Renault's executive director of engineering Pat Symonds looks ahead to the German Grand Prix Q: Pat, after placing the cars eighth and fourteenth on Friday, Renault annexed the third row in qualifying today: were you pleased with the turn-around...
Renault's executive director of engineering Pat Symonds looks ahead to the German Grand Prix
Q: Pat, after placing the cars eighth and fourteenth on Friday, Renault annexed the third row in qualifying today: were you pleased with the turn-around in fortunes?
Pat Symonds: I am not sure it was too much of a turn-around, although looking at the Friday times one might have assumed that things were not too good. However, this is a circuit that demands an extremely disciplined approach, and we used Friday to get our homework done rather than playing to the crowds.
Q: What makes this 'disciplined approach' so important?
PS: Hockenheim is a 'rear-limited' circuit, and this means that the wear of the rear tyres can be very marginal here. Two years ago we ran into severe tyre trouble, as did other teams, and even in 2003, we did not feel we managed the tyres as well as we should have done. With that in mind, much of our Jerez test last week was spent concentrating on ways of limiting rear tyre blistering, and in order to prove our experiments were valid we had to be disciplined on Friday, using high fuel loads and making long runs.
Q: How pleased were you with the qualifying performance?
PS: We worked on Saturday morning to refine the car balance after our preparations on Friday, and both drivers were quite pleased by the time we reached qualifying. In the session itself, both Fernando and Jarno completed laps that were as error-free as is possible under the single lap format, and to have both drivers on the third row fits with our strategy for the race.
Q: Looking at strategy, how do you expect the race to unfold?
PS: Last year we saw a mix of two and three stop strategies but the times would suggest that, with the possible exception of Barrichello, all the front runners are going for a reasonably early first stop, which would be indicative of a three stop strategy. Further back, a few more cars look like they will make two stops, and they could play a significant part in the race. Teams going for early first stops will need to build a significant gap between themselves and the leading two stop car, which is likely to be Barrichello, before pitting, in order to avoid having their strategies compromised.
Q: When can we expect to see cars stopping?
PS: I think the first of the three stoppers will be in the pits from lap 8 onwards, and then return in the late 20s and late 40s. As for those who will be two stopping, I think their first visit will come around lap 16, and the second around lap 40. In terms of hedging bets, the crossover point that would make a two stopper feasible will likely come around lap 13 or 14.
Q: Finally, we saw teams scrubbing tyres today: why was that?
PS: As I said earlier, this race is very much about managing the rear tyres, and a lot of teams have scrubbed tyres today. There are two reasons for doing this: firstly, the heat cycle toughens the rubber slightly, but more importantly, the temperature a tyre operates at is, amongst other things, a function of tread depth. Thus, by wearing the rear tyres down slightly, the core temperature is reduced during running, which reduces the likelihood of any blistering.
Q: And could this have a significant impact on the race?
PS: It may have a bearing on the final result, because teams may choose to use their tyres in different ways. The trends from practice suggest teams will have both scrubbed and new tyres at their disposal. Using a new set will, of course, ensure that on their first 'golden' lap, they bring a significant advantage in lap time, but this advantage must be balanced against an increased risk of blistering, and a potentially catastrophic loss in performance. Thus, the teams will have to judge if, and when, it is appropriate to take this risk of using a new set of tyres to gain strategic advantage through track position