With 17 wins and 30 pole positions to their credit, Renault head
into the 2005 season on a high following a very successful pre-
season test program. Armed with the new R25 chassis and the
driving talents of Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella, are
keen to get the 2005 season off to the best possible start as they
chase the first title for the French manufacturer.
Fernando, how happy are you with preparations for the first race?
We are ready for Melbourne. We have done a lot of running since the
new car was launched, and learned a lot about the R25 – more than in
previous winters. In our last big test in Barcelona, we still had
some reliability problems, but that is normal at this stage of the
year and the team has worked hard to get on top of them since then.
I think we understand the car well, and have made good progress with
its drivability and performance in recent test sessions. Overall,
it was a successful winter for the team.
What is your assessment of the R25 after testing?
I am much more confident with this car. It is easy to drive, and you
can run on the limit without any nasty surprises in how the
behavior changes over long runs. It is a very consistent
The Australian Grand Prix will also be the first race with the
new tire regulations. How do you view the tire situation?
Michelin have done an excellent job and in terms of performance and
consistency, these are the best tires I have ever had in Formula
One. But we cannot get too excited, because we have only run on cold
circuits over the winter and the first three races will be held in
much warmer conditions. We will evaluate the tire performance very
carefully during the race weekend, and see where we stand after
What are expectations for the R25 in Melbourne?
I don’t think Melbourne is a perfect circuit for us. Other tracks
will suit our car better, but looking at the winter testing times, I
hope we will be very competitive. The secret for the weekend will be
to avoid problems, because nobody can afford to lose track time at
the first race of the year. With a new car, and on a circuit that we
only visit once a season, you need to do as many laps as possible to
work on the set-up and get used to the track. So our main priority
will be for the weekend to run smoothly, so we can do a maximum
number of laps. In terms of competitiveness, I expect Ferrari to be
the number one team still, and McLaren have looked very strong
during the winter. I think those two teams will be our biggest
Giancarlo, how are you feeling ahead of the opening race of the
Things look good for us. We have a strong package, the R25 has done
lots of miles over the winter and the set-up is getting better and
better. I am confident in the car, and pleased with our level of
performance. In testing, we have almost always been among the
quickest teams, so we hope that it can translate to race
You will have to face a number of changes to the regulations in
2005: which will be the biggest of these?
I think the new tire rules are definitely the biggest change. In the
last ten or fifteen laps of the race, the car will be much more
difficult to drive because the rear end gets very loose as the tires
wear, and it’s much easier to make mistakes. The key thing will be
to make fewer mistakes than the other drivers.
How does the R25 perform in these conditions?
The tire wear looks good with this car, and during testing in
Barcelona I was able to set my quickest laps at the end of my
stints. The R25 is a big step forward in every area, but in
particular, the rear-end stability is much better and the balance is
much more consistent on the long runs: that means it is a lot easier
to set consistent lap-times over the race distance.
Overall, what are your expectations for Melbourne?
The Albert Park circuit is not my favorite, but my results there
have always been pretty good, and I enjoy the atmosphere during the
weekend. For the first time, I am going to Melbourne hoping to fight
for the race win.
Bob Bell, Technical Director
Bob, are you satisfied with the team’s preparations for the 2005
We are ready for Australia. Since we first ran the new car, we have
completed a lot of problem solving to iron out the issues with the
R25, but that is what pre-season testing is about. There has been
increased pressure this winter to do long-distance running for the
tires and for engine life, and we pushed hard to have two new
chassis running very early in order to cope with that. Fortunately,
the car’s performance was encouraging from the first run, which
allowed us to concentrate on getting the necessary
Tire management will be very important this season. How does the
R25 treat its tires?
The car seems to be gentle on its tires. We have seen that it is
very competitive on the long runs in testing, when the tires are
getting towards the end of their life, and the tires are being
consumed in the manner we expected. It is hard to make a relative
judgment, but I think we are doing as good a job as any of our
competitors in this area.
Are the drivers happy with the car and its handling?
The feedback from both drivers has been very positive. The R25 gives
them confidence to be aggressive on a single timed lap, but also
allows them to drive consistently over a race distance. In that
respect, it seems to be a versatile car. The other pleasing factor
is that the car has been quick straight away, and it is easy to set-
up. With very limited track time available to us at the race
weekend, this characteristic will help us limit the very significant
advantage of McLaren in particular, who will be running a third car
on Friday and collecting information without worrying about tire
restrictions or engine mileage.
Are there any unknown factors as the team goes to Melbourne?
The only big uncertainty is our genuine competitive position. We are
optimistic that we have closed the gap to Ferrari, but their big
potential advantage is reliability as they are racing a known car in
Melbourne; balanced against that is the fact that their competitors’
cars have been specifically designed to the new rules where theirs
has not. Looking at test times, ourselves and McLaren seem to be the
front-running teams, and we expect Ferrari to be part of that group
in Australia. However, experience has taught everybody that winter
testing times are not reliable indicators, so we must wait and see
what Melbourne brings. But we have a good car, motivated drivers and
a strong race team that adapts well to new regulations. We are very
optimistic for the opening race of the new season.
Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella will have the entire
Renault squad on the edge of their seats at the start of the
Australian Grand Prix on Sunday and while both racers will be
starting the most important part of the race weekend when the lights
go out, a great deal of the work will have already been done behind
the scenes. For Fernando Alonso, race engineer Rod Nelson and engine
management engineer Rémi Taffin will have already done their part on
Chassis set-up with Rod Nelson, Race Engineer, Fernando
The layout at Melbourne is what we characterize as ‘point and
squirt’: a lot of slow corners linked by relatively long straights.
This means that strong engine performance and good traction out of
the slow corners, are key factors in getting a competitive lap
In terms of car set-up, we run medium-high downforce levels and try
to spring the cars quite stiffly in order to get a responsive change
of direction through the chicanes. However, as Melbourne is a
temporary circuit, this means the braking areas are often quite
bumpy, and this is a limiting factor: too stiff a set-up will see
the driver locking up under braking, costing him lap time as well as
harming tire performance over a race distance – a constant
preoccupation under the 2005 regulations. In general, we give the
car quite a neutral set-up for the race, although Fernando likes a
little understeer in qualifying at this circuit to give him
confidence to attack the timed lap.
Braking is a key factor at Melbourne, with the cars stopping from
near or over 300 kph on six separate occasions. Although the
individual braking events are not the biggest of the season, the
fact they are regularly spaced around the lap means that brake
cooling, and oxidization of the brake discs, is a constant
preoccupation. We monitor brake wear very carefully, and extrapolate
results from tests on Friday and Saturday morning in order to make
our cooling calculations for the race itself.
When setting the car up, we have to take account of the manner in
which track conditions evolve during the weekend on the temporary
surface. The tire wear is usually quite high on the first day,
especially on the front tires, because understeer levels are higher
than normal on a “green” or dirty circuit. The wear levels reduce as
rubber is put down on the racing line, and tire wear is normally
more balanced front to rear in race conditions.
For the new season, the way we work in practice will be slightly
different compared to last year. In 2004, we made three stops in
Australia, meaning the average maximum tire life in the race stints
was 16 laps – whereas this year, the tires must last for more than
60 laps, or almost four times as long. This means we will spend a
large part of Friday comparing tire performance on short and long
runs, and making the car as easy as possible in its usage of the
race tires: any defect in tire choice, or set-up, will not be masked
by repeatedly fitting new tires in 2005, and the cost to performance
will be greater than it was least year. Indeed, this revised working
method is likely to be reproduced through the season as we strive to
find the most race-able set-up at each circuit we visit.
Engine set-up with Rémi Taffin, Engine engineer,
Melbourne is a tough circuit for engines: its succession of
straights broken up by slow corners mean good torque is more
important than peak power in order to accelerate out of the slow and
The percentage of the lap spent at full throttle (64%), as well as
the average engine speed over the lap, are high; combined with
relatively cool temperatures (around 22°C) and high atmospheric
pressures (around 1010 millibars), which mean the engine develops
more power, this provides the moving parts of the engine with a
tough test. Parts such as the pistons are under severe strain, and
we look for the best possible cooling compromise to ease the stress
on these components.
During the race weekend, we focus on establishing cooling levels,
but also on the detailed electronic work that is specific to each
circuit: traction control settings, engine mapping to control pick-
up and drivability, fuel consumption and gear ratios. In general,
Fernando wants engine response to be as progressive as possible: his
driving style sees him use the throttle gently in the first half of
its travel, before applying full throttle very quickly afterwards
and relying on the traction control.
Our engine usage strategy for the weekend will also change in 2005.
We will need to manage the engine’s ‘potential’ across two weekends:
for example, the second race of the year is in Sepang, a less severe
engine circuit than Melbourne. As such, we are likely to use 60%
engine potential at the first race, and 40% at the second. This is a
new phenomenon for 2005, and the first races will bring important
lessons in how best to manage our engine potential across two race
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