Renault preview of Monaco
May 17, 2005
Renault heads to the Monaco Grand Prix with an 18 points advantage
over their nearest rival Toyota. Coincidentally, Fernando Alonso
also enjoys the same points gap over Jarno Trulli, the 2004 Monaco
Grand Prix winner.
Fernando, tell us about driving at Monaco...
It is great especially on the first laps on Thursday when you have
to get used to everything again, it is a special feeling. By Sunday,
once we have run in free practice and we are really comfortable with
the track, then things feel more normal, but it is still a unique
race for the drivers and the teams. Every team brings a special
package for Monaco, and we need to have a special mentality in the
car. You cannot make any mistakes in Monte-Carlo, and that means
100% concentration from Thursday to Sunday. Mentally, it is very
People often say this is the definitive driver's circuit?
Historically, people have said that, but everything needs to be
good. In the three years I have driven there, I have driven the same
way but a few years ago I was back in the pack, then last year
with Renault we were fighting for the win. The car is very important
as well: you need good suspension, the aero is maybe less important,
but the engine must be good, and soft in the power delivery. The R25
is easy to drive, and predictable, so I think we have a strong car
for this circuit.
Did the pace of McLaren surprise you in Barcelona?
Honestly, no. We knew they were a bit quicker than us all weekend,
they had a new package there and it did the job. But I don't think
the race gave a representative picture of the difference between our
cars, because Kimi was able to pull away too easily in the first
stint as I was struggling with the car. I think we will be much more
equal in Monaco, and am feeling very confident.
You will have a major aero update on the car is that a boost?
For sure. It well help in performance, no doubt, but also it shows
that the team is fighting as well. Everybody here at Renault is
pushing, and doing their part: the race team, the test team, and all
the factories are going to flat out to keep us on the top. We are
not telling ourselves any stories we know that is what we need to
do in order to get the results. And I think we are doing a very
competitive job so far. In Monaco, we will be aiming for the podium
from the start of the weekend and then we need to see things
unfold, and how we can fight for more.
Giancarlo, you have said that Monaco is your favorite race
what makes it special?
It is just a special weekend for me. I feel very comfortable there
I used to live in Monaco, and now I bring my boat down for the race,
which means all my family can come and stay as well. I actually
drive the boat from Italy up to Monte-Carlo, spend time relaxing in
the days before and then during the race weekend, when the day is
over it is great to go back on the boat and spend time with my
What about the circuit how does it challenge the driver?
I have very good feeling with this circuit. You need to be very
precise with the car, and be aggressive without making mistakes. I
love the sensation of driving through the streets, and really
pushing to the limit. In the past, I have always gone well in
Monaco, and it should be the same this year.
So, you are feeling positive ahead of the race?
Definitely. I have been on the podium twice in Monaco, and I think I
am with the right team for this race Renault did a great job last
year with Jarno to win the race, and the R25 will definitely be fast
there. What's even more important is that I think I can have a good
race weekend from the start now: I am in the right place in first
qualifying, near the end of the session when track conditions will
be best, and that means I can fight to get a good grid position,
which is so important in Monaco. It feels like I have broken out of
the cycle I was in, where I kept on having to qualify early. That is
one thing, and now with Renault, I have a great car. As I said, I
have already finished third and second in Monaco. It would be
wonderful to go one better this year.
Monaco is no ordinary race track and it is this fact that makes it
so special for the fans and team alike. However, setting up a modern
Formula One car for the bumps and confines of Monaco is a unique
Bob Bell, Technical Director: Bob, how pleased were you with the
team's performance in Barcelona?
I was very proud of our result there. It could easily have been
second and third with Fisi and Fernando, which would have been a
tremendous achievement, but even to finish second and fifth speaks
very highly of the drivers, who both had to deal with adversity in
the race. It reflects well on the team, too, because it shows that
we are operating in a manner that if things go badly, we are able to
recover from it and salvage points. I don't think that is something
we were capable of doing a few years ago, but it most definitely is
what you need to be capable of in order to fight for a
Did the drivers impress you in the race?
Absolutely. We have always said about Giancarlo, and the same is
true of Fernando, that they do not give up. They both race until the
checkered flag and even if they have something happen like the
problem for Fisi, or Fernando's tire blistering they do not let
their heads drop. As a team, that is what you want from the drivers.
It proves they are 100% committed.
Finally, the team won in Monaco last year can you do it again?
We certainly hope so. One of the puzzling things about last year
with the R24 was that the car was difficult to drive on the limit,
yet it flew round Monaco the last place where you would want a
difficult car. I think what we have seen with the R25 is that where
the competitiveness of last year's car was up and down, this season
we have lifted those downs' to a consistent overall level of
performance. So far, Michelin have been extremely consistent in
their level of performance this year. Their tires have been
historically strong in Monaco, and we are confident they will
deliver a good solution once again. At every race so far, we have
been quickest or next quickest over five different circuits, in
varying conditions. I anticipate that we will go very well in
Monaco, and that we will see both drivers fighting for the
Alan Permane, Chassis race engineer, Car 6
Monaco is a unique circuit in the season both because of its
unusually twisting layout, which places a real premium on slow-speed
performance and mechanical grip, but also because of the nature of
the track surface, which as well as being extremely slippery at the
start of the weekend, is also very bumpy and sharply cambered.
Indeed, to cope with this, we run the ride heights anywhere from 5
to 7 mm higher than normal.
Mechanically, we spring the cars softly to maximize the grip
available to the drivers but also to cope with the bumps and
cambers. The wheels must be able to move independently in order to
cope with imperfections in the track surface, and we also soften the
anti-roll bars in order to enable this. We also pay special
attention to the camber of the front and rear wheels, running high
angles although too much camber can lead to instability in the
bumpy high speed braking areas into Turn 1, or the harbor chicane,
The tight Grand Hotel hairpin obliges us to revise steering
geometry, as it requires more lock than any other corner of the
season for the entire circuit, we run up to twice as much steering
lock as at our previous race in Barcelona. Indeed, the control
systems have an extremely important role to play in the slower
corners, controlling wheelspin on exit through the traction control,
but also by running the diff a little freer than normal in order to
help the drivers turn the car on the throttle.
The circuit also sees the highest downforce levels of the year used
on the cars to help braking and traction primarily, as most of the
corners are too slow to enable a real gain from extra downforce
levels. However, the increased stability provided by maximum
downforce on the low grip surface is always of benefit to the lap
time. Wing angles at front and rear are usually run at maximum
levels although with the R25, we will be slightly below maximum
downforce at the front.
For all the attention we pay to car set-up, though, our changes to
the car are always very difficult to judge. The Monaco surface is
very low grip, and not at all abrasive. It picks up grip all
weekend, making lap-time improvements in practice hard to decipher,
and the circuit as well as the drivers is constantly improving
throughout the race. The very soft tires lay down a lot of rubber on
the racing line, and the fastest laps of the weekend often come in
the race when grip levels are at their highest. Indeed, we often
see negative degradation' at Monaco, meaning the cars are getting
quicker through their race stints as grip levels increase.
Last year's Renault was extremely competitive all weekend in Monaco,
and the R25 represents a step forward in all areas and is much
more comfortable for the drivers on the limit. This could prove a
key factor in Monaco, a circuit that Giancarlo loves. Coupled with
the new aerodynamic package, this means we will certainly have our
eyes on winning the race, and improving the team's championship
position even further.
Fabrice Lom, Engine race engineer, Car 6
Monaco has the reputation of being the least demanding circuit of
the season for engines, but that can be firmly categorized as
an urban myth'. People often consider it to be undemanding because
the parameters by which the severity of a circuit is usually judged
are less significant (the longest full throttle period lasts just 8
seconds, for example), the average speed is low and the race
distance is the shortest of the season.
However, the apparent simplicity of the change is not an accurate
picture of the demands Monaco places on the V10. The circuit is very
tight, and extremely bumpy: this means over-revving is very common,
and performance is required from unusually low engine speeds the
cars are running at just 45 kph through the Grand hairpin.
This means the engine must be as drivable as possible to be quick
round Monaco. A shortfall in peak power will be less severely
penalized at this circuit, and we approve the engine specification
in the context of the unusual characteristics of the circuit on the
dyno, simulating the low revs and hard acceleration. Monaco rewards
a rounded engine more than the V10 which delivers the highest power:
it needs to pull well from low revs, while successful integration
into the chassis will assist in the mechanical grip and handling of
The other challenge we face in making the engine last the distance
is cooling. We run very closely-spaced gear ratios to maximize the
car's acceleration, and this means the ratio between engine speed
and car speed is higher than at a more normal circuit. The higher
this ratio, the greater the risk is of overheating, and this is one
of our major preoccupations at Monaco. However, we are helped by the
fact that aerodynamic efficiency is less important than at other
circuits on the calendar which means we can open up the car's
bodywork if necessary without paying a major lap-time
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