Renault: 2009 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix preview 

Written by Nick on October 27th, 2009 at 1:47 pmLast Update: October 27th, 2009 at 1:48 pm

Q. Alan, tell us about the team’s technical preparations for a new circuit… Alan Permane: “We usually begin our preparations about two months ahead of the race, which is when we receive a detailed map showing the layout and characteristics of the circuit. This gives us an idea of the set-up we will need in terms of the downforce levels and the demands on the brakes and the engine. We then feed the circuit map into our computers to create a virtual circuit where we can run simulations with a computer model of our car. This allows us to evaluate many different set-up options which can be easily changed to help us work out a good base set-up. Once we have arrived at the circuit and run the car in free practice, we will send the real circuit data back to the factory, which can be used to run more accurate simulations. The logged data from Friday practice can also be used on our chassis dynamics rig to explore the ride characteristics of the circuit and can reveal improvements to the damping or perhaps to the spring rates. Any suggestions from the factory for improving the set-up of the car usually come through by the end of Friday so that we can try them on Saturday morning ahead of qualifying.”

Q. What are your first impressions of the Abu Dhabi circuit? Alan Permane: “There are a couple of reasonably long straights, but it does look like it will be quite stop-start – a bit like the street circuit in Valencia. In terms of downforce, it will be on the higher side, although we won’t run maximum downforce settings because of the long straights where straight-line speed will be important. There are a lot of right-angled corners, but it’s difficult to predict the impact this will have on car set-up as it depends on the layout of the curbs. That’s one thing we will examine during our track walk. What we do know already is that the drivers will want a car that is biased towards traction as the circuit doesn’t have high-speed changes of direction, which would require a stiffer car set- up. So to aid good traction from the low-speed corners we will aim to give the drivers a softer rear end. In terms of braking, our simulations have shown it to be similar to Valencia and Melbourne so it’s by no means an easy circuit on the brakes, but it’s not as tough as Monza.

Q. Which parts of the track look challenging to you? Alan Permane: “I agree with Fernando that turns 11, 12 and 13 will be interesting and certainly worth a lot of lap- time. Drivers always enjoy the high-speed corners, but most of the gains can be found in these low-speed corners where you spend the most time. So, with this in mind, turns five, six and seven will also be a section of the lap where the car needs to work well so we can maximise the gains in laptime.”

Q. Fernando, sum up your feelings after a short Brazilian Grand Prix… Fernando Alonso: “It was such a disappointment as I think we could have scored some points in the race. I made a good start, but there were a lot of incidents on the first lap, which caught me out as I was hit by [Adrian] Sutil after he collided with [Jarno] Trulli. That was a real shame as I love racing at Interlagos and I was disappointed not to be part of an exciting race on a great circuit.”

Q. Are you looking forward to racing in Abu Dhabi for the first time? Fernando Alonso: “I always enjoy the challenge of a new circuit and the track in Abu Dhabi looks very impressive. It will be a new experience for everyone so it’s important that we maximise all the sessions and learn as much as we can quickly to try and find an advantage. I think the facility looks amazing and will be great for the people of Abu Dhabi. We went there a few years ago for the street demo and saw how much enthusiasm the fans have for Formula One.”

Q. As it’s your final race for Renault, will you be aiming to end the relationship on a high? Fernando Alonso: “Absolutely, I would love to finish the season and my Renault career with a great result. It will be an emotional race because I have enjoyed so many special memories with this team and I am leaving behind a lot of friends. Renault is one of the great teams in Formula One and I look forward to fighting with them on the track in the years ahead.”

Q. Fernando, what are your first impressions of the new circuit in Abu Dhabi? Fernando Alonso: “It looks like it will be quite a demanding circuit for the drivers as there are over twenty corners in the lap – and some of them look very challenging. However, when you are looking at a map it’s difficult to really understand a circuit and it’s only when you get there and walk the circuit that you start to feel what it is really like.”

Q. How do you normally prepare for a new circuit? Fernando Alonso: “We look at a lot of simulation data and I work very closely with the team to understand the demands of the track – much more than I would do for a track that I already know. We will probably spend five times longer preparing for a new venue and the circuit walk becomes very important for me and the engineers.”

Q. Which corners have caught your attention? Fernando Alonso: “I think turns 11, 12 and 13 look interesting. I remember when we first saw the map of the circuit it reminded me of the difficult turn ten chicane in Singapore. It looks like turns eight and 11 will be the two big braking zones and for sure there will be opportunities to overtake there.”

Q. How long does it take you to learn a new track? Fernando Alonso: “It doesn’t take long because we jump in the car knowing the circuit perfectly in our mind as we have studied the map. After three or four laps you realise the lines and the braking points so I would say five laps is enough to know the track pretty well. But it’s true that every lap you feel more confident and you learn more about the track and how to get the most from it. The final laps of the race are usually your best laps as you know the track so well by then.”

Q. Romain, did you enjoy your first experience of Interlagos? Romain Grosjean: “I thought the track was amazing and very challenging, although with the changeable weather it was difficult to learn the limits of the circuit and find a good set-up. In the race I made a good start, but I had some problems warming up the tyres so I was missing grip in the early laps and lost a lot of places. The car felt better at the end of the race but because of the problems at the start it was too late to recover.”

Q. What are you expecting from the Yas Marina circuit? Romain Grosjean: “It will be a new adventure for everyone and I’m very curious to see what it’s like as there has been so much expectation for this track. The photos I’ve seen of the marina look amazing and I’m sure it will be a great way to end the season. The layout looks like fun: it will be quick as there are some long straights and hopefully some overtaking opportunities. I think it will also feel like a street circuit with the big buildings and the yachts in the harbour.”

Q. What’s your target for the final race of the season? Romain Grosjean: “As it’s a new track for all the drivers, things should be easier for me as we all have to learn the circuit. My aim is to try and match Fernando, qualify well and hopefully fight for points in the race.”

Q. Bob, how disappointing was the race in Brazil? Bob Bell: “It was very frustrating to lose Fernando from the race through no fault of his own, although we have to be grateful that he didn’t have a bigger accident with the Force India. We also have to be grateful that we didn’t get incinerated on the pit wall as we felt the heat from the fireball in the pit lane! Romain simply didn’t have the pace in the early part of the race as he wasn’t happy with the grip of the car, which cost him a lot of ground. So the weekend didn’t meet our expectations, especially as we lost our advantage over BMW and we now face an uphill struggle to beat them in the final race.

Q. A new venue awaits Formula One this weekend – what are you expecting from Abu Dhabi? Bob Bell: “I think all the teams enjoy visiting a new country and a new track always has a modern infrastructure with so much space available for the mechanics and engineers. It remains to be seen how good the circuit will be in terms of the action it produces, but from what I’ve seen so far it seems the organisers have done an excellent job. As a team we enjoy the challenge of a new track and we will be ready to exploit any advantage we can.”

Q. What’s a realistic target for this weekend? Bob Bell: “It would be great to get Romain and Fernando through to Q3 in qualifying so that we have some reasonable starting positions for the race. We want to be challenging for points and even the podium, which is a realistic target considering the performance level we have already demonstrated this season.”

Q. Renault says goodbye to Fernando this weekend. How much will the team miss him? Bob Bell: “He’s made a huge contribution to the team, especially winning two world championships in 2005 and 2006 so he will be missed enormously. It’s often said that he is the best driver on the grid and I wouldn’t disagree with that so we’re understandably sad to see the end of our very successful relationship. But we’re also looking forward and we’re all delighted to be welcoming Robert Kubica to the team as I believe he will quickly show that he is of the same calibre as Fernando. He’s a strong team player, a great motivator and incredibly quick so we have plenty to look forward to as we enter a new era for the team.”

source: Renault

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