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Q&A with Renault's Pat Symonds 11 Apr 2007

Pat Symonds (GBR) Renault Executive Director of Engineering.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Friday, 16 March 2007

With the world champions coming under increasing fire for their slow start to the season, Renault’s Executive Director of Engineering Pat Symonds will be working hard to get the best from the R27’s performance this weekend in Bahrain. Symonds reveals his expectations for the Sakhir race and tries to get to the bottom of just what is hampering the team...

Q: Pat, what is your analysis of the Renault’s weekend in Malaysia?
Pat Symonds:
I think we achieved the best we could have hoped for in Sunday's race, especially after our qualifying performance on Saturday. Giancarlo (Fisichella) went from 12th to 6th, and drove a good aggressive race, especially at the start; Heikki's (Kovalainen) performance was solid, and his pace very similar to Fisi's, and he erased the memory of Melbourne with a strong drive. The car was a bit more consistent in the race, and performed reasonably. So we raced well, and that's encouraging. But does that mean we are satisfied with our current situation? Absolutely not.

Q: What is the team doing in order to try and gain performance relative to the competition?
Working extremely hard! It means asking a lot of questions, and finding answers to them. We can schedule which questions we ask, and when, but we cannot schedule when we will find the answers. It means working diligently and honestly to find the root of our current difficulties. And at the same time, we have to keep on developing the car to compete at the track. If we simply throw our resources blindly at fixing the problems, by the time we have resolved them, we will only have fallen behind again.

Q: The obvious question to ask is ‘what is the cause of your problems?’ - do you have an answer?
I think it is obvious to say that it is not a simple diagnosis. The first mistake we could make would be a knee-jerk reaction. The people working on the situation, are the same people who won two world championships in the last two years. We have the same tools, the same methodology, and the same confidence in our ability to succeed. Now, we need time and application to do so - and I have every faith in our capacity to bounce back strongly.

Q: Looking at the circuit in Bahrain, how do you expect the car to perform?
If you look at the sector times in Malaysia, it is relatively obvious that we were less competitive in the parts of the circuit that featured the high-speed corners. Sakhir is not a circuit with many high-speed corners, so it should be intrinsically a little kinder to us. But can I predict we will make a step forward in competitiveness? To be honest, it's very hard to make any predictions at all at the moment, and I think a number of people up and down the pit lane are scratching their heads right now.

Q: What do you mean?
At Renault, the drivers are complaining of a lack of grip from the car, but we are also seeing inconsistency in its performance: we were relatively stronger on Friday and Sunday in Malaysia, when compared to our performance on Saturday. At the front of the field, we saw a huge shift from Ferrari and McLaren between the opening two races, and a number of teams saw their two drivers deliver very different levels of performance. To my mind, that suggests that while the tyre situation is stable for everybody, there are still plenty of questions to be answered in terms of achieving consistent, reliable performance.

Q: So what are the expectations for the weekend ahead?
In Bahrain this weekend, we will once again race the package at our disposal, and race it to the best of our ability. Everybody back at base is pushing the development, and we can see it with new parts constantly arriving at the track. Our responsibility at the circuit is to race well, to race hard and get the most out of our current package. We did that in Malaysia: both drivers were quick, consistent and aggressive; and our pit stops were the fastest of the entire field. That speaks volumes about the team's professionalism, and I am confident we can achieve our maximum again in Bahrain this weekend.