Interview - Renaults Franck Montagny 19 Apr 2004
After several thousand miles at the wheel of Renaults 2003 car, the R23, test driver Franck Montagny finally got his first taste of the latest R24 at Paul Ricard last week.
Montagny has been putting in the development miles for the French team since last winter. Until now, the Frenchman was primarily doing tyre testing in last year's car. However, now that the team is able to use two R24s for testing, Montagny will be doing a lot more work in the 2004 machine. He gave the Renault press office his first impressions.
Q: Franck, was it a special moment the first time you climbed into the R24?
FM: Yes. For a driver, it is always special when you get to drive a new car for the first time. After watching Jarno and Fernando race the R24 during the first three races of the season, I was eager to get an idea of the car's performance. As soon as I got behind the wheel, I could feel a difference. There's just as little room - it's still an F1 car! - and I sit a lot lower.
Q: As soon as you had done the first laps, could you feel the differences?
FM: The R24 is quicker than its predecessor, there's no doubt about it. And because you are going through the corners quicker, you need to be a bit more careful - the car is not yet as stable as the R23. In terms of running the car, we are really pushing ourselves. On my first day, I did 160 laps in the car. It gave us some time to get to know each other.
Q: Did the engine surprise you?
FM: It is completely different to the RS23. The power is better, but what I felt immediately was how differently the power is delivered. The power curve is very linear. The progress the team has made is clear. I was also lucky to have my first drive with the B spec, that the team will use at Imola.
Q: Will your test programme change now that you are using the R24?
FM: A lot, yes. Towards the end, the R23 was primarily used for tyre testing and some handling work. Now, I'll be driving the proper race car. Each kilometre at the wheel of the R24 will be useful. We won't be looking at areas that can be transposed between the R23 and R24 any more, but on specific elements designed for the new car.
Q: How did testing go for you on Thursday?
FM: It went well. I did fewer laps than the day before, but it was a useful programme. The wind was quite strong, and that disrupted my programme a little: it was hard to know how meaningful small gains or losses in performance were, and what the causes might have been. Having said that, we are making progress every day. So far, things look good for Imola. The team is confident, and I can't wait to start running the next programme.