Q and A with Renault’s Tim Densham
Q. Tim, what has been the design philosophy of the new R27 chassis?
Tim Densham - Renault Chief Designer: R27 is our second-generation V8 car, following on from last year's championship-winning R26. That clearly gave us a very solid platform to work from, and we have honed it according to the same in-house design philosophy that has worked very successfully in recent seasons.
Q. What impact have changes to the regulations had on the car design?
TD: The most important regulation changes have been new impact tests at the front, rear and side of the car. These have required some fairly intensive design work to integrate them into the overall packaging at the car, particularly when it comes to the rather bulky side intrusion protection panels.
The second important element for the design process was the shift to Bridgestone tires. We had an early idea of the tires' basic characteristics, and began the project with the aim of making the car's weight distribution as flexible as possible.
The subsequent tire data and track testing confirmed that we needed more weight towards the front of the car in order to get the most from the tires. Much of our design work has focused on saving weight in order to give the race engineers the ability to find the optimum handling characteristics for every circuit.
Q. The R27 was produced in parallel with a very intensive development program on the R26 just as happened twelve months earlier. Was the process easier to manage this time?
TD: I think that it proved a little easier, because in 2006 we were designing a car for a brand new engine. For 2007, we were starting with a known quantity, and we understood a lot more about the vibration levels involved, and how components needed to be designed to cope.
Our improved understanding made the process easier. The second important factor was that we chose to run a hybrid car during pre-Christmas testing. This meant that the rear end of the car was effectively ready by late November, which helped us balanced the workload during the winter months.
Q. What have been the primary objectives for the new car?
TD: As always, our goal has been to push hard in the traditional development areas: we have tried to improve the stiffness of the package, to save weight where we can - and to package the car as tightly as possible in order to give our aero team the maximum opportunity to generate performance gains. In general terms, the R27 is a car in which we have taken a good step forward in overall engineering quality.
Q. The car also features a brand new IGC gearbox...
TD: This is a program that has been up and running for quite a long time. We ran a prototype version of the gearbox in testing throughout the season, and were able to integrate the information from that prototype into the definitive version. That gearbox ran for the first time during the final tests of 2006, and performed well, in spite of some normal teething problems.
Q. How big a step forward will the car represent relative to the R26?
TD: I think the new car features as many improvements relative to its predecessor, as R26 did relative to R25. Of course, some areas have not changed, but we have targeted our design and development resources on those areas that can bring us maximum performance advantage.
And we are pushing very hard on development already, with a continuous stream of improvements already planned. That was a strength in 2006, and we are aiming to maintain that through the new season.
Q. You have said that the car is an evolution of the philosophy that has served the team well in recent years. Could that be an advantage in 2007?
TD: We have deliberately maintained a consistent mechanical layout, as this will allow the trackside teams to find their feet very quickly – and the same will be true for the drivers.
Our recent cars have all been very drivable, and they have allowed the drivers to really push to the limit and have confidence in its reactions. We hope this will be an advantage in the close, competitive environment during 2007. Renault