Q and A with Renault's Christian Silk
Christian Silk, who has held his role of the ING Renault F1 Team's chief test engineer for a number of years, talks about what’s at stake this winter. Every test session helps to fine-tune preparations for the 2008 season.
Christian, it looks like this week’s test session is going to be a pretty busy one for the team...
"It’s true. There are a huge number of things we have to prepare for the coming season. For the moment, we’re concentrating on dealing with the arrival of the standard ECU, which brings with it the end of traction control and the Engine Braking System. We have to learn how to work with all these new factors. In addition, we weren’t competitive in 2007 and we’re determined to get back to the front of the field, so we have a huge amount of work to do."
Just how big is the task in the area of electronics?
"Everything, and I mean absolutely everything, is completely new for the team – the procedures as well as the data acquisition systems and analysis tools. So we have to familiarize ourselves with this system and arrive in Melbourne knowing it like the back of our hand: that’s why there are a lot of people in the garage for these first winter tests."
The fact that you’re working with the R27, one of last season’s most reliable cars, must be a big help...
"CS: It’s true, the reliability is a big bonus for us. It means that we can complete test days without technical problems. We can run through all our programs, understand the new parameters, fine-tune the set-ups we need to use without traction control, etc."
How do you establish the daily program?
"We try, insofar as it’s possible, to advance on several areas at the same time. In the previous session in Barcelona our main aim was to check the car’s reliability with the new ECU. At the same time the driver was able to get to grips with understanding the car balance in these conditions, and developing new set-ups. We try and make maximum use of the time at our disposal. We know exactly what we have to do each day. But we have to keep back-up plans in mind. We can never count out a delay because of an accident or a major mechanical problem. You have to juggle your priorities from time to time."
You share the track with other teams. Do you usually keep an eye on their programs or do you simply concentrate on your own?
"We always keep an eye on what our rivals are up to – how many laps they do, on worn or new tires etc. That’s also part of our job during testing. But the basic times are almost impossible to analyze during the interseason. One guy is quicker in Valencia and another is quicker in Barcelona. There’s no point in wasting time in this area."
The R28 will certainly have fewer points in common with the R27 than the latter had with the R26. Despite this can you still discover information that will be useful for the new car?
"Of course. We can, for example, debug the electronic system and understand it 100%. That’ll help us not to waste time when the R28 comes into service. In addition, certain parts for the new car are arriving and wherever possible they’re grafted onto the present one. This being said, the R28 is going to be different in many areas and it is impossible to put test many of the new car’s features on the old one."
Finally, isn’t it a bit frustrating sometimes to run without the special atmosphere that you get during a race weekend?
"The fans’ attention is always focused on the race, but what happens there depends on our work in testing. The test team develops the car and it also applies new working methods that can benefit the factory later on. It’s got an enormous workload, in particular when the new car is launched. With the arrival of the R28 we’re not short of work, I can tell you! Our competitiveness in Melbourne will depend on how good we are in testing this winter." Source Renault