Q&A with Renaults Bob Bell 17 Jul 2007
The R27s lack of pace this season has proved a bitter pill to swallow for Renault, following their back to back title doubles in 2005 and 2006. After lots of hard work, however, the French teams renaissance seems to have begun. Technical director Bob Bell explains why
Q: We have just passed the halfway point of the 2007 season. How would you summarise the year so far?
Bob Bell: It has been a mixed bag, to be honest. Initially, we were all disappointed to see that the car was not performing as we had predicted. But since that initial realisation, I have been extremely heartened and motivated by the team's response. Everybody in the organisation, from top to bottom, has just got their heads down and grafted to improve the situation. We have already made significant improvements to the car, and that will continue during the second half of the year. I'm very optimistic we can maintain our upward trajectory.
Q: The team has been conducting a phase of problem solving since early in the season to make up its performance deficit. What is the current status of that process?
BB: We are reaching a key point in the process, because we now have now identified and understood the problem. Simply put, there was a discrepancy between the car's predicted performance in the wind tunnel and its behaviour on track. We therefore began an extensive test and analysis programme to correct this. Some of the problems we discovered had their roots in the 2006 season, but had in fact been masked by our competitiveness at the time. We have now identified, and modified, the parts of the car that were causing the problems, and our simulations correlate well with the car's on-track behaviour.
Q: You said earlier this season that when the problems had been solved, you had a car capable of fighting with the best. Why is this not yet the case?
BB: It is an illustration of the relentless pace of development in Formula One. As we have been working to understand and solve our problems, we have fallen behind in the normal development of the car. The gap to our rivals reflects that.
Q: So what can you do about it?
BB: The solution is very simple: we need to accelerate our pace of development in the second half of the season. It will be a big challenge, but it's one that the factory is ready to take up. Our commitment is as strong as ever.
Q: What will the targets be for the second half of the year?
BB: The target is clear: to continue closing the gap to BMW Sauber on track, and to begin doing so in the championship. If you look back to the opening races of the year, it was as if we were in a different race to them. Now, we are regularly qualifying in the top ten, and according to the type of circuit, racing with our direct rivals. Giancarlo (Fisichella) and Heikki (Kovalainen) are both pushing very hard and getting the maximum from the car. They now need a more performance to fight on equal terms with BMW. That is what we are focused on providing them throughout the second half of the year, beginning this weekend at the Nurburgring.