Q&A with Renault's Bob Bell ahead of Chinese GP The ING Renault F1 Team’s Technical Director, Bob Bell, looks back on the team’s outstanding performance in Fuji. After yet another unexpected win by Fernando Alonso, the team is now upbeat and will aim for more podiums, possibly even an additional win.
Bob, the ING Renault F1 Team won its second consecutive race. You must be delighted? Totally. Fernando and Nelson had magnificent races and their results had nothing to do with luck. We’ve now confirmed the progress made with the R28 since the start of the season and our two victories are a testament to the work carried out at the factory and the track – a fantastic reward for the whole team.
How do you explain the team’s return to form? It’s a combination of several factors. First of all, we have placed great emphasis on constantly developing our car and we have taken several new parts to each race this season. For example, in Singapore the new front wing worked perfectly and we also have a much better understanding of the chassis and how to extract its maximum potential. The result of this progress is that the drivers have more confidence in the car and can now go and find that extra bit of performance that makes the difference.
Where is the R28 in comparison with the rest of the competition today? I think we are still behind Ferrari and McLaren in terms of pure performance, but on the other hand, we now have an advantage over BMW. In race conditions we are closer to the level of the leaders as we are better at managing the use of the tires and so we are close to achieving our double objective: finishing the season in fourth place with the third fastest car.
You talk about the use of the tires in race conditions – this wasn’t a strong point of the R28 at the start of the season? That’s true, but we’ve been able to reverse that tendency.
How have you done that? First of all it’s down to the improvements we’ve made to the R28 – aerodynamic as well as mechanical. Once you make the car more competitive, the less your drivers need to overdrive and so the car slides less and gives them better control over the wear of the tires.
What have been the biggest development steps on the R28? The biggest step was in Barcelona where we had entirely new bodywork: both wings and an engine cover almost entirely revised. Then we continued to bring developments to each race. Today none of the R28’s bodywork is the same as it was at the start of the season.
Is this process going to continue for China and Japan? Instead of relying on new parts, we are going to concentrate on extracting 100% of the performance capability in the car. However, if we find something along the way, and if we have the manufacturing time available, then we will adapt the car.
But surely it’s impossible to take something from the 2009 program and use it on this year’s car? That’s a big problem for all the teams. Obviously we have started next year’s program, but the rules are so different that there is little to transfer in terms of improvements for this year’s car.
The CFD Centre is already operational – is it entirely dedicated to the R29? At the moment, yes. However, to begin with we did some work on the R28. The brake ducts used in Monza, for example, were developed in our new facility.
Finally, do you think it will be possible to deliver a similar performance in Shanghai next week? On paper, we are not the favorites, but Fernando has proved recently that anything is possible. In any case, we will approach this race aiming for a win, that’s for sure.
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