Renaults Pat Symonds: The tide is turning 25 Jun 2007
After a difficult start to their title defence, Renaults 2007 championship campaign gathered pace in Montreal and Indianapolis, with the R27 showing real signs of improvement. The teams Executive Director of Engineering, Pat Symonds, is convinced they are now well on their way to surpassing BMW Saubers performance level
Q: Pat, the team came away from North America having scored an equal number of points to rivals BMW. That's a positive for you, surely?
Pat Symonds: Well, the first thing to say is that the results don't quite tell the full story, because some odd things happened to both teams, in both races. But in overall terms, yes, I think it's indicative of the fact that the tide is turning, we are very close to BMW now and racing them hard.
Q: The car certainly seemed much more competitive in Canada and Indy
PS: I think it's since Monaco to be honest. Without a doubt, we have upped our game and pulled out of the midfield bunch we were in, to stand on top of it. And there's still more to come.
Q: The other key factor was seeing improved performances from Heikki Kovalainen What a contrast from the start of his weekend in Canada, to the end of the race in Indy!
PS: After Friday and Saturday in Montreal, not much more could go wrong. But he then put in a great drive in Canada: he pulled up from the back, he was consistent, he pushed and challenged all the way. Then we got to Indy and he was strong all weekend, mentally and in terms of his driving. He used the equipment to the utmost, and even led the race, which we hadn't anticipated!
Q: Giancarlo Fisichella was less fortunate, and saw two potentially strong finishes go by the wayside
PS: Sometimes, it is very hard to be critical of the drivers. For all of us, our job is all about taking things to the limit. If you do that, occasionally you will overstep it. As engineers, our mistakes are not very public; as a driver, it absolutely is. Giancarlo made a mistake in America, and it was a great shame because he was on a very strong strategy. But after that spin, what a drive! He showed all of his good qualities, driving very quickly, consistently and with a good dose of aggression too.
Q: Since the start of the season, you have spoken in detail about how the team has been solving its performance problems. How is that work progressing?
PS: The first thing to say, and it's an important point, is that the work is progressing. Of course, it is never fast enough - we all want to be leading championships and winning every race, and you're never happy until you are doing so! But we take a lot of comfort from the fact that after a poor start to the year, we are pulling it back so rapidly. Other teams are not having a great season, and not pulling it back as we are. There is plenty to be proud of in what we are doing.
Q: Have the new testing restrictions for 2007 affected the way you have tackled the problems?
PS: I don't think so, no. Our work has largely been focused on the aerodynamics of the car, in the wind tunnel. There has been some track work too, but the mileage restrictions haven't limited us at all. We wholeheartedly support the testing limit because it's simply so expensive to run these cars in testing.
Q: Looking ahead to the French Grand Prix, how will the circuit suit the R27?
PS: Magny-Cours is known as a very smooth circuit - although the new final chicane now gives the cars a severe pounding. It's quite an aerodynamic circuit, with some good fast chicanes which need a responsive car. The challenge is very different to that of the low-medium downforce tracks in Canada and the USA. If you look back to circuits like Barcelona, we were struggling there at the time, but since then some very positive steps forward have been made. So I certainly believe our performance will be better, but we are still working on the car, still trying things, and hoping for a good race in France.
Q: Finally, what do you expect the second half of the season to hold for Renault?
PS: There's plenty of activity at the factory, that's for sure. As we better understand the problems we have been suffering from, we are able to improve the car. There will be enhancements for France and Britain. And that's in addition to continue the push with our normal development processes. There are a lot of new bits coming for the car, and you can be certain that we will keep on fighting.