Renault Launch: Q&A with Bob Bell

Following the departure of Flavio Briatore after the “Spy-gate” scandal Renault turned to Bob Bell to fill the vacant position of Team Principal for the remainder of the 2009. Now the Northern Irishman moves to the position as Managing Director within the Enstone-based team. Here Bell looks ahead to 2010 and a new challenge for Renault.

Interview conducted and provided by the Renault Press Office:

Q. Bob, as the team looks forward to a fresh challenge, can you tell us about your new role in the organisation?
I m taking on a Managing Director role where I will focus on the day-to-day management of the Enstone operation. Indeed, we look forward to a great new challenge for this year and beyond, and I m confident that the way the team has been structured will give us every opportunity to convert this into success.

Q. What areas has the team focussed on to improve competitiveness?
The issues we had with the R29 were fundamentally aerodynamic as we lacked overall down force compared with our competitors. To address this we ve just completed an upgrade to the wind tunnel and we re continuing to make good progress with our CFD tools. We re well aware that we need to make up the deficit that we had to our competitors at the end of last year, but so far we ve been hitting, and often exceeding, our targets in the wind tunnel. I m optimistic therefore that the R30 can be quick out of the box so that we won t have to spend another year playing catch up.

Q. What more can you tell us about the changes to the wind tunnel?
The old rolling road was well overdue an upgrade and so we chose to replace it with a metal belt road, which brings us in line with what most other teams are already operating. This means we can now start running 60% scale models instead of half scale models, as well as running at higher speeds of up to 50 metres per second. The new belt will be much more reliable and will give us more accurate results so that we maximise the time in the tunnel. Although we had to shut down the wind tunnel for the upgrade, we managed to get the work done in four weeks instead of the scheduled six, which was a remarkable effort. We also ramped up our CFD resources to full capacity to minimise the impact of the downtime of the tunnel.

Q. What are your thoughts on Robert Kubica and what he brings to the team?
Having Robert brings a dynamism to the team as we begin a new era. He s a guy who is on the way up, is hungry for success, and that fresh impetus is a real positive that will help drive us forward. I remember when Fernando first came on the scene it was immediately clear just how good he was, and I feel the same way about Robert, especially considering what he has already achieved. He s not a world champion yet, but I ve no doubt that he has the potential to follow in Fernando s footsteps and become a champion, hopefully with Renault.

Q. Where do you see Renault in the pecking order as the season begins?
We definitely have a better feel for where our competitors are performance-wise compared with the start of 2009 when everyone was starting with a clean sheet of paper. So in that sense it s easier to set targets and we believe that we should be aiming to compete in the upper midfield when the season begins. We know we have the resources for a strong development capability during the year and the upgrades to the wind tunnel should help us find rapid gains. If all that comes together, we can be hopeful of ending the season challenging for podiums and ready to stage a championship challenge in 2011.