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Q&A with Renault's Pat Symonds 24 Nov 2006

Pat Symonds (GBR) Renault Executive Director of Engineering.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 11 March 2006

With their winter testing programme set to begin next week in Barcelona, Renault’s preparations for 2007 are already in full swing. Here, Pat Symonds, the team's Executive Director of Engineering, discusses with the Renault press office, his objectives as testing gets underway…

Q: The team will be running for nine days between now and Christmas, weather permitting. What will be the objectives for these test sessions?
Pat Symonds:
The team’s goals are two-fold. To a very large extent, our running will deal with learning and adapting to the true characteristics of the Bridgestone tyres. However, the fact we will be using the same engine architecture next year means it is also cost-effective to run components from next year’s car during these sessions, for reliability testing. We will be taking full advantage of that opportunity.

Q: How much do you already know about the Bridgestone tyres?
We have received a lot of data from Bridgestone, which has been applied to our computer modelling in order to understand the basics of how the car set-up need to be altered to get the best out of the tyres. Factors such as weight distribution and the aerodynamic characteristics of the car need to be re-assessed to determine how to best use the Bridgestone tyres.

Presumably, though, computer modelling can only take you so far in that process…
Exactly. No amount of mathematical data can explain the subtleties of the tyres, and especially of the tyre compounds. We need to run on track in order to understand how to best use the tyres over a stint, what driving style they require, and their general strengths and weaknesses. The majority of our nine days will be spent trying to get a handle on these characteristics.

Q: So will the priority be long runs, or performance evaluation?
Initially, the engineers will be working with the drivers to get the basic balance of the car comfortable. That will involve relatively short runs. Subsequently, we will look to being working on how the tyres react over the length of a race stint. It will be important to do plenty of mileage.

Q: A change of tyre supplier is a major transition for a Formula One team. How big an impact will it have on the team over the winter?
I don’t think the move to Bridgestone can be understated, but it is also important not to overstate its importance. The last time we changed tyre supplier was between 2000 and 2001. Since then, we have become a lot more knowledgeable about the tyres, and we can apply a lot more intelligence to the problem. On a technical level, the transition is one of the normal engineering challenges an F1 team faces. The other important factor is building strong working relationships with our new partner, and establishing good communications. That plays an important role in any partnership, and it is something we will be working hard on.

Q: Bridgestone have stated that the tyres used for testing in Barcelona next week, will be the ones you are using at the first race in Melbourne. Is that a help?
It is a massive help. Had we been switching suppliers in the middle of a tyre war, it would have been an order of magnitude more difficult. The fact we are working with a stable product will assist us greatly in understanding the tyres. Our aim will be to get to Australia on an equal footing with the teams that have been using them for a while already. That will not be easy, but it is achievable.

Q: How easy do you think it will be for the drivers to make the transition?
I am very confident in the drivers’ ability to adapt. Giancarlo (Fisichella) already has experience of the Bridgestone tyres from 2004; equally, when he changed tyre supplier at the start of 2005, he had no problem adapting. I am sure he can do the same again. As for Heikki (Kovalainen), we already know that he has the versatility and intelligence to make the change without any difficulties. I am sure both drivers will feel at ease quite quickly.

Q: Finally, you mentioned the team will also be conducting reliability testing on components for the 2007 car…
It is something we do every winter, according to which parts can be fitted to the car in a cost-effective way. In recent seasons, we have negotiated major changes in engine architecture that limited our scope for running major mechanical items. However, the regulations for next season are stable and this means that we will begin running the 2007 gearbox in Barcelona, in order to make the unit fully reliable before the start of next season. It has already completed several race distances on the dyno, and we are confident that this programme will run smoothly alongside our tyre work.