Symonds: Renault approaching Hungary with optimism 31 Jul 2007
The last round of the championship was a case of so near, yet so far for Renault, who had to be content with eighth place, as rivals Red Bull scored the first Renault-powered podium of the season.
However, Executive Director of Engineering Pat Symonds believes the high-downforce requirements of the Hungaroring should show the world champions in a better light this weekend
Q: Pat, the team endured a difficult race at the Nurburgring, in changing conditions that usually allow you to shine. What happened?
Pat Symonds: We made mistakes early in the race, and they cost us a very strong double points finish. It was made all the more frustrating because it was the type of race in which we normally excel. We are good at thinking on our feet and making the right decisions under pressure, but our mistakes seemed to compound themselves in Germany. Since then, we have conducted our usual analysis in even greater detail than normal to ensure we learn everything we can from the experience - and to make sure our mistakes remain one-offs.
Q: Were there positives that you could take from the weekend?
PS: Absolutely. Look at the calculated risk we took at the end of the race with Heikki (Kovalainen). He had to stop once more for fuel on lap 49, and we knew there was rain coming in the next few minutes. We could have sent him back out on dry tyres, and then called him back in two laps later for wets. By doing that, he would definitely have finished outside the points. Instead, we sent him out on a bone dry track on wet tyres, anticipating the rainfall. In the end, it probably came a few minutes later than we would have liked, but it was a bold, brave decision that could have paid off handsomely. As it was, he still managed to score a point. Decisions like that one are certainly something to be proud of.
Q: The team was running new aerodynamic developments in Germany. How did they perform?
PS: Exactly according to our simulations. The major development was a new front wing, which reflected an enormous push from everybody at Enstone to get it ready in time for the race. It performed according to our predictions, which was very encouraging. For other reasons, we didn't take full advantage of the gains it should allow us to make, but we have worked on this point during our testing in Jerez and should be much better-equipped to exploit the wing in Budapest.
Q: It is no consolation for the team, but the European Grand Prix was a great race at the front of the field
PS: It was a great race for the spectators, without a doubt. The rain introduced the chaos factor that invariably leads to good racing. It jumbled the cars up, putting faster competitors behind slower ones; and it meant that the performance profiles of the cars changed during the race - Ferrari clearly had the advantage in the dry, whereas Alonso was faster than Massa in the wet. Even under the current regulations, those ingredients combine successfully to produce exciting racing.
Q: Looking ahead to Budapest, what are your expectations?
PS: We go there feeling optimistic. The car was quick in high-downforce trim in Monaco and, since then, we have added performance to it. We experienced problems getting the tyres working properly in the cooler conditions at the Nurburgring, but this is unlikely to be a problem in the high temperatures we usually encounter in Hungary. And while the timesheets placed us 11th and 12th in terms of fastest laps in Germany, I think our pace was actually much better than that suggested: the fact that our strategy was somewhat out of synch with our competitors may have masked some of our pace. Everybody is very focused for the weekend ahead, and determined to demonstrate that although frustrating, the last race was nothing more than an extremely annoying blip in performance.