Sometimes, a race result feels like a bad hangover. What medicine is the Renault F1 Team taking this Monday? Pat Symonds Q: Pat, how was the mood in the team last night? Pat Symonds: We were massively frustrated because we let ourselves ...
Sometimes, a race result feels like a bad hangover. What medicine is the Renault F1 Team taking this Monday?
Q: Pat, how was the mood in the team last night?
Pat Symonds: We were massively frustrated because we let ourselves down. This was clearly a race we should have won. But that is now past, and we need to look ahead to Suzuka. The great thing is that the race demonstrated that whatever the conditions, the car is right back on the pace.
Q: Indeed, the team had arrived in China with some question marks over its ultimate performance. Do you feel those questions have been answered?
PS: I certainly feel that our raw performance has stepped up. We said before the weekend that the headline results of the past weeks had not shown the real pace of the car. We were quietly confident that it was the case, and I am pleased that the race justified that. Points wise it was not a good day, but pace wise we can be encouraged with what we saw.
Q: The crucial call came at Fernando's first stop, when you decided to change both front tyres. How did you make that decision?
PS: As always with these things, it was a team decision. Fernando radioed in to say that the front left tyre was very badly worn. He makes good judgement calls, and we are very confident in the information he gives us . On the pit-wall, we knew that changing to new tyres would carry a performance penalty as he went through a phase of graining and the tyres scrubbed in, but we did not expect it to be anything like as bad as it proved. We simply got it wrong.
Q: In that second stint, Giancarlo was flying though...
PS: Yes, absolutely. He had suffered from graining and understeer in the opening stint, but did not have any concerns over tyre wear -- and we left them on. We adjusted the handling balance and immediately, he was very comfortable in the car. He had to tread carefully when it came to overtaking Fernando given the potential for a mistake on a drying track, but after that he stretched his advantage over Michael again.
Q: Ultimately, though, Giancarlo lost the lead to Schumacher in turn 1 as he came out of his second stop. Did that cost the race?
PS: Not in our opinion. It was a tough call about when to come in for dry tyres, and it was a toss up as to whether you could gain from staying out on track -- or coming in and having temperature in the tyres when the other car did. The Michelins needed at least a lap to warm up, and there was no criticism of what happened in turn 1 when he went wide. Again it is a case of being fatalistic, because had Michael not overtaken at that point, he had enough tyre temperature to do it later round the same lap.
Q: In the final stint, Fernando was much faster...
PS: Fernando was really flying once he put dry tyres on. We turned Fisi's engine down, and he had a comfortable gap to Heidfeld so there was no need to push. He drove intelligently to look after the engine and give himself something extra for Suzuka next weekend. Giancarlo's result moved him up to third in the drivers' championship, and helped the team regain the lead in the constructors'. He did exactly what he needed to this weekend.
Q: It is often said that after a tough result, the back-to-back races give you a chance to respond immediately. That must be an opportunity you are looking forward to?
PS: Absolutely. The car will be fabulous around Suzuka. It was very quick at Silverstone, both in the race there and during testing two weeks ago. A car that is quick in Silverstone is quick in Suzuka. We are very much looking forward to the next race.
Q: What will be the keys to re-establishing a points advantage over Schumacher?
PS: It was a good win for Schumacher yesterday, and one that shows Ferrari are at the top of their game. But we showed enough to be confident that we have the pace to fight on equal terms. Now the team needs to demonstrate the resilience to do just that.
Fernando Alonso talks about Suzuka
Q: Fernando, it was a frustrating afternoon in Shanghai. What are your thoughts as you travel on to Japan?
Fernando Alonso: First of all, I think the people wanted a close championship this year -- and they've got it. The performance between both cars is very similar, so the last races will be dominated by the tyres. Michelin have done a great job in Suzuka for the past couple of years, and I have a good feeling. But we are confident at Renault, and they are confident at Ferrari. So let's see what happens.
Q: What about the circuit in Suzuka? One you enjoy?
FA: For sure, it is one of my favourites. For a driver, it is a very demanding track, very challenging physically and a tough race. It is one of those races that every driver wants to win -- and I haven't done it yet.
Q: The atmosphere is pretty special...
FA: Definitely, yes. The fans are always really excited about Formula 1 when we go there, and it is a fantastic race for Formula 1. The Japanese fans have so much enthusiasm that it is hard not to enjoy yourself.
Q: What does it demand from the car?
FA: Everything! You need a good chassis, good aero and a strong engine. That is what we have with the R26. Suzuka is one of the most selective circuits of the championship. A good car can be very good there -- but a bad one can be very bad. I think we have the package we need to be competitive.
Giancarlo Fisichella on Suzuka
Q: Giancarlo, Suzuka is always mentioned as a drivers' circuit. Is it one you enjoy too?
Giancarlo Fisichella: Definitely, it is one of the circuits I really appreciate. I have a big fan club over there which makes the atmosphere nice, but from a technical point of view, this is one of the hardest tracks physically and mentally. It is a fantastic challenge.
Q: Last year, you finished a dramatic race in second position...
GF: And I want to improve on that result this year, with a win.
Q: Will this be a strong circuit for the R26?
GF: Yes. The R26 has been quick everywhere, so we know that the overall package is good. The car felt very strong all weekend in China, and even if it is wet I can be comfortable with the car and confident in the conditions. I expect the car to feel very good on this track.
Q: What are your goals for the race?
GF: I had a strong podium in China, and that helped move me up to third place in the drivers' championship. For Japan, my aim is to keep that position -- and help the team extend the advantage in the constructors' championship.