Comments from the Renault drivers and technical team ahead of the San Marino Grand Prix Jarno Trulli: Q: What are the keys for car set-up at Imola? JT: The objective remains the same as anywhere else: setting the car up so that it is ...
Comments from the Renault drivers and technical team ahead of the San Marino Grand Prix
Q: What are the keys for car set-up at Imola?
JT: The objective remains the same as anywhere else: setting the car up so that it is comfortable for the driver, and as quick as possible. Getting the car to ride well over the kerbs is an important factor at this circuit, and you need to take account of them when getting the car set up, but that is just one factor: you also need good braking stability, and obviously a set-up that enables a good change of direction in the chicanes.
The set-up compromise changes according to the circuit conditions, sometimes you will focus on extracting maximum speed from the car, sometimes maximum driveability, but it is always a big technical challenge - maybe not the most exciting circuit for the drivers but technically, it is always tricky to get things exactly right.
Q: You have tested the new engine step since Bahrain: what are your impressions?
JT: The new engine specification is a good development in all areas: there is more power, better torque and overall it is more driveable. We also have some chassis developments - it is harder for a driver to feel those small steps in aero performance, but the stopwatch has confirmed the wind tunnel readings in testing. It is definitely a step forwards.
Q: The team comes into this race second in the championship: can you look to build on that position?
JT: For sure. When we ran at Imola in February the car felt quite good, but we were not running against any of our major rivals at that test. In Imola, we will certainly be looking to maintain the level of competitiveness that we have shown at the first three races, but to do so, we will need a trouble-free weekend. If we can achieve that, then we will be fighting for the podium again.
Q: Fernando, qualifying at the last two races hasn't gone to plan for you: does that change anything in your approach?
FA: Not at all, no: you have to push to the limit on every lap, especially at a circuit like Imola where overtaking is difficult and grid position crucial. We know what happened in the last two races, but that is over now and all I am concentrating on is the race ahead. When I go out for qualifying this weekend, I will be thinking about how to drive my lap, where I can make up time, how to extract maximum performance from the car; I won't be focusing on what happened three weeks beforehand.
Q: From the driver's perspective, what challenges does Imola present?
FA: Mainly, you need to be very aggressive to get a good lap time: you have to really attack the kerbs with the car in order to be quick. My style is usually quite aggressive, so that suits me well and I have always enjoyed racing at Imola, since I was in F3000. The race itself rewards consistency and you need to be able to get the most out of your car in a few short bursts around the pit-stops to make up positions.
Q: What are your expectations for the race?
FA: I think we can be pretty optimistic going to Imola. We haven't performed to our full potential so far, and to be able to say that, when the team is second in the championship, is very positive. I had a strong race at Imola last year, and our performance was encouraging when we tested there in February. In the last race in Bahrain, I set the second-fastest lap, so that gives an idea of how strong the package is in race conditions. If the weekend runs smoothly, then we can expect to fight strongly for the podium.
Bob Bell (Chassis Technical Director):
Q: The start of the European season will see the team introduce the season's first major developments: what are they?
BB: We expect our Imola package to represent a sizeable performance step for the R24. Obviously, the B-spec engine will be a major part of that, but we also have the first major aerodynamic updates of the year, to the rear wing, bargeboards and diffuser in particular. Both drivers felt the developments represented a good step forward in testing, and we expect to see a combined improvement of around four tenths of a second per lap at this circuit.
Q: What impact will the developments have at the front of the field?
BB: We certainly hope that it will help us begin to close the gap to Ferrari, although of course, nobody is standing still and we cannot predict what steps forward our competitors might have made. But the new package will bring a consistent performance boost throughout the weekend. We continue to believe that if we qualify in a sensible position on the grid, around the second or third row, podium positions are definitely within our reach.
Q: How will Imola suit the R24 package?
BB: We had a very encouraging test there in February, and certainly believe the R24 will be more competitive there than last year's car proved to be. Superficially, the circuit does not suit the known strengths of our car as it lacks any true high-speed corners, and has not traditionally been one of our favourite venues, but the drivers were satisfied with performance over the kerbs at the pre-season test. It will be a tough battle this weekend, but I do believe that if one of the front running teams can prevent Ferrari from dictating the pace of the race from the start, then things could take on a very different complexion.
Rob White (Engine Technical Director):
Q: Imola sees the introduction of the B-spec engine: how big a step does this represent?
RW: The RS24 was conceived as a solid platform for future developments. After minor revisions to the RS24A at the first races, the RS24B represents a major evolution. Both the cylinder heads and inlet system are new, and there are related changes to the bottom part of the engine. Our objective for the new specification was increased performance while maintaining the reliability of the A spec. We have improved peak power, the shape of the power curve and driveability.
Q: How satisfied have you been so far with the performance in testing?
RW: Reliability obviously remains our main priority and in that respect, the recent tests at Barcelona and Le Castellet have been particularly useful for ironing out minor gremlins with the new engine. The performance of the unit has been very pleasing, and it is worth several tenths per lap relative to the previous specification, confirming our measurements on the dyno. Everybody at Viry has worked extremely hard to achieve these gains, and it is rewarding to see the engine has responded so favourably.
Q: Looking to the race itself: how severe a challenge does Imola pose?
RW: In terms of the engine's duty cycle, Imola is not the most severe circuit of the season, but every circuit is tough, and the kerbs do complicate the operating environment for the engine. The introduction of the new engine is a particular challenge, and we have implemented extremely rigorous approval processes for the entire engine in its new configuration. On track, Imola rewards engine power and driveability, so the engine engineers will work hard with the drivers to optimise operating conditions and the calibration of control systems for the circuit.