Q&A with Alan Permane
Renault's chief race engineer Alan Permane shares his thoughts on the team's Canadian GP and looks ahead to Valencia...
Q: Alan, looking back to Canada, the team came away with six points for Robert, but was left feeling rather frustrated...
AP: We did come away disappointed and feeling that we probably didn't get the most from the weekend - and it's the first race this season where we've felt that. Obviously a large part of our frustration was down to our tire management because we suffered with such high degradation rates, which held us back and meant we couldn't meet our expectations.
Q: Still, it must be encouraging to score points despite having a difficult weekend...
AP: Yes, it's reassuring to come away with a reasonable result even though things didn't go our way. It's the first time this year that we've really seen the tires play such an integral role in the strategy because nobody was able to follow the usual one-stop routine. While we enjoyed the challenge of trying to make the strategy work, it's just frustrating that some teams got more out of it than us.
Q: Let's talk about Vitaly - what should his focus be for Valencia?
AP: I think he should maintain the same approach that has worked for him so far this year. In Montreal he did a very good job of learning the circuit and improving the car through free practice. Under the current regulations, though, qualifying is probably the most critical part of the weekend. He qualified 14th in Canada, which put him in the midfield battle and led to the problems he had in the race. Vitaly has already shown that he has the speed to qualify and race in the top 10, like we saw in Turkey, so it's now a question of steadily improving his consistency.
Q: The team will have some upgrades this weekend. Tell us about those...
AP: We've got quite a nice upgrade coming, with a new front wing and a new floor, which we believe will take us another step further forward.
Q: Can you remember a season where the pace of development has been so high?
AP: We have certainly seen an incredible rate of development this year. If we take the gap to pole position as a measure of how much we've improved, we've seen the gap steadily reduce race by race as we've developed quicker than some of our competitors. And with the updates we have planned for this weekend, that trend will hopefully continue.
Q: What about the team's battle with Mercedes - do you expect that to rage all season long?
AP: I hope it doesn't because I'd like to see us eventually move clear of them. At the moment I feel we're slightly ahead and it was encouraging to see Robert qualify ahead of both Mercedes in Canada, especially Rosberg who was on the option tire. But we're well aware that we shouldn't underestimate Mercedes because they are pushing just as hard as us - and don't forget that they are the reigning world champions, too. As it stands, we're 29 points behind them in the constructors' championship and our target is to try and overhaul them as soon as possible.
Q: Tell us about the challenge of the Valencia circuit and how you expect the car to perform there?
AP: The circuit has all the typical street circuit characteristics because it's not used throughout the year and will be very dirty at the start of the weekend. The car went very well at Monaco, the last proper street circuit, so we're optimistic of another strong showing this weekend. We will have the same tire compounds that we had in Canada, but I don't expect anything like the same problems we encountered with degradation and tire management.