After a difficult start to the year Renault have finally managed to get on top of some of the handling issues that plagued their running at the opening tests of the year in Spain and Portugal.
And with a vastly more responsive and driveable R29 for the team’s chief breadwinner Fernando Alonso to get his teeth into, Renault Technical Director Bob Bell is in an optimistic mood ahead of the new season.
Bob, the team has completed another week of testing give us an update on how things went in Jerez?
The weather at the beginning of the week was disappointing, but the sun came out for the final couple of days and we were able to put a lot of miles on the car. This meant we could try out the new development parts that we hope to run at the first race in Melbourne, verify their performance and ensure their reliability. Overall it was a productive week for us.
Both the drivers seem happy with the car. What’s their feedback on its drivability?
The drivability of the car was something we were concerned about, especially as the new aerodynamic regulations for this year don’t lend themselves to particularly drivable cars. However, with the feedback from Fernando [Alonso] and Nelson [Piquet], we’ve managed to steer the aerodynamic development of the car to make sure we are delivering performance, but not at the expense of drivability and consistency.
The team evaluated some new components this week how did that go?
We had a new front wing and a new diffuser, which were the main items we were evaluating. The results are encouraging and they are both giving us the performance gains on the track that we expected, which gives us a strong basis to move forward with. It also gives us confidence that we can use our systems back at the factory to design new parts, put them on the car and have them behave as we want them to.
The team is still fine-tuning the moveable front wing how difficult is this to master and are you pleased with its progress?
It hasn’t been without its difficulties, but it certainly hasn’t been as demanding as developing our KERS system. Moveable aerodynamics is completely new territory for all the teams, but we’ve got on top of it mechanically and have got the system working reliably, which is the most important thing. It’s actually a very useful device for speeding up the development of the car as the driver can make wing adjustments on the circuit, rather than having to pull into the pits.
The team has made up for some of the mileage that was lost in earlier tests – do you feel any reliability concerns have been solved?
You never really know when unreliability will strike. You can have two reliable days and then on the third day technical problems can arise. Overall we’ve made progress verifying our reliability for the Australian Grand Prix at the end of the month, but we never take it for granted and always try to be proactive and spot the next thing that could potentially go wrong before it does.
It’s always tough to judge the pecking order from testing, but are you satisfied with the team’s relative performance so far?
We feel reasonably comfortable that we have the foundations to have a good season, challenging for podiums and wins, and ultimately that means hopefully challenging for championships. We have always said that has to be our objective; we’re not here to make up the numbers, we’re here to win. However, it is early days and we won’t know where we stand until we get to Melbourne when everybody is acting under the same conditions with full-spec cars.
With just two tests remaining before Melbourne, what will the main priorities be between now and the first race?
The main priorities are to make sure that we get the new development parts tested and proven in time for Melbourne, while still maintaining the general reliability of the car. It will be a demanding period for the team at the track and for the people at the factories supporting all that effort, but we’re all committed to achieving our goals so that we can arrive in Melbourne and deliver what is expected of us.