Lightweight Renault chassis for Shanghai
Renault Chinese GP preview - I
September 20, 2004

Fernando Alonso heads to China keen to put the Italian Grand Prix firmly from his mind and together with new teammate Jacques Villeneuve, use the new lighter Renault chassis to good effect and score championship points.

Fernando, how much preparation can you do before visiting a new circuit?
FA: To be honest, there is not so much you can learn from maps of the circuit – the real time when we learn about the track, in its real finished form, is when we walk the circuit with our engineers in the week before the race. But I think the driver’s role is even more important at a new circuit than elsewhere. Not only do we have to learn the track, but there is more work to do with the engineers, explaining how the circuit is, what the secrets of the track are and how the car is behaving, because none of us have any experience or reference points. A driver has to be very adaptable at a new circuit, and I believe that is one of my strengths.

What do you enjoy about visiting a new circuit for the first time?
FA: First of all, it is a brand new experience: I have never been to China before, so it will be fascinating to see the country for the first time, and the reports of the circuit say it is incredible so I am looking forward to seeing what it is like in reality. The layout looks exciting, and I am sure it will have been designed to encourage good racing. I expect the crowd to be very supportive of everybody, and I think the R24 will suit the circuit well. We are hoping for a competitive showing.

Finally, are you confident that the team can regain its championship position?
FA: I think we can do it, certainly. This a strong team, with a strong spirit, and we love to be aggressive when we go racing. That is my style, and that is the team’s attitude as well. We need to be aggressive between now and the end of the year to overtake BAR again, because it will be a big fight. We have a very good car, that we expect to be competitive at the next three circuits, and although I haven’t finished in the last two races, we were very quick. We will all be intent on bouncing back from the Monza result in style, and taking the fight to BAR in China.

Bob Bell, Technical Director

Bob, there seems to be a perception that the team’s season has tailed off in the second half. Do you agree?
BB: Although we lost second place in the championship to BAR after the last race, we are very confident in our ability to regain that position. We have not scored as many points as we would have hoped to in the second half of the season, but I think this actually belies the fact that our package is extremely competitive at the moment: we have had some small reliability glitches, but also our fair share of bad luck and racing incidents We did not expect to be as strong in Monza as Fernando proved to be, and we continue to make good progress with both the chassis and the engine. The R24 is definitely good enough to achieve the goal of taking second place: while BAR have the edge over us at some circuits, we hold an advantage at others – and we believe we are heading to some circuits where we can demonstrate our strengths.

Will you be running any new developments in China?
BB: We will run new front and rear wings for this race, and also introduce two new lightweight chassis that we have tested successfully at Monza and Silverstone, all of which represent a useful step forward in terms of performance. The new chassis is part of our on-going weight reduction program aimed at optimizing the car’s performance, and the fact that we are introducing such major developments at this stage of the season indicates how hard we are pushing to regain our position in the constructors’ championship. I said at the start of the season, that we expected the championship battle to come down to a matter of several points at the end of the season, and it has turned out exactly that way.

Rob White, Engine Technical Director

Could you tell us a little about the motivation of the team at Viry to regain second place in the championship?
RW: The battle for second place in the constructors’ championship will go down to the wire. There are still fifty four points to play for and to win back second place, we need to score four points more than BAR in the three races to come. At this stage of the season, we know that we have the performance to score points on all types of circuit and to fight for podiums on those that favour us. The team will focus its efforts on getting both cars to the end of the races and extracting maximum potential from them. If we are able to make the most of all our opportunities, we can certainly fight back to second in the championship.

Will engine development continue for the final three races?
RW: The RS24 continues to evolve. The main elements of the engine are now fixed to the end of the season, but there are still small improvements to come. Reliability remains the first objective: we must work to minimize the risk of new incidents. We will continue to work to improve the performance, in order to capitalize on the results test work completed at Viry. The individual demands of the final three circuits will contribute to the definition of the performance spec.

China is a brand new circuit: how much work can you do to prepare for its challenges?
RW: The race in China will be interesting for everyone – a new event in a fantastic country with unique culture. The Shanghai circuit combines elements similar to other circuits on which we race, so along with analytical and simulation work, the teams should be able to be well prepared. In terms of duty-cycle, Shanghai sits in a group with the majority of circuits we visit, so is not a high duty-cycle circuit like Monza or Spa, but not a low duty-cycle like Hungary or Monaco. Defining and verifying the operating conditions for the engine is an important part of our preparation, and will allow the drivers to use the engines to their maximum potential according to the demands of the particular circuit. In concrete terms, this means estimating the duty-cycle based on previous experience, and then dyno testing to simulate the conditions of the race weekend.


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