Renault: 2008 Spanish GP preview 

Written by David on April 21st, 2008 at 1:25 pmLast Update: April 21st, 2008 at 1:25 pm

Renault R28Q: Fernando, Bahrain was a difficult race for you and the team. Was it the result you had expected? Fernando Alonso: “The race was difficult, but we were prepared for that. Our qualifying performance had been a pleasant surprise, but we knew that our race pace would not allow us to achieve much better than tenth place, and so we did not manage to score any points for the first time this year. We are missing some speed and that is what we hope to improve with the latest updates that we have coming. I know that the team is doing its best to progress quickly, and I will continue to give my maximum this weekend.”

Q: You are preparing to race in your home Grand Prix. Is that a special feeling?
Fernando Alonso: “This is certainly a special feeling. I benefit here from amazing support and it is very motivating. Some people see this as added pressure for me, but it’s not. Instead it gives me the determination to do even better. I hope to be in a position to give the Spanish people a beautiful show. And with two races in Spain this year, I am very lucky.”

Q: The return to Europe always coincides with upgrades to the cars and new developments, and the team has worked hard to provide a stronger package. Have you felt the progress? Fernando Alonso: “After the first three races, it was clear that we were not at the level of the leading teams. We were missing some speed and the car was sometimes unstable in the quick corners and under braking. The team has made big efforts with improvements to the aerodynamics and with the level of mechanical grip. We had the chance to work through these on the track at Barcelona last week, and the first results proved encouraging. But it remains to be seen how much our competitors will have improved by as well.”

Q: What can you hope for from the Spanish Grand Prix?
Fernando Alonso: “I think that once again it will be a very competitive race. All the teams and drivers know the track very well, so it is difficult for the driver to make a difference at this level. I hope that our hard work will pay us back and that our car will allow us to catch up with the other teams, although it will certainly not be easy. Qualifying once again will be essential, and we will have to be well placed to try and score the maximum points.”

Q: Nelson, you are three races into your F1 career. How do you look back on the start of the year? Nelson Piquet jr.: “The beginning was obviously very tough, especially at the first race in Australia, because everything was new and there was so much to learn. But race-by-race things are getting easier. I have taken a lot from the first three races and gained so much experience in terms of how to approach a Grand Prix, and how to work with the team to optimise our performance. I think I just need a bit more luck in the coming races and then we will hopefully be able to start challenging for some points. I have a good relationship with Fernando and we work well together, and I’m keen to make the most of his experience.”

Q: Where do you feel you need to improve?
Nelson Piquet jr.: “Every race I learn something new – just little things about how to set up the car and how to get the most from the tyres. And a Formula One weekend goes by very quickly so you need to maximise each session in order to be ready for qualifying. In Australia we did not do this, but I felt that in Malaysia and Bahrain things were better. This is something I will continue working on throughout the season.”

Q: Can you tell us about the circuit here in Barcelona? Is it a track you enjoy?
Nelson Piquet jr.: “Barcelona is not one of my favourite circuits, but it is certainly one that I know very well as we spend so much time testing there throughout the year, and so there are unlikely to be any surprises during the Grand Prix. It’s not a particularly difficult or challenging circuit, but you need to have good aerodynamic performance because there are a lot of medium-speed corners. This makes it difficult to follow other cars closely and overtaking is not easy. It will therefore be important to do my best in qualifying so that I don’t get stuck in traffic and we can make the most of our strategy.”

Q: The team has an updated package for the Spanish Grand Prix. What difference will it make and what is your goal for this weekend? Nelson Piquet jr.: “I think that with the improvements that we have in Barcelona we should be able to take a step forward. We had some positive days here last week and there are lots of avenues that we are still exploring. But we have to remember that the upgrades to the car need to be understood, developed, and maximised – all this takes time and so we cannot expect instant results. But, if I was being optimistic, I think we can aim to get both cars into the top ten in qualifying and then aim to finish the race in the points.”

Q: Bob, it has been three weeks since the Bahrain Grand Prix. What has been the agenda for the team over that period? Bob Bell: “Our main focus was to prepare for the Barcelona test last week, which was very important for us as we have quite a major aerodynamic upgrade and some new mechanical components for the R28. The purpose of the test was to verify that they were all fit for purpose and then to pick the best parts for the Spanish Grand Prix because some of those upgrades are circuit dependent.”

Q: What areas have the team focussed on in the quest to improve performance? Bob Bell: “We now have quite a clear picture of where we are underperforming. One of those areas is our aerodynamic performance because at the moment we are deficient in aero- generated grip in the high-speed corners. That’s where we are making the biggest push because that area is probably contributing the most to our lack of performance. Equally, we are losing out in the low-speed corners where the performance of the car is dominated by mechanical grip, and so we have suspension upgrades that will start addressing those problems. We are also a bit down on engine performance and we can recognise a straight-line performance deficit compared with other teams. However, in the world of frozen engines there is not much we can do about that.”

Q: Will this progress be reflected by an improvement in on-track performance? Bob Bell: “We are reasonably confident that the things we are putting on the car will produce a clear and definable performance advantage. I think we will also see some more unquantifiable benefits with improvements to the driveability and feel of the car because if we give the drivers more confidence, particularly under braking, they can extract more performance from the car. So we can be reasonably confident that it will be a big step forward and that it will be multiple tenths of a second. We do have to be cautious, though, and remember that every team sees Barcelona as an opportunity to introduce a major upgrade – we just have to make sure that we take a bigger step than the other teams.”

Q: Let’s talk about the drivers. How is Fernando’s state of mind ahead of his home Grand Prix? Bob Bell: “Fernando remains very focussed and positive. I think he’s also suffering a degree of disappointment because he doesn’t have a car capable of fighting for the podium, although he recognises that the team is doing all it can to provide a better package. So I think he will approach Barcelona with mixed feelings because although he will enjoy massive support at his home race, this is certainly a race where he would like a car that is capable of fighting for the win. However, the one thing we know about Fernando is that he will fight tooth and nail until the chequered flag, whether he’s fighting for first place or fifteenth place – he never gives up. Nelson had a difficult debut, but has come on strongly.”

Q: How do you view his introduction to Formula One? Bob Bell: “It has been a difficult introduction for Nelson, in much the same way as it was for Heikki last year, and there is a lot of expectation on young drivers nowadays. Winter testing was difficult and we did have concerns as to whether Nelson would be fully ready for the season. But he was, and at the final winter test he showed his true performance which impressed us all. Melbourne was certainly a difficult debut, but in the last two races he has really shown his capabilities and I think he has done an excellent job for the team. We’ve been impressed and to some extent pleasantly surprised, and we expect him to get stronger and stronger throughout the season.”

Q: What can we expect from the team this weekend? Bob Bell: “During winter testing we did not look too bad in Barcelona and if this trend continues, combined with the upgrades we have to the car, then we should take a step forward. Barcelona is very much a circuit that separates the wheat from the chaff in terms of aerodynamic performance and we do recognise that we are deficient there in comparison to the front runners, but I still feel we can do a good job.”

source: ING Renault 

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