MILD SEVEN RENAULT F1 MALAYSIAN GP PREVIEW Driver Preview After an Australian Grand Prix full of promise for the Mild Seven Renault F1 Team, drivers Jenson Button and Jarno Trulli are expecting to build on the pace shown in Melbourne as they...
MILD SEVEN RENAULT F1 MALAYSIAN GP PREVIEW
After an Australian Grand Prix full of promise for the Mild Seven Renault F1 Team, drivers Jenson Button and Jarno Trulli are expecting to build on the pace shown in Melbourne as they aim to score the team's first points of 2002.
Trulli was lying second in Australia before a patch of oil ruined his chances of a points finish, but he believes that the new R202 performed well in its opening Grand Prix weekend and is expecting more of the same in Malaysia.
"I hope we will perform as we did in qualifying in Australia," said Trulli. "That was pretty representative of where we are. I do not expect a podium in Malaysia, but I am sure reliability will count in the race.
"I was encouraged by running up front in Melbourne, but it was as much due to circumstances as pure performance and it is important to take each race as it comes. I am still working to get used to the team and build relationships. Let's see how we do in qualifying."
Button was a victim of the first-corner accident in Melbourne, and although that meant neither of the Mild Seven Renault F1 Team drivers were able to give the R202 a full run in race conditions, he believes that reliability has been proven in testing and is keen to claim his first points of the season.
"We know from testing that the car is reliable, even though we didn't manage to complete a full race distance in Melbourne," said Button, who has spent the time between races training in Port Douglas, Australia. "I'm confident our position relative to the rest of the grid will not change, and hope to have a trouble-free qualifying session before a good result in the race."
The hot and steamy conditions in Malaysia can prove difficult for the drivers and they can actually feel the stifling humid air flowing into their race helmets as they drive down the straights on the Sepang circuit.
The Mild Seven Renault F1 Team drivers are, however, well prepared for the challenge. Both declared themselves fitter than ever after a pre-season training programme that included a fitness camp in Kenya, and Trulli knows that Malaysia will be a place where he can reap the benefits of all that winter work.
"Our training programme ensures I'm in peak condition for every race," said Trulli. "That includes the high humidity and heat in Malaysia, and the time we spent in Kenya has given me some useful experience of the conditions we will be working in this weekend."
Technical Director Mike Gascoyne is confident that the development programme for the Mild Seven Renault F1 Team's R202 will ensure a continuation of the promise shown in the Australian Grand Prix when the team takes to the track in Malaysia this weekend.
Gascoyne believes the characteristics of the Sepang circuit will play to the strengths of the R202, and is expecting a successful race in Malaysia.
"Overall we are pretty confident," said Gascoyne. "I believe the team is in a comparable position to where we finished last year and, for us, Melbourne was a harder circuit than Sepang at which to succeed. We will take encouragement from our performance in the first race and believe we should perform strongly in Malaysia."
The workforce at the Mild Seven Renault F1 Team's Enstone headquarters is constantly working to develop the R202, and the fruits of an intensive aerodynamic programme will be seen in new parts on the car for Sepang.
"For this race we will have new aerodynamics and mechanical items, which will represent a good step forward," explained Gascoyne. "We have a new diffuser, a new rear wing and several new items on the rear suspension."
These developments will help the Mild Seven Renault F1 Team on the high-downforce Sepang circuit, and the arrival of new tyres has left Executive Director of Engineering Pat Symonds confident that the high temperatures, which reached 51 degrees Celsius last year, will help the team this weekend.
"The high track temperatures represent a different challenge to the tyres but as we are running on Michelins, we are not at all worried about that," said Symonds. "It actually favours us.
"But the R202 appears to be a good car in most situations and I wouldn't say we have got any particular shortcomings. Specifically, it performs well in the fast corners and there are a number of those in Sepang. I really do feel that we will be taking those corners flat out this year."
The variable conditions and the new tyres mean that race strategy will be a challenge, and Symonds believes the team's engineers will have to leave it late to make a decision on which approach to take.
"Last year everything was affected by the rain, and since then we have had some reasonably significant changes to the tyres," he said. "So I have a feeling it is going to be a close call. I think final decisions will not be made until Saturday."