Comments from the Renault team ahead of the San Marino Grand Prix Fernando Alonso Q: Fernando, it's been a great start to the season... Fernando Alonso: Yes, a fantastic start. The R26 performed really well, we had no mechanical problems,...
Comments from the Renault team ahead of the San Marino Grand Prix
Q: Fernando, it's been a great start to the season...
Fernando Alonso: Yes, a fantastic start. The R26 performed really well, we had no mechanical problems, and it is always important to score a lot of points at the start of the year. We know Renault is the team to beat at the moment, the reference. I am really happy with our position, and very confident for the coming races.
Q: So where has the advantage come from?
FA: The package altogether is competitive. There are no particular problems with the car, you can feel everything works well together. The driveability of car will probably be the strongest point of the season, and fingers crossed we can finish all the races with no reliability problems.
Q: You said in March that there were four teams fighting at the top -- is that still the case?
Q: What will be the key factor in the coming races?
FA: The development of the cars. We are in a strong situation, and we know that the team that develops most, with a strong finish to the year, will probably be champions. The drivers have a role too, because we need to tell the engineers where the car has to improve, which is what we are doing at the moment.
Q: Tell us about Imola -- it was a famous win for you in 2005...
FA: It became maybe the most talked-about win of my career so far I think. For me, it was a win like the others -- a special achievement. But when you are fighting with Michael, then I think the media talk about it in a special way, and make it something bigger. I enjoyed the final laps of the race last year, and it was an important race to win. But if I can do it again this year, on my own, a long way in front, then that's even better!
Q: It's a tough track though...
FA: It is very difficult for the drivers, with the chicanes and the kerbs, and the car bumping over them. That makes it hard for us to take the same line twice in any corner, and every lap you have to feel things a little bit differently. It is tough physically, but also for the car because there is a lot of stress over the kerbs. This is a hard race to finish.
Q: You have said Renault is the team to beat. Who will be the competition?
FA: Ferrari and McLaren will be our main opponents. Ferrari dropped down in the last two races, but I think they will be back. Their tyres work well at this circuit, and it is their home Grand Prix, so I expect them to be extremely competitive.
Q: You arrive in Imola second in the championship. You must be feeling optimistic?
Giancarlo Fisichella: For sure! It is nice to be racing back in Europe, and to be in my home country as well, with all the Italian fans. Physically, I am fitter than ever before, and feeling really good at the moment. And compared to last year, I am in a much better position in the championship: more points, and closer to the lead. So yes, things are looking very good right now.
Q: Looking back at the last race, what is your assessment?
GF: It was a difficult afternoon for all the drivers I think -- and an exciting race for the spectators! I had some problems during the race, but managed to overcome them and score some good points. I have tested two times since then, we have worked through some answers to those problems, and the new B spec engine feels like a good step in performance. We are moving forward all the time.
Q: What challenges will the circuit bring?
GF: You need to be good in every area to be quick there, you must have a complete car. The drivers need to have confidence in the handling and the reactions, the right tyres and a strong engine. We have a mix of slow and fast corners, plus of course you need to attack the kerbs very aggressively -- and the car needs to cope with that. The R25 was quick there last year, so there's no reason to think the R26 will not be this year.
Q: What are your hopes for the race?
GF: I am going to every race this year looking to score maximum points. I think Renault has an edge at the moment, so we have to aim for the victory at every Grand Prix. I have a fresh engine, and a bit more power from the new specification, so that gives me a fantastic chance for this race. We are not underestimating our rivals, because we know that the level of competition is very close the front. But I believe we have the package to win in Imola.
Denis Chevrier, Head of Trackside Engine Operations
Q: Denis, we are three races into the V8 era. What have been the lessons so far?
Denis Chevrier: I think that reliable engines were something we had taken for granted until the end of last year. With the move to the V8, we have seen many enforced engine changes, and failures in the race -- including with Giancarlo in Bahrain. Few teams have avoided this, and that reflects how much effort is involved in developing the V8. Certainly, the engine's strategic importance has been greater during these opening races than ever before.
Q: Why have there been so many problems?
DC: The V8s are still young engines, and I don't think any team was 100% ready for the start of the season. At Renault, we had done a lot of mileage in the winter, encountered problems that we had worked hard to resolve, and started the season in a stronger position than some of our rivals. But every manufacturer is still working through the challenges encountered early in the life of a new engine, and nobody can yet say they have solved them all.
Q: In terms of performance, how does the Renault engine compare to the competition?
DC: The conclusions we can draw show that engine performance is very similar from team to team. There are some small differences in peak revs, for example, but there are no bad V8 engines out there. Now, the challenge is to add performance to what is still a young engine, without compromising reliability. It is not an easy job.
Q: What are the challenges with developing the V8 engines?
DC: Simply, it is harder to find performance than it was with the V10, especially this early in the engine's development. But on the other hand, the competition is closer-matched than last year, which makes development even more important. Several teams are at an equal level on ultimate performance, and the first one to gain the upper hand could take a decisive advantage. So nobody can afford to relax, and we are putting the same resources and effort into our development as in previous years.
Q: What has been the secret to Renault's success in the opening races?
DC: I think we have seen that our project was a little better prepared than some of our competitors, and we are very proud to have won the final race of the V10 era, and the opening races of the V8 period. It has been interesting to compare our performance, because we have learned that pure performance on a single lap is not necessarily our strongest suit at the moment. In qualifying conditions, we are very close to a number of teams. But we seem to have an advantage over a full race distance.
Q: Where does the advantage come from?
DC: We have designed the car and engine to win races -- not just to get pole positions. From an engine point of view, that may mean we are able to run higher revs for longer, but overall, we have a car that gives the drivers the confidence to attack from the first lap to the last. We know that it is hard to gain a significant advantage in single lap performance under these regulations. On the other hand, the ability to run the car in a competitive configuration from the first laps to the last can be decisive.
Q: The RS26B arrives in Imola. What are the differences?
DC: It is a normal evolutionary step early in the development cycle: we have looked to gain performance by increasing the peak revs, and improving areas like cylinder filling and combustion. In qualifying trim, we expect a gain of several tenths of a second and the final dyno tests before the Grand Prix will allow us to determine exactly how much additional performance is available during the race.
Q: Will both drivers use the engine at Imola?
DC: No, it will only be available for Giancarlo to use. His retirement in Bahrain put him 'out of cycle' relative to our development schedule, and we had to take a decision on whether to accelerate the introduction of the B spec, which had been planned for race 5. We decided it was important to do so, and have pushed our processes to make it happen. However, this early debut may lead us to use to conserve some of the engine's potential performance during the race in order to not compromise reliability. Fernando will receive the B spec engine at the Nurburgring, as per our original schedule.