Renault technical boss expecting strong showing in Canada
Renault have not always had the greatest of luck at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, but technical director Bob Bell is expecting that to change this year, as he explained to the teams press department
Q: Canada's been a bogey circuit for Renault in the past two years, with double retirements in 2004 and 2005. You will be hoping to change that for 2006
Bob Bell: Yes, we want to put this race to bed - and score the result we should have had the past two years. In performance terms, we have been very quick in Montreal for a number of years now. We could have won both of the past races there, and even scored a one-two in 2005. So there's a very real sense of unfinished business for the whole team.
Q: Three of the four retirements were reliability-related in the past two years. Are you confident you are on top of those issues now?
BB: Certainly, our package is more reliable this year than it was last. In 16 starts so far this season, we have had only one DNF, which is a very strong run. Canada is a very tough race mechanically-speaking, because of the stop-start nature of the circuit. But I am confident that we will be OK from a reliability perspective.
Q: Will the demands of the circuit suit the R26?
BB: I think so. In Canada, you need to stop well - and accelerate well. Our car has excellent aerodynamic efficiency, a strong engine, good traction and is stable under braking. What's more, it's easy to drive which will allow both drivers to attack throughout the race. I think the characteristics of the Montreal circuit play to the strengths of our package.
Q: We are in the middle of a very close battle between Michelin and their rival tyre manufacturer. Where do you expect the advantage to lie in Canada?
BB: I don't think we have any worries about the tyres at all - we are confident that Michelin's products will be extremely competitive at the next races. Michelin have been fantastic this year, taking lessons on-board, pushing their development hard and coming up with the goods on Sunday afternoon. They are determined to win two more titles this season.
Q: In terms of chassis development, Canada obviously requires a special low-drag package
BB: Exactly. We develop a special wing package for this circuit, with lower drag levels to ensure we achieve competitive speeds on the long straights. We also have a significant number of developments going on the car for these races. I think these will in fact bear fruit at both North American races, because none of our rivals will have the time to test in between the races and respond. Our development is very aggressive in every area.
Q: So the goals for the weekend are
BB: to come away from the race with a good points-scoring finish. There is no reason why we can't challenge for the win, and we will hope to maintain the championship gap to Ferrari. In fact, over the next two races we want to extend that lead slightly. If we can go past the halfway point in the championship with this kind of advantage, then it means our rivals have to not only replicate our performance in the first-half of the championship, but go even further. That won't be an easy thing to do.
Q: Does that mean you see the next pair of races as strategically important for the championship?
BB: Yes, I think they are. This is the time of year when people make big choices about how hard to push their development processes to the end of the year, and if we can maintain that lead, then that may influence how they make their decisions. A strong North American campaign will bring a real psychological boost, and allow us to go to Magny-Cours on the offensive. We want to push home our advantage in the coming races.