about the relative performance of Renault and the competition?
Denis Chevrier: We saw the first demonstration of the teams' true performance last Sunday, and it was immediately clear that the situation is highly competitive. A number of teams are quick on a single lap, able to maintain that speed in race conditions and, as we saw from Raikkonen, capable of running a different strategy and making it work. At Renault, we are pleased to be within that group, but the performance differentials are very small.
Q: What was your impression of the state of play with the new V8 engines?
DC: Before the season, there were some thoughts that the new regulations might be the opportunity for one manufacturer to take a decisive advantage, and that does not seem to have happened. It is a little early to judge reliability with any certainty, but it was initially very good. The changes have seen the cards shuffled a little, with Ferrari jumping back to the front, Honda very quick and Renault and McLaren maintaining their performance. There are four potential favourites, so we can expect an exciting battle in Malaysia.
Q: You seem excited at the prospect of the next race...
DC: Well, if Formula 1 was a wine, you could say we were in for a good vintage! I think we will see the points being shared widely this year, and in that environment, any weakness will be punished severely. We will need to have two cars performing at the highest level, and to maintain our levels of quality. In modern F1, quality means the combination of reliability and the ability to develop performance throughout the year. We did it in 2005. In 2006, we have a sound basis from which to work.
Q: What happened to Fisico last weekend?
DC: We do not yet know the exact cause of the problem but with a power deficit of around 50 bhp, he drove a very impressive race. It is important to say the problem was not with the engine itself, rather with a peripheral component that led to a problem with how the engine was operating. In order to make a proper diagnosis in the best conditions, we have sent the engine back to Viry to be dyno tested this week with some very high performance diagnostic tools. As the rules allow following retirement, Giancarlo will use a fresh engine in Bahrain.
Q: What about Fernando's engine? After one hot race, is the prospect of another in quick succession a worry?
DC: In actual fact, Bahrain was not as hot as expected, with ambient temperatures around 25°C. We will see higher values than that during the European summer. From that perspective, the hot race is still to come. However, Fernando ran a normal weekend and stayed within the engine's allocated performance potential throughout the Bahrain weekend.
Q: What about the challenges of Sepang for the engine?
DC: They have increased in severity relative to last year. The nature of the circuit layout, with the high speed corners, means the drivers will spend 15% more time at full throttle than last year. It will be a demanding weekend for the V8, and at its conclusion, we will have a much better idea of how things stand for the first iteration of the V8 engines in terms of performance and reliability.
Malaysia Tech File: Chassis
Sepang is what can be termed a 'complete' circuit in its demands on the chassis. It has high-speed corners, rapid changes of direction (particularly turns 5 and 6), and slow hairpins. In order to achieve optimum performance for these contradictory requirements we must, as always, find the correct compromise on the car set-up.
Suspension: The car must be stable and well-balanced in the fast corners, and in the braking zones for the slow corners. We will use relatively stiff settings to achieve this, while still maintaining them soft enough to have good traction in the slower corners.
Aerodynamics: We use medium high downforce to optimise the car performance in the high-speed corners and under braking.
Tyres: This will be a key factor and will play a significant part in our set-up choices with the car. The quick corners coupled to high ambient temperatures put the tyres under significant loadings, and the rear tyres work particularly hard at this circuit. Tyre degradation will be a key parameter.
Cooling: Given the high temperatures expected in Malaysia, the effective general cooling of the car will be a key to success this weekend.
Malaysia Tech File: Engine
Performance: With 72% of the lap spent at full throttle, Sepang is now one of the most demanding engine circuits of the year -- this is the third highest value encountered all season, and represents a significant change to the V10 era. This is because of the high number of high-speed corners on the circuit. Given that the V8 engines have less power than their predecessors, this means that the drivers will spend more time on the throttle than last year.
Operating Range: The operating range of the engine is not particularly demanding at this circuit, as the engine is rarely used at very low revs. However, the high speed sections can pose their own particular problems, particularly through turns 5 and 6. The drivers use partial throttle openings at high revs on this part of the circuit, and if this is not properly managed, it can result in a phenomenon named 'blow-by' which can damage both the pistons and piston-rings, with gas escaping from the combustion chamber.
High Temperatures: More so than in Bahrain, we will once again have to contend with the acoustic offset caused by the high temperatures. The higher temperatures, and thus lower air density, modify the intake acoustics, and mean that maximum power is produced at higher engine speeds than at lower temperatures. This means the operating range is pushed higher than usual.
Cooling: If we need to use higher engine revs in order to extract maximum performance from the engine, this will require an increase in the already significant cooling capacity at this circuit. As always, the compromise on cooling will be between keeping the oil and water temperatures within their specified limits, and sacrificing a minimum amount of performance in order to achieve this.