Renault team previews
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, 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
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, 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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