Q&A with Pat Symonds
Renault director of engineering Pat Symonds shares his thoughts on the team's Belgian GP and the upcoming race at Monza.
Q: Pat, a promising Belgian Grand Prix ended in disappointment. Sum up the team's weekend for us...
PS: The Belgian Grand Prix was one of the most puzzling races I've been to for a long time and it was very odd to see a grid that was so mixed up. However, we tried to make the most of it and although it was unfortunate to lose Romain so early in the race, Fernando had the potential to have a good race and looked strong in the early laps. He was fuelled for a long first stint and the car seemed to be working well despite the damage that had occurred on the first lap, which had reduced the car's downforce. Unfortunately at the first pitstop we realized the car was damaged and Fernando had to retire.
Q: Are you pleased with how Romain is progressing as a Formula One driver?
PS: His first race in Valencia impressed me a lot as he continually improved; found the limits of the car; kept out of trouble and had a solid race. In Spa I was impressed with him again, particularly in the wet free practice because it was the first time he had driven a Formula One car in the wet. In qualifying he didn't get a perfect lap and was unlucky with traffic, and then in the race he got caught up in the incident with Button. That was a shame as it would have been valuable for him to gain some more experience in racing conditions.
Q: The team plans to use KERS in Monza. Why will it be such an advantage there?
PS: There are three aspects of KERS that need to be considered: lap time, the advantage it gives from the start, and the ability to assist overtaking. Firstly, the gain in lap time of running KERS in Monza is likely to be around a quarter of a second and it's worth even more in qualifying as you can do one release before you start a timed lap and another release during the timed lap. In terms of the advantage at the start, it's a long way from the grid to the first corner in Monza and KERS will give an advantage of well over fifteen meters compared with non-KERS cars. For assisting overtaking, you have to remember that Monza is a circuit where it's very difficult to overtake, but running KERS certainly won't disadvantage us in that respect. All these factors combine to make Monza a very favorable circuit for KERS.
Q: How do you expect the R29 to cope with the high-speed challenge of Monza?
PS: The car should perform well there. We will use a totally different low downforce aero package, which has between 10 and 15% less downforce than the package we ran at Spa. Monza is very much about braking; traction; change of direction in chicanes and although it's a high-speed track there are no real high-speed corners. Overall I think that the R29 is performing well on all types of track and Monza should be no exception.
Q: So far the team has failed to realize its potential. Can things turnaround in the final five races?
PS: I don't see why not. The car has continuously improved as it did last year. It hasn't achieved the results for a number of reasons this year, but the team is competitive, the drivers are motivated and the car continues to improve so I believe we can perform well in the last five races.