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Q & A with Renault’s Pat Symonds 20 Sep 2005

Pat Symonds (GBR) Renault Executive Director of Engineering.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, German Grand Prix, Preparations, Hockenheim, Germany, 21 July 2005

Renault may well wrap up the 2005 drivers’ title this weekend, but for the team’s designers, technicians and mechanics the constructors’ championship is just as important. Winning that one presents something more a challenge, as their Executive Director of Engineering, Pat Symonds, explains:

Q: The team is fighting for both championships as we begin the last three races of the season. Which one would it give you most pleasure to win?
Pat Symonds:
From a personal point of view, I am always very proud to win the constructors’ championship, as it is a symbol of what everybody in the team has contributed to the season. In terms of image and the importance to the company, there is no doubt that the drivers’ title is the one to win: everybody remembers the world champion driver, not the world champion team. But within the team, there is a very strong drive to claim the constructors’ title as well.

Q: The McLaren is currently the class of the field. How will Renault be responding?
PS:
We are not arrogant here in the team, and we do fully appreciate that the McLaren is now a quicker car than the Renault. We have a good step on the aerodynamics for Brazil, that will help us claw back some of the deficit. But it is also partly to do with some of the strategic engineering decisions that have been made in the team. We do not want a car that is fast and fragile, we want a car that will finish every Sunday because that is how championships are won.

Q: What do you think will be the deciding factor in these final races?
PS:
I still think it will come down to reliability, even at this late stage. With three races left, ourselves and McLaren have six race starts each until the end of the season. If both teams get six finishes between now and China, it is likely that McLaren will beat us. But if they fail to finish, then we can beat them. So firstly, we have to make sure we finish the races with both cars. Then after that, we need to put pressure on them.

Q: Is it not tough fighting a team that is quicker than you?
PS:
Of course, but that’s what sport is all about! With a racing driver, I believe what marks out good drivers from champions, is the champion’s ability to set a personal best every time he goes out in the car - they can always push back their limits. And it is no different for the whole team: we are looking to set our “personal best” at each race until the end of the year. In Monza, we didn’t win but I came away very satisfied because I felt we had put in a personal best performance as a team. Equally, after problems in the pit-stops this year, we had two of the quickest stops in Spa. It is an enormous challenge to get a team working at the top of its game, but when it does, it is extremely satisfying.

Q: Finally, tell us a little about Brazil…
PS:
Brazil - like Indianapolis - is a circuit with two very distinct halves: a very high speed section past the pits and along the back straight where top speed and low drag are at a premium, combined with the twisting infield which demands downforce and mechanical grip. So we work hard to find the right compromise on wing levels. You need good mechanical grip for the slow corners, and also good ride: the circuit can be bumpy and if the car is hopping from one bump to another, you lose grip and therefore lap-time. Traditionally, the team has performed very strongly at this circuit, and we are certainly optimistic that this will be the case again this year.