Q & A with Renaults Pat Symonds 15 Feb 2005
The new Renault R25 has been widely regarded as one of the stars of pre-season testing, leading the media to predict great things for the team in 2005. But how much can really be read into the times? Renaults director of engineering, Pat Symonds spoke about the team's preparations for Melbourne and the year ahead.
Q: Pat, has testing matched up to the team's expectations so far?
Pat Symonds: I think we can say that thus far, we have fulfilled our expectations for the R25. It is one of the most exciting moments of the year when we hear the drivers' comments after first driving the car because they are an instant barometer of our performance, and it was a pleasure to see Fernando (Alonso) and Giancarlo's (Fisichellas) genuine enthusiasm for the R25 as soon as they drove it. Since then, those comments have been backed up by the car's lap-time performance.
Q: What impact have the new tyre rules had on your preparations?
PS: We have had to revise our testing methodology quite significantly: we must run a lot more miles in order to acquire information about tyre condition towards the end of their life - and that means we spend a lot more time with the car in a fixed configuration for tyre development, rather than adjusting the set-up. Indeed, we know that the R25 responds well to changes, but with the tyre development we have undertaken, and delays from a few typical new car problems, we have not yet even begun working on optimising set-up.
Q: How have the new Michelin long-life tyre performed?
PS: Michelin have been working very hard, and we now have tyres that will complete a race distance. Although it will vary from circuit to circuit, the loss in lap-time through the life cycle of the tyres is not as great as we had expected. And we were pleased to see that, like its predecessors, the R25 seems to be relatively easy on its tyres.
Q: Is it possible to get a realistic idea of the team's pace relative to the opposition?
PS: The most difficult thing is to stop yourself trying to! But really, expending effort on comparing times is of limited value. The basic fact is that you do not work to respond to the opposition; rather, we push to the maximum of our capability. Equally, other teams often have different test methods which can see them running at different lap-times, and circuit conditions change significantly through the day in the winter months. The best indicators are long runs in the middle of the day and on that basis, we look competitive. As always though, the gaps are very close both in front and behind.
Q: What are the team's priorities between now and Melbourne?
PS: Our number one priority will be reliability. So far, our relative performance has been better than our relative reliability, and there is no point being quick if you cannot finish the races. In parallel, we are pushing ahead with development of the car: we have not yet run the definitive Australia specification, and new aero developments will be tested shortly before leaving for Melbourne.