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Renault team previews Bahrain

March 28, 2005

Renault have had a dream start to its 2005 campaign with first Giancarlo Fisichella taking the checkered flag first and then two- weeks later Fernando Alonso repeating the feat to lift the French manufacturer firmly to the top the constructors' championship and himself to the top of the drivers' championship. Looking to round three of the championship in Bahrain, Renault look to make it three wins from three races.

Fernando Alonso

Fernando, you took your second career win in Malaysia: what was the feeling like afterwards?
FA: It was a great feeling, to be able to lead all the way from pole position and take quite a comfortable win. The conditions were very demanding, and Sepang is never an easy circuit at which to race, but the car was easy to drive and after the first stint, I was looking after everything in the car and managing my gap to Jarno. The team has done a fantastic job over the winter on the R25 and RS25: we tested very intensively to make the whole package reliable and so far, it has been . On both the race weekends so far, we have managed to get the most out of our package, and that’s how we need to continue for the rest of the season.

Looking ahead to Bahrain, what are the challenges of the circuit?
FA: In some ways, it is quite similar to Melbourne – there is a lot of hard acceleration and braking, without any really long, high- speed corners. But the long straights mean we run downforce levels quite low in order to get good straight-line speed in the race, so the car can be nervous under braking – and if you run wide in the slow corners, like turns 10, 13 or 14, then you will be defending your position all the way down the next straight. Good braking stability, to avoid locking the tires in the race, lots of mechanical grip and a strong engine are what you really need to be quick in Bahrain. We will need to think carefully about the set-up to keep the rear end stable in the race when the tires are worn.

How competitive do you expect the R25 to be?
FA: Well, the team is definitely on a high at the moment so we will go there feeling very optimistic, but it is hard to be certain. Michelin were very strong in high temperatures at Sepang, and even though the tire energy is less in Bahrain, the heat will still make it very demanding, so I expect the tires to be competitive. In terms of car performance, we have been the benchmark at the first two circuits, and I think this can continue in Bahrain – even though we were not very strong there last year. The big question is over our competitors, because so far, different teams have been our rivals at each race. I still think McLaren are very strong, and Ferrari will have their new car by then, but to be honest, we will not be concentrating on the other teams: we know how we need to approach the weekend, and what areas we must focus on. If we do that well, then I am confident we will be running at the front again.

Giancarlo Fisichella

Giancarlo, how are you feeling ahead of the Bahraini Grand Prix?
GF: Obviously, it was disappointing not to finish in Malaysia but I am still second in the drivers’ championship, we know the car is quick and that there are more developments coming. The team has had a fantastic start to the season, and the fact that we already have a gap in the constructors’ championship is reassuring. The car has performed well at every type of circuit we have visited this year, in winter testing and racing. The car is well balanced, easy to drive and looks after its tires well. I am sure those factors will help us to be competitive in Bahrain too.

Talking about the Sakhir circuit, what demands does it place on the drivers and the cars?
GF: On the technical side, the main area the teams focus on is good braking performance, and managing the brake wear through the race: getting the cooling wrong can be very costly. Sakhir is not really a driver’s circuit – there are none of the high-speed corners that we enjoy, and that really show the difference between the cars. But we need to be precise, to get our braking right lap after lap and maintain concentration throughout the race in very hot, tough conditions.

Finally, what are your expectations for the race?
GF: We saw in Malaysia that the R25 was the quickest car in the field, so I am hoping that we can maintain the performance in Bahrain. The car is good over the timed lap, and gives us the confidence to really push to the limit to get the performance; and in the race, the balance is very consistent meaning we only need small changes during the pit-stops. I know the team is working hard on developments for the European season, but we are not under- estimating our competitors: we will have a fight on our hands. But the car has good traction, good braking and the straight-line speeds have been very competitive at the first two races. That should provide us with the car we need to aim for the podium at this race.

Bob Bell, Technical Director Chassis

Bob, two wins from two races for the Renault F1 Team – what is your assessment of the team’s start to the season?
BB: I honestly don’t think we could have hoped for a better start to the season. The entire team did a fantastic job over the winter, and these early successes have been a huge reward for that investment of time and effort. Viry have done a fantastic job to rise to the challenge of the two-weekend V10, while here at Enstone, the aero department has pushed hard to put performance on the car, with the design and manufacturing sectors making a big effort to produce a reliable car in as short a time as possible. To win both races has been a pleasant surprise, but the success is full deserved.

Michelin has also won both races of the 2005 season, and took all three podium positions in Malaysia...
BB: Michelin has done an exceptional job on the tire side, and their performance in Malaysia really spoke for itself. They got on top of the challenge of the new longer-life tires very quickly at the end of last year, and that has been reflected in the opening races. Equally, they have made a good step forward on their wet tires. I am confident they will be pushing very hard to develop the tires through the season.

The R25 has shown itself to be quick over a flying lap in qualifying, and consistent in its race pace: is there a secret to combining the two qualities?
BB: Our unique objective is to produce a fast race car – a consistent, quick car that is easy on its tires. If you have a good car in race conditions, then the one-lap performance flows from there. The other important factor is driver confidence: this year, and particularly on Sunday morning, the drivers go into their timed lap with very little information about the car and how it will feel. In that situation, you need to be comfortable with how the car will react. It is clear that the drivers are happy with the car on the limit, and while you cannot quantify the lap-time this brings, it is clear the performance benefits flow indirectly from it.

Looking ahead to Bahrain, what characteristics does the circuit reward?
BB: Last year, brakes were the main area of concern in the race – and I think that will be true again in 2005. We had to carefully manage their usage throughout the race distance last year, and our Hitco discs performed very well. Brake wear management will be a key factor in this weekend’s race too. As for the other performance demands, no one characteristic can be easily singled out – which means the car needs to be good in every area that is tested, such as traction, braking stability, mechanical grip and straight-line speed.

Onlookers have said that Renault is now the team to beat – what is your reaction to that?
BB: Our success in the opening races has obviously increased the weight of expectation, but we are taking nothing for granted at all. As soon as McLaren put together an incident-free race weekend, I still believe they will be our main opposition among the Michelin teams. Ferrari had tire problems in Malaysia, but that is no reason to write them off – and there is still the new car to come at this race. Williams made a step forward between Australia and Malaysia, while we need to see if Toyota can confirm their speed at this race. Don’t forget that we have only had two races out of nineteen, so we are still trying to draw conclusions from a very small sample of data. I think that it will only be when we are into the heart of the European season, that we see the true state of play emerge.

Rod Nelson, Chassis Race Engineer, Alonso

Sakhir places extreme demands on a Formula One car’s braking ability. In terms of brake wear, it is up with Montreal as the most demanding circuit of the year, and the drivers have to brake from 320 kph to first or second gear on three separate occasions. The brake usage itself is not a problem, but the twisting layout between Turns 4 and 13 means that the brakes never really have time to cool down properly, which can potentially lead to oxidization and much higher wear rates if cooling levels are insufficient. We run our largest brake ducts of the year at this circuit, and the drivers will often have to adjust the brake bias during the race in order to manage brake wear.

In general, circuit grip levels are fairly low, due to the limited usage of the track and, obviously, the presence of sand on the surface. Running in first practice is of little value, and the drivers stick to the racing line even during their out-laps in order to keep the tires clean. Sand on the tires will take a couple of laps to clean off, and on Friday, we must both keep the cars tires in as good condition as possible to conduct representative evaluations, and use our lap allocation extremely efficiently – so keeping the tires clean is even more important than last year. The sand also poses one other problem: when in traffic, the car is shot blasted by the sand particles thrown up by the car in front. The front wing main-plane is particularly exposed to damage, and this can affect the car’s aerodynamic performance.

For the tires, wear is not a major problem: the lack of high speed corners means that the overall tire energy is low – in contrast to Sepang. Rather, the numerous traction events, accelerating out of slow speed corners, mean that the rear tires are likely to be the limiting factor.

In terms of set-up, Fernando will be asking us for good braking stability from the car, to avoid locking the rear tires into the slow corners and to maintain a good balance into turns 10 and 13, where he is simultaneously turning and braking. We also need ensure the car balance is neutral on the exit of the slow corners, to avoid oversteer which costs time and will damage the rear tires. Finally, we need to find the balance between stability through the higher speed corners of turns 5/6/7 and softer springing in the slow turns, to give good mechanical grip. We achieve this by using bump rubbers to support the car at higher speeds, where aero loadings are greater, and the car then rises out of these in the low speed sections to make the springing much softer and maximize grip.

Temperatures are, of course, expected to be high, but having survived the challenge of Sepang, cooling should not be a problem. Indeed, the humidity levels are much lower, which makes life easier for the drivers than at the last race. Track temperature also has an impact on handling, and we discovered last year that above 40°C the grip levels were much lower. According to how the weather forecasts pan out, this is something we may have to try and counter in our race set-up.

Rémi Taffin, Engine Race Engineer, Alonso

The Bahraini Grand Prix is a stern test for an F1 engine. The engines spend 62% of the lap at full throttle, which is among the five highest values of the season and places severe strain on the engine’s moving parts. Equally, the two long straights means the engine spends a long time at high revs, putting additional pressure on the moving assemblies.

The primary and most characteristic danger for the engine in Bahrain is the possible ingestion of sand. Any presence of sand in the pistons, piston rings or valves would be catastrophic, and this means we pay particular attention to the air filter, bringing several different specifications. While this penalizes us slightly in pure performance, it is nevertheless a good compromise for the length of the weekend, and is particularly important in 2005 because the engine will be re-used at Imola, itself a demanding engine circuit.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the high temperatures are not inherently problematic for the engine. Our operating temperatures remain constant whatever the ambient conditions, so the determining factor is how efficiently we can cool the V10 – and what penalty we pay in aerodynamic performance for this. In Malaysia we saw that the R25 was particularly effective in its cooling.

The other phenomenon particular to circuits where we encounter high temperatures is engine acoustic offset. As temperatures rise, the speed at which the engine develops peak power increases, rising by approximately 300 rpm for every 10°C increase in temperature, and this obliges us either to use more revs in hotter temperatures, which is not always an option depending on reliability considerations, or to modify the intake system, for example using longer trumpets. The RS25 has been designed, and is run, in such a way as to allow us to optimize its performance regardless of atmospheric conditions.

Source Renault

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