The Renault F1 Team's Executive Director of Engineering, Pat Symonds, takes his customary look at today's events, and what tomorrow may hold. Q: Pat, with Jarno fourth and Fernando eighth, what is your assessment of the team's performance ...
The Renault F1 Team's Executive Director of Engineering, Pat Symonds, takes his customary look at today's events, and what tomorrow may hold.
Q: Pat, with Jarno fourth and Fernando eighth, what is your assessment of the team's performance today?
"Both drivers performed impressively today. At the start of the weekend, our car was not well balanced and quite difficult to drive, with some instability at the rear end which was slowing down the drivers. On Friday night and during Saturday morning, the whole team worked very well to improve the car balance, and the result is now much better than what we started with on Friday. Scoring our most successful qualifying result of the year so far is testament to that."
Q: Many drivers today remarked upon the windy conditions during qualifying - what effect does this have?
"Quite literally, it blows the cars around on the circuit - indeed, Fernando found that the car was actually changing direction on the straight because the gusts were so strong. It is common for the wind to pick up around lunchtime in Barcelona, and we are well used to it from testing, but it is usually fairly constant in direction. Today, the gusts meant the cars' handling was changing from corner to corner, and that makes it hard for the drivers to have complete confidence in the car's reactions. Of course, it also means that the conditions are not the same for every driver, which makes it difficult to assess their true levels of performance."
Q: Looking ahead to the race, what can we expect to see play out in terms of strategies?
"Last year, even with the lower pit-lane speed limit, most of the runners employed a three-stop strategy, and our analysis certainly indicated that those who didn't opt to probably made a mistake. This year, the time lost when stopping is less owing to the increased pit-lane speed limit, and I would expect to see all the significant runners making three stops. As has become the norm, the first stops will come long before quarter distance, and I would expect the majority of them to be centred around lap nine."
Q: And does Barcelona offer much opportunity for creativity in terms of strategy?
"To be quite honest, no - there is very little room for manoeuvre. Indeed, it is probably fair to say that while you can never get strategy here exactly right, you can certainly get it very wrong: too much experimentation can cost you dear in terms of where you finish."
Q: Finally, can we expect a strong performance from the Renaults during the race itself?
"I believe so, yes. Jarno is perfectly placed to fight for a podium finish, while Fernando is certainly capable of the kind of aggressive drive we have seen from him so far this season. During our longer runs on Friday, our tyre degradation - which is always very high at this circuit - compared favourably to that of our closest competitors. We hope to extend our excellent reliability record and get both cars home with good points finishes."