Renault's Executive Director of Engineering Pat Symonds assesses the weekend so far, and explains what the challenges will be in tomorrow's race. Q: With your drivers starting fourth and ninth, how pleased are you with the team's qualifying ...
Renault's Executive Director of Engineering Pat Symonds assesses the weekend so far, and explains what the challenges will be in tomorrow's race.
Q: With your drivers starting fourth and ninth, how pleased are you with the team's qualifying performance?
PS: We put in a reasonable performance today in qualifying and with Fernando's car, we certainly achieved our target of getting as close to the front of the field as possible. Jarno has not felt as comfortable with his car this weekend, but it is still worth remembering that although he starts four places behind his team-mate, this only actually represents four tenths of a second difference between the two cars.
Overall, though, the weekend has gone very smoothly, without any nasty surprises. After three days of testing last week, we really only had to confirm our conclusions on Friday and Saturday, and make minor changes to the car to adapt its handling to the prevailing conditions.
Q: The Renaults have topped the speed traps consistently: is that a surprise?
PS: It has certainly been one of the most pleasing aspects of the weekend to see our drivers regularly atop the tables of straightline speeds. I believe this is indicative of the progress we have made in every area since last year. Of course, the speeds we are reaching reflect the excellent improvements that have been made on the engine side, but they are also testament to the quality of the work in our wind tunnel. To achieve such good top speeds while running enough downforce to be competitive requires an extremely efficient aerodynamic package. We clearly have that.
Q: How do you begin to formulate race strategy at Monza?
PS: Monza is a strange place to plan for in terms of strategy. Although top speed is regarded as being of the utmost importance, and indeed is important to ensure one can protect oneself against being overtaken on the straights, in reality this is a circuit where passing is very rare.
The main opportunity comes on the pit straight, but because the preceding corner (Parabolica) is so fast, you actually need an unusually high speed differentia - over 10kph superior to a competitor - in order to overtake in normal circumstances. As a result, when planning strategy we tend to bracket this circuit with Hungary and Monaco as one where qualifying position is even more important than usual. This may surprise some people, but history has shown it to be the case.
Q: What conclusions have you reached about how the race will unfold tomorrow?
PS: As has been the trend this year, will assume that tomorrow will see the first stops come earlier than in 2003, and I expect that initial window to open around lap 9. Subsequently, the window for the second stop - which should be the final one for all competitors - could fall anywhere between laps 30 and 40. Monza is a strange race for planning strategy though and the immediate circumstances, such as traffic or small mistakes in pit-stops, can have a large effect on the outcome.
The key to racing successfully tomorrow will be in timing and executing the pit-stops so that we place our drivers in clean air as they emerge from the pits. There is very little margin for error in this, and even the slightest mistake could prove very costly in terms of finishing position.