Q&A with Renaults Alan Permane 05 Jun 2007
With the R27 finally picking up pace in Monaco, Renaults chief engineer Alan Permane looks back on the Monte Carlo race and discusses how he thinks the world champions will fare in Montreal
Q: Alan, the team scored its best result of the year in Monaco. It must have been a satisfying moment?
Alan Permane: The only answer to that is 'yes and no'. Everybody in the team has been working very hard over the past few months to turn the situation around, and Monaco was the first sign of that work bearing fruit on track. It has traditionally been a good circuit for the team, and the improvements we have made to the car showed their worth on Saturday and Sunday. But although we finished fourth, we were a lap behind the leaders. That shows there is a still a long way to go
Q: How much of the improved performance can be attributed to the unusual nature of the circuit - and how much represents a genuine step forward?
AP: It is always difficult to separate out those two things. You only need to look at the balance of power between McLaren and Ferrari - after winning in Bahrain and Barcelona, Massa finished over a minute behind Alonso in Monaco. So the circuit certainly suits some cars better than others. We know that it is traditionally a strong track for us, but our work in testing before the race certainly gave us reason to feel optimistic for the next races - not just Monaco.
Q: Where do you think the team currently sits in the order of competitiveness through the field?
AP: I believe that on a more normal circuit, we will be within striking distance of BMW. Until now, we have been racing with one eye on our mirrors, looking out for the midfield pack that includes Williams, Toyota and Red Bull. With the developments we introduced in Monaco, and those we have planned for the next races, I think we have given ourselves a cushion to that midfield group - and added the performance that can allow us to race aggressively against the cars in front.
Q: Giancarlo Fisichella had an almost flawless weekend in Monaco
AP: It's a circuit he loves, it rewards his natural talent and he did a great job in Monaco. Right now, Giancarlo is driving as well as I have ever seen him. Circumstances have been difficult, but he has worked hard on getting the most out of the car, pushed hard on every lap - and taken advantage of each small performance gain. He is in a very confident frame of mind, and the next two circuits are places where he has always raced very strongly.
Q: Heikki Kovalainen endured a more difficult weekend in the Principality. Were there still positives for him to take from the experience?
AP: It was a tough weekend mentally, because I think that it was very hard for him to learn from the experience - he got blocked in qualifying through no fault of his own, and that basically dictated his result on Sunday. But Heikki has already demonstrated this year that he is a tough character, and that he bounces back quickly from disappointment. He is still learning and still improving; his attitude has been exemplary; and I think the developments we have put on the car to improve its driveability, will help him to start showing the level of performance we know he is capable of.
Q: The team did not test in the week leading up to the Canadian Grand Prix, so how did you go about your preparations?
AP: In terms of track work, our basic set-up work and tyre testing was completed at Paul Ricard before Monaco, running on a layout designed to simulate the demands of Montreal. We competed our aerodynamic preparation with an aero test ahead of the Monaco race weekend, checking the low downforce wings and their settings. At the factory, we have been crunching the numbers in our set-up simulations, preparing the cars for a demanding trip that will see them racing twice in the space of a week, and also ensuring that car complies with the rules clarification on rear wing flexibility that was published after Monaco. We didn't have any worries on this front, but you cannot afford to be caught out when you are racing so far from home.