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Q and A with Renault's Steve Neilsen
Renault's sporting manager Steve Neilsen talks about Renault's preparations for the upcoming F1 season, which kicks off in Australia in March...

Q: Steve, with no races on the calendar from October to March, presumably the race team have all been an enjoying an extended holiday since the end of last season?
SN: Far from it! We have had race team personnel at every test of the new year, while our colleagues on the test team have been working the night shift at the track. And last week in Barcelona, we conducted a day of intensive race weekend preparation...

Q: Hence the fireproofs and plenty of activity around the Renault garage?
SN: Exactly. There are plenty of complicated procedures during a Grand Prix weekend: the turnaround between the final practice session and the start of qualifying is very tight; the qualifying format itself has its own complexities, particularly in Q2 and Q3. There are some new faces in the team, from Heikki to new engineers who have never had to manage a full qualifying session, so it was important to give them a full run-through, and also blow out the cobwebs for the rest of the team. We did plenty of pit-stop practice as well, and we have already completed around 90 stops.

Q: And how did it go?
SN: Very well. We had a full run-through of our procedures and found some areas that needed some fixes - but it's clearly better to make your mistakes during the pre-season in Barcelona, rather than in the heat of battle at Albert Park. It might seem a little extravagant to take the whole race team to Spain for a day, but it always pays dividends.

Q: By the time the team gets to Melbourne, they need to know the car inside out to be on top of their game. How do you ensure that working on R27 is second nature?
SN: We have five 'car crews' at the team, and three of them are part of the race team. By the time they get to Australia, they will all have built a chassis from scratch, run it at three or four tests and stripped it many times, so there is very little they don't know about it. That means that they will have run the car for fifteen days or so before the start of the season - which is the rough equivalent of five full race weekends.

Q: And for the next fortnight, the team is testing in Bahrain...
SN: The entire race team will be going out there, and that's all part of our preparation. We have seen that the car is reliable, and practiced our procedures last week in Spain. The aim for the next two weeks is therefore to concentrate on performance work while ensuring the whole team is running smoothly. The level of competition is much closer this season, and that means every little detail is important. You need to know the regulations inside out, and be able to get the most from the car at all times. That's why we have concentrated on preparing thoroughly because everything should be second nature when we get to Melbourne. In many ways, it should feel like the second race of the year, not the first... Renault
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