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Q&A with Renault technical director Bob Bell 16 Oct 2006

Bob Bell (GBR) Renault Technical Director.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, San Marino Grand Prix, Preparations, Imola, Italy, 20 April 2006

As the paddock returns to Interlagos for this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix, Renault are once again preparing for a title showdown. Here, the team’s technical director talks tyres, mass dampers and championship hopes…

Q: Renault took its first victory since June in Suzuka. Was it a lucky win?
Bob Bell:
Only in the sense that we have no direct influence on Ferrari’s reliability! This team has worked flat out all year and even in the tougher moments of the season, we have never given up. Fernando (Alonso) was in the best possible position to capitalise on Michael’s (Schumacher) misfortune in Japan thanks to the pace of the car, and one might argue that we pushed them to use their engine harder than they would have liked. Just like in life, I think you make your own luck in Formula One.

Q: As the team goes to Brazil, there is a dizzying array of mathematical possibilities for winning the championship. How do you establish the team’s targets for this crucial race?
The most important thing will be to change nothing, and to not feel pressured to do so. We go to every race weekend aiming to win, and we will approach Brazil in the same way. We want to do our normal job, and take nothing for granted. We will race hard and react accordingly should the circumstances of the race demand it. There are many mathematical scenarios that could see us win or lose, but for the team, it will be business as usual. I think we have always believed that the best to win championships is by winning races.

Q: Michael Schumacher practically conceded the drivers’ championship in Brazil. That must make Alonso’s life easier?
Make no mistake: Michael will be racing flat out in Brazil, as always. His hallmark trait is that he never gives up, and that is why he has been testing in Jerez since Japan. And he has an extra reason to be going flat out in Interlagos. This will be the last race of his career, and I am sure he is determined to go out on a high.

Q: Looking at the demands of the Interlagos circuit, it is often said to be very bumpy. Could the absence of the mass damper particularly affect the car?
To be honest, it is no longer the very bumpy circuit it once was. Last year’s race in Brazil was the first time we ran the Tuned Mass Damper, and the drivers certainly noticed the help it gave them. But we have worked very hard to re-optimise the car since it was removed, and we have been very competitive at a wide range of circuits since then. The R26 has been quick at all types of circuit this year, and we are confident it will once again be so in Brazil.

Q: Suzuka was a strange weekend for the tyres, with a performance deficit in qualifying reversed in the race. What do you expect in Brazil?
We have worked hard on our tyre choice for the race, and Michelin’s effort over the past months has shown how determined they are to leave Formula One on a high. But we need to wait for the first practice sessions before making any predictions. We are confident that we will have a competitive, consistent race tyre.

Q: You mentioned that this will be Michael Schumacher’s final race in Formula One racing. It will also be Fernando Alonso’s last Grand Prix with Renault. What are your thoughts?
We have known for a long time that Fernando is leaving after this race, and we have maintained an excellent working relationship throughout the year. It will certainly be the end of an era for the team, but we are determined to finish on a high by winning both titles, as we did last year. After that, we will begin to look ahead with great optimism, and relishing the new challenges of 2007.

Q: Finally, what is your perspective on this year’s championship battle with Ferrari, compared to fighting with McLaren in 2005?
First and foremost, they have both been equally hard! The team has raised its game for 2006: we have scored more points and finished more races than in 2005. We are up against Ferrari at the peak of their abilities, and Michael Schumacher at the peak of his. Should we win, that will mean the prestige of our victory is only greater - especially when we reflect on the adversity we have overcome this season. We won the first and last races of 2005, which was a true reflection of our effort all through the year. We are determined to do it again in 2006.