Bell: Both drivers have been outstanding 14 May 2004
Renault's Chassis Technical Director Bob Bell on the teams season to date in which both their drivers have finished in the points at every race an achievement only matched by Ferrari.
Q: Nearly a week on from the Spanish Grand Prix, how pleased were you with the results in Barcelona?
Bob Bell: I think we got a very solid finish, and it was certainly as good as we could have hoped for given Ferrari's current domination. Perhaps most pleasing, though, was that it was the result of a good, progressive weekend. When we began on Friday the car was not handling brilliantly, as often happens at Barcelona, and we just kept on moving in the right direction. We made sensible changes to the car, and let the track come to us. And of course, both drivers put in a splendid job.
Q: So far, the team has not suffered any retirements: how pleasing is that?
BB: To be honest, I think reliability throughout the grid has increased, and it is probably fair to say that the new engine concept has had the knock-on effect of raising general reliability levels. From our perspective, we have done extremely well so far, and it is an accolade to be the only team with Ferrari to have a 100% points finishing record. Of course, this record is also a tribute to the drivers: they haven't done anything stupid in the first races, in spite of both of them being in the middle of some aggressive racing, and they have made a big contribution to the team effort. They have both been outstanding this season.
Q: The drivers have acknowledged that, while the R24 is significantly faster than its predecessor, it is also harder to drive. How are you progressing with solving that?
BB: The R24 has more outright performance, but is currently less forgiving. However, we certainly made a step forward in our understanding of the car over the Barcelona weekend, and improved the handling - we must now transform this understanding into a concrete development. Barcelona also demonstrated to the full the car's other strengths: it has been very quick in race trim, and tyre wear and reliability have been very good so far.
Q: At the design stage, is it easy for a team to get something wrong when designing a car?
BB: Yes. There are still a lot of unknowns about extracting the best from an F1 car. Our job is managing the risk. If you don't take any, you're going backwards. If you take too many, you're stuck with performance or reliability problems. The start of the 2004 season shows that we've found a good balance with the R24. We pushed some aspects but were confident that we knew what we were doing. The whole rear end, for example, is different. That could have caused some cooling problems, but it behaved just like we thought it would on the track.
Q: Have you changed your development philosophy: instead of having something new at each race, you seem to be going for bigger steps?
BB: True. We're planning our package upgrades earlier and tend to be more efficient. The Imola improvement, 0.4 sec a lap, illustrated this.
Q: What developments are to come?
BB: Chassis-wise, the Imola step was quite big. Then, something should appear in Montreal, Silverstone and Monza. As far as the engine is concerned, upgrades are currently planned for Hockenheim and hopefully Montreal.
Q: Looking ahead to Monaco, what are your expectations?
BB: At Monaco, we know qualifying will be all-important. This is traditionally a circuit that suits us: the R24 should perform strongly there, and the car has a good high-downforce package. Our drivers have been impeccable so far and there is little reason for that to change in Monaco: Jarno has been historically very quick through the streets, and is extremely motivated after his first podium of the year, while Fernando raced very strongly there in 2003 and will certainly benefit from the experience he has gained since then.