Comments from the Renault team ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix Giancarlo Fisichella: "Getting the maximum out of the car" Q: Although the team's overall performance so far has been disappointing, you have driven three aggressive races. How...
Comments from the Renault team ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix
Giancarlo Fisichella: "Getting the maximum out of the car"
Q: Although the team's overall performance so far has been disappointing, you have driven three aggressive races. How will you be approaching the Spanish Grand Prix?
GF: At the first three races, we managed to get the maximum out of our package, and that was something positive. But we know that the car is not competitive enough yet. The team has been working very hard over the last few weeks to understand the problems, and how to solve them. Personally, my focus is on the race, and on taking every opportunity to make sure we continue performing to the car's maximum.
Q: You said that the team has been working hard since Bahrain. Do you think the R27 will have improved relative to the competition?
GF: We have worked well, and made progress. The test last week gave us the opportunity to find a good set-up with the car, and to work with some new parts. We are going in the right direction, and everybody in the team is very motivated, but our competitors are clearly working hard too and moving forward. The competition is very close at the moment, and we will need to be ready to battle again this weekend.
Q: You know the Circuit de Catalunya by heart after testing here so often over the years. Is it a circuit you enjoy?
GF: It's true that we test here a lot because it's very demanding for the tyres, and also the aerodynamics. It is a very complete circuit, and tough for the cars. From a driving point of view it's a good challenge too, and I always enjoy racing in Barcelona. I finished on the podium in 2006, and set fastest lap in 2005, so it suits me well. The races are always close, and you have to keep the car and tyres in good condition all the way through to get a good result. I'm certainly looking forward to the race.
Heikki Kovalainen: "We will be fighting hard in Barcelona"
Q: Heikki, the European season begins with round 4 of the championship in Barcelona. How have you prepared for this race?
HK: The main preparation came during testing at this circuit last week. We ran through our usual pre-race programme, working on car set-up, while I focused on my driving, finding the right lines and good braking points. It was our normal series of preparations before we race at a circuit, and of course, we also carried on collecting data to continue the analysis of the problems we have experienced since the start of the year.
Q: What factors do you need to take into account to set-up the car for this circuit?
HK: Barcelona is a very demanding circuit for the car. You need a good chassis balance in the long corners, good aerodynamic grip, and also good mechanical performance -- particularly on the exit of the slow corners. The track is very hard on the tyres, and you have to pay attention to the wear levels, particularly on the long runs. With that in mind, you also need to tune control systems such as the traction control properly, in order to be quick over a full race distance.
Q: The circuit was modified during the winter. Does the new layout change much for the drivers?
HK: A little bit, but it's not too significant. The main thing is that you need to pay even more attention now, because the new part of the circuit is more slippery than the rest of the circuit and that can catch you out. Overall, though, it's not a big change: it means the circuit has more corners than before and it's quite fun to drive!
Q: How do you expect the car to perform this weekend in Spain?
HK: When we tested at the track last week, the car seemed to be working quite well. The new parts have helped us make a small step, so hopefully it will be enough compared to our immediate competitors. Clearly, it is going to be another hard-fought weekend at such a demanding track, but we will be pushing to the maximum -- and trying to get everything out of the car during qualifying and the race.
Pat Symonds: "The team has been exemplary so far in 2007"
Q: Formula 1 has enjoyed a four-week break between the Bahraini and Spanish Grands Prix. What has been the agenda for the ING Renault F1 Team?
PS: Leaving Bahrain we knew that the "break" to the next race would be one in name only -- and that's exactly how it has proved. There has been a huge amount of research and analysis conducted, as we work on finding the solutions to our current problems. In parallel with that, we have been pushing forward with our usual performance development, testing new parts for the coming races.
Q: What areas has you work focused on as you look to resolve the current performance problems?
PS: Of prime importance has been the ability to run on track, with additional instrumentation that cannot be used during the race weekends. We have collected gigabytes of data and conducted detailed analysis of them. As we have always said, this initial phase is very much a process of elimination: our approach has been to look at every possible cause, then discard them as our work advances in order to pin-point the areas for more detailed investigation. It is painstaking work, but we have made good steps forward since we raced in Bahrain.
Q: Will that progress be reflected in a significant improvement in on-track performance in Barcelona?
PS: In previous weeks, we have said that the road back to our normal level of competitiveness will be a long one, and that is still true. We have made good progress in our analysis and understanding of the R27, but we are not expecting a leap forward in our competitiveness relative to our rivals this weekend. It will be a tough race weekend where we have to fight for every point.
Q: After a difficult start to the team's 2007 campaign, what positives can you take from the season so far?
PS: The positives are not as easy to find as in previous years -- but that doesn't mean they are not there. The team at the circuit has worked tirelessly during winter testing and the first three flyaway races, including a test session in Malaysia. Throughout, they demonstrated why we have just won two championships: race reliability has been exemplary, and details like the pit-stops were spot on.
The work back at the factory is less public, but it has been no less intense. Analysis after analysis has been conducted, solutions tested and implemented. The work has been above and beyond the call of duty for all of our staff and the response to our current situation has been exemplary.
Q: Let's talk about the drivers, and Giancarlo first of all. How has he been driving during these opening races?
PS: Giancarlo has been very impressive so far this season. A lot of our esteem for him is rooted in the way he handled our 2001 season, when he put huge effort into making the most of a difficult car. We are seeing something similar this year. The R27 is a hard car to drive consistently, but in spite of this, he has driven very consistent races. He has taken the car to the limit of what it is currently capable of, and contributed in every way he can to helping resolve our current problems. We couldn't ask any more of him.
Q: Heikki endured a difficult debut race, but performances have improved since then. What is your assessment of the beginning of his F1 career?
PS: With a rookie driver, the one thing you need to give him so he can perform is a car that he can trust. It needs to be consistent, and allow recovery from the inevitable mistakes a rookie makes. At the moment, Heikki doesn't have that kind of car, and it was all too obvious in Melbourne. Since then, though, he has applied his intelligence, learned to drive the R27 within its limits and, like Giancarlo, he has worked tirelessly to help the engineers understand the problems. He has shown he is a team player, and that he can play his role as a motivator too.
Q: How will the R27 suit Barcelona this coming weekend?
PS: Like our rivals, we have completed a lot of miles on this circuit, and we know that it is a tough test of an F1 car. Although the nature of the track has changed slightly with the new chicane at turns 12/13/14, we can still expect very close competition. Last year, P5 to P9 in qualifying were separated by just 0.13s, and if anything, the times in the midfield group are even closer this year than last. That means getting into third qualifying will remain a tough challenge, just as it has been at every race so far. But we will do our best to rise to it.
Q: Will the car feature new developments?
PS: Yes. It is important to keep pushing our development programmes in addition to our problem-solving, and that is exactly what we are doing. We have aerodynamic and mechanical updates to the car in Barcelona, and of course, we have been working hard to ensure we maintain our record of reliable race finishes.
Q: In the current circumstances, have you been tempted to look back at the past two years, when the team arrived in Barcelona leading the championship?
PS: Motor racing is all about looking forward, not being nostalgic about the past. We are certainly in a tougher situation than in the last two years, and the reward for our hard work is less tangible. It takes character to find real reward in achieving the maximum with the equipment available to you, and to work methodically to resolve problems. Real character is something that this Renault team has in abundance, and it's what makes me optimistic that it will be a case of when, not if, we bounce back.
Spanish GP Tech File
Barcelona is a circuit that every F1 team knows well from thousands of kilometres of testing during the winter and throughout the season. The circuit is known as a definitive aero circuit, with long, high- and medium-speed corners that really put the cars to the test. The long corners mean the tyres have a tough time and for 2007, the teams will have to adapt to the new, slow chicane at turns 13 and 14. This will mean cars can now follow each other more closely through the final corner, taken under hard acceleration, meaning overtaking -- previously considered almost impossible -- may now be a possibility at the Circuit de Catalunya.
Aerodynamics: Aerodynamic efficiency is always a key factor at this circuit. The new chicane replaces a high-speed corner, meaning the circuit's aerodynamic demands are a little less severe than in previous years. However, the Circuit de Catalunya is still a formidable test of a car's aero performance, and teams are still likely to run with high downforce in order to maintain competitiveness over the whole lap. However, with overtaking now a possibility on the main straight and into turn 1, optimum downforce levels may need to be revised in order to race well depending on the straightline speeds achieved by competitors.
Suspension: When we look at suspension settings, we have to find the best compromise to give the drivers a well-balanced, responsive car. This means we will use relatively stiffer settings at the front of the car to get a good change of direction, while the rear will be slightly softer in order to get the best possible traction out of the slow corners. The exit from the chicane at the penultimate corner will be critical, as it will condition speed all the way down the main straight -- and a poor exit may leave cars vulnerable to being overtaken into turn 1, as competitors will now be able to follow more closely through turn 15, which is taken at lower speeds than in previous years. Ride height is also an important parameter to consider -- generally we can run the car quite low thanks to the smooth track surface, to achieve optimum aerodynamic performance.
Tyres: The Circuit de Catalunya is well known for being a tough circuit on tyres, particularly because it includes so many long, high-speed corners. These put the tyres under high loadings, and particularly the front left which has to work very hard in all the quick right-hand corners. We will therefore evaluate wear and degradation carefully over the long runs, in order to select the best tyre with which to run the majority of the race. The Medium and Hard compounds from Bridgestone's 2007 range will be available at this race, and these tyres were evaluated extensively during the pre-race test session.
Performance: Barcelona is not generally thought of as an engine circuit as the engine is not under particular stress at any point. There are relatively few hard accelerations from low revs, even taking into account the new chicane, and the main priority is for the power delivery to be progressive and driveable in order to maintain the best handling balance, and limit tyre wear. The chicane has also reduced the time spent at full throttle, which now equates to around 64% of the lap.
Gearbox: Given the length of the main straight at this circuit, the choice of gear ratios can prove difficult. The wind direction is quite changeable, and usually provides either a headwind or a tailwind on the main straight. This means that the choice of final drive is important, because while over-revving is no longer a possibility under the 2007 regulations, spending too much time on the rev limiter owing to a poorly calibrated final drive will certainly cost overall lap-time. Selecting the correct final drive is an important part of the work during the practice sessions.