Q and A with Denis Chevrier With a month to go before the next round of the 2007 world championship that will take place in Barcelona Spain, Renault F1’s chief race engineer, Denis Chevrier, has summed up the first three races for the French based squad.
Denis, the ING Renault F1 Team had had a difficult start to the season. What is the engineer’s point of view?
It’s true. The first three rounds of the 2007 championship have been very closely fought, and it’s been difficult for the team. Where the engine’s concerned our reliability level’s pretty good so far; we’ve had a few issues but nothing dramatic, and we’ve brought our two cars to the finish in all three events, which is satisfying.
Where would you situate the ING Renault F1 Team in relation to the others?
This year competition is very tough and up to now we’ve clearly been in the role of challenger. At present it’s very difficult for us to compete for a place on the rostrum so our aim is to score points with both cars. In Bahrain we saw just how small the gaps are in qualifying. As things stand at present, we can’t allow ourselves to lose even one of two tenths as it’s what’ll allow us to make it into the qualifying shootout: it’s not the same race when you start from sixth or seventh place on the grid as when it’s from eleventh.
In the present context has your job as an engineer changed?
No, not really. Our way of working remains the same whether we’re fighting for the title or running into a few difficulties, as is the case this season. We’re working with the same tried and tested methods, the same timetable and the same people. We just have to learn how to get more out of our package in the present circumstances.
What’s the mindset like in Viry-Chätillon after the results of the first three races?
We had a very busy winter; we worked hard during private testing and everybody, whether in Viry or Enstone, was eagerly awaiting the first three races. In 2006, we had scored forty-six points and in 2007 the total so far is nine after three events. We’ve changed from favorite to outsider, and it’s not easy to accept. But we’re racers and it is in adversity that a team shows its true mettle. We’re determined to fight, and we know that our efforts will pay off in the end.
How is the Viry factory coping with the team’s performance deficit at this point in the season?
We realize how difficult it is to put together the right car-engine-driver-tire package: many teams never do. Our frustration today is not entirely related to the team’s results. We’re frustrated by the present regulations, which have really robbed us of the possibility of making the difference as engineers. In the past, if the team was lagging behind the engineers were able to play a crucial role in overcoming the lack of performance. This season it’s much more limited. But to answer your question, there is no sense of disappointment or of a downturn in the team’s morale. What there is, is even greater determination.