After qualifying, Renault executive director of engineering Pat Symonds discussed an anti-climactic day, and looked ahead to the race. Q: Pat, you must be disappointed that qualifying went as it did? PS: Of course we are, yes. We made a good...
After qualifying, Renault executive director of engineering Pat Symonds discussed an anti-climactic day, and looked ahead to the race.
Q: Pat, you must be disappointed that qualifying went as it did?
PS: Of course we are, yes. We made a good improvement with the balance of the cars this morning, and looked competitive during those sessions. Our strategy was to run relatively light in first qualifying to take advantage of the change in circuit temperatures we had noted on previous days: the current format of qualifying extends beyond four o'clock, and we had noticed the circuit getting cooler at this time. With both cars fastest after the first session, the plan seemed to be on track.
Q: However, the second session ran less smoothly...
PS: Exactly. Jarno was the penultimate runner, and most of his lap was extremely competitive: after analysis this evening, it became clear he would have been quick enough for a slot on the first two rows. However, three mistakes compromised his chances, at Turn 2, Turn 14 and Turn 15; in the final reckoning, we think he lost as much as 0.9s in total. As for Fernando, he of course spun and failed to set a time, but once again, he was pushing very hard and looked set for the front row. If those mistakes hadn't happened, things would look very different tonight, but as I have said before, motor racing is not about 'ifs'.
Q: Will the team change Fernando's engine?
PS: As a result of Fernando's low grid position, we have decided to change his engine, for the sake of caution. It will be replaced with the engine from the spare car. This will bring us no performance advantage, but it is of course better to use a low mileage engine: our reliability thus far has been impeccable, and this should further improve the likelihood of our finishing the race. Of course, doing this also opens up other strategic options, which are currently under consideration.
Q: And tomorrow, what kind of race do you expect to see?
PS: This is a circuit which is particularly hard on the tyres, especially the rears: the tyre usage is among the highest of the year, and the hot conditions increase the stress. This factor may well force some of the cars that are harder on their tyres onto a three-stop strategy, while others are on two; I think that even among the front-runners, we can expect to see some variations in strategy.
Q: Finally, how soon do you think the different tactics will become apparent?
PS: One of the variables introduced by the rules which oblige us to qualify with the fuel we will use for our first stint, is that the length of that stint actually has as much to do with qualifying well as your race strategy: good grid position is paramount at every circuit we visit. Tomorrow, I do not necessarily think that the timing of the first stop will make it clear exactly who is doing what in terms of strategy...