Q and A with Renaults Dino Toso As we head into another new season, Renault’s Dino Toso, has spoken about the challenges posed by the design of the French based squad’s contender for the new championship, the R28….
Dino, the 2007 season wasn’t an easy one for the ING Renault F1 Team. Has the team understood and eliminated the R27’s defects?
We understand the problems that we met this year but this analysis required quite some time as it was a combination of various factors. First of all, even if we knew that the change from Michelin to Bridgestone was going to involve a few modifications we underestimated the number of changes necessary. Quite simply, we didn’t have enough information at the time.
What are the particularities of the Bridgestone tires?
The front ones are very rigid and require an aero balance moved towards the front to work properly. But Renault had always had a tradition of rearwards-biased weight. We knew we had to change the balance but we didn’t know exactly to place it. When it became obvious that we had to shift the balance even further, we were caught in a trap, as the R27’s design wasn’t able to cope. Our budget, our logistics and our strategy showed that designing a new car during the season just wasn’t feasible.
You spoke about a combination of factors...
Yes, indeed. In addition to this specific problem we realized that there was a discrepancy between the data measured in the wind tunnel and those measured on the track. For us it was a completely new situation. The correlation between simulation and reality has always been one of Renault’s strong points. And finally the R26 was optimized for the Michelins whose characteristics were very different.
In hindsight how would you analyze the situation?
I think that we were really unlucky to be faced by these three big problems simultaneously. Certain Michelin teams bolted on Bridgestones for the first time and were quick straight away. But there’s nothing you can do about that.
What measures have been taken to get back to the front this year?
Firstly, we’ve worked on the correlation between the wind tunnel and the track. That’s taken some time but the problem is now solved. Henceforth, we’ll find in real conditions what we’ve calculated this winter. Then we’ve mounted a very aggressive program to be back on the pace. While Ferrari and McLaren have cars that are already well-balanced and only have to improve their overall efficiency, Renault has to correct some defects. So the car’s going to be rather different.
Is it true to say that aerodynamics dominate the other sectors when it comes to designing a quick car today?
What’s sure is that with the V8 engine spec frozen and the common ECU, it’s getting more and more problematic to gain the upper hand over your rivals from a technical point of view. Mechanically speaking, what works is common knowledge and it’s difficult to go wrong in this area. You can say that what’ll make the difference in 2008 is the aero aspect.
We’re now in the fourth year of aero regs stability. Does this pose a problem when you have to find that little bit of extra speed?
For me the challenge is still the same. Performance is more difficult to find, it’s true, but the R28 will show that there’s still room for innovation. If it works some of its details will be copied by our rivals. That’s all part of the game! It’s quite fun to look at the cars on the grid and say, “we introduced that.” Last year some were even quicker than us using our discoveries! Regulations’ stability leads to performance gaps becoming even smaller. They would have been tiny in 2007 had it not been for the change to the single tire.
So there’s nothing like a change in regulations to find an advantage?
For sure. In 2004, we decided to compromise our end-of-season aero development to concentrate on 2005, the year of the last regulations change. Our gamble paid off but it wasn’t long before our rivals set the same times as us because some solutions were copied very quickly. In 2009, there’ll be a major change in the aerodynamic regulations, so it’ll be a big challenge for all the aerodynamicists. The question will be: should we compromise the aero development at the end of 2008 to be a step in front with the 2009 car? Next season the teams will have some crucial strategic decision to make.”
The ING Renault F1 Team can count on its CFD centre coming on stream...
This ultra modern centre will be operational this year and it will concentrate of the design of the 2009 car. It’ll be a big boost for us.”