Steve Nielsen interview: Renault still after Mercedes
Steve Nielsen remains confident that Robert Kubica and Vitaly Petrov can help Renault overhaul Mercedes for fourth place in this year's Constructors' Championship. The diamond marque's Sporting Director shared his post-Canadian Grand Prix feelings as he now looks forward to Valencia.
Steve, the team left Turkey frustrated by a P6 finish, and now leaves Canada very disappointed with P7. Is that a measure of your growing expectations?
In Canada, we re-learned the same lessons about going racing in 2010: it's all about where you qualify, making a good start and the pit-stops. We didn't get the best out of the car in qualifying and that makes the hill you have to climb even steeper than it would otherwise have been.
Robert was one of just three drivers in the top ten to qualify on the Prime (harder compound) tire, in the hope that this would provide an advantage in race conditions. But it didn't turn out that way…
Most of the other teams struggled with tire management at some point of the race, but our rivals also made the tires last better than us. Ultimately, though, we know that the car is quick and that it's getting better all the time. After races like Canada, you simply want the next race to come as soon as possible so you can forget about the last one.
The team has built up strong momentum since the start of the year. Can it be sustained?
Canada was race eight and we have built up good momentum through the year, so one race doesn't cause us a problem. It's clear that we are heading in the right direction and our car is both fast and reliable. We didn't get the best out of it this weekend but there are still 11 races to go and the car is improving all the time. I'm sure we will put in a stronger result in Valencia.
The other consolation must be that Mercedes failed to capitalize in terms of championship position?
We out-qualified both Mercedes for the second time in three races and, although we had a tough afternoon on Sunday, they only gained two points on us, which didn't punish us as much as it could have done. The gap ahead is now 29 points and, with eleven races to go under the new points system, we still have reason to be optimistic about closing that gap. We will bring more new developments to Valencia that we hope will allow us to take the fight to them.
How big is the logistical challenge in getting the cars turned around between Canada and Valencia?
To be honest, the difficult bit was getting to Canada immediately after Turkey. Although the transition from flyaway spec to the trucks is always tough, the coming week should be easier than last because we will have three or four days to rebuild the cars at the factory - something we did in two days before Canada. It's a well-rehearsed procedure for the team, so it should be fine.
Finally, what are the team's expectations for Valencia?
We are full of optimism for Valencia and beyond. Robert is continuing to put in sparkling performances and he's getting every ounce of performance out of the car. As for Vitaly, Canada was a race to be chalked up to experience, full of penalties, pit-stops and blue flags. We saw in Turkey that he can race very competitively in the right conditions and, although he may not realize it today, even a race like the one he endured in Canada will prove useful experience for him to draw on in the future. GPUpdate.net