Q&A with Renaults Pat Symonds 06 May 2008
After a disappointing start to the season Renault took a significant step forward at the last round in Spain, at least in terms of pace. Neither Fernando Alonso nor Nelson Piquet finished the race, but the formers front-row grid position has given the team a much-needed boost as they head to Istanbul for this weekend's Turkish Grand Prix. Director of engineering, Pat Symonds, explains
Q: Pat, ultimately the Spanish Grand Prix was a case of unrealised potential, but the team took a big step forward in terms of performance. How do you look back on the weekend?
Pat Symonds: When we went testing in Barcelona before the Grand Prix, we only knew what improvements we had made to our own vehicle, and we had to keep in mind that all the other teams would have new upgrades coming for the first European race. So although we were confident that we had improved, all that really mattered was how much we had improved compared to the others. It was still not until Saturday afternoon and qualifying that we had a true idea of where we stood. So to get both cars into the top ten in qualifying was a big relief; we now know that the pace really is there relative to the others.
Q: Fernando's home race ended prematurely - how did he feel after the race?
PS: Fernando was pretty upbeat after the race, which is a good attitude to have because although it's terribly disappointing to have the promise unfulfilled, it's better than not having any promise at all. That's the attitude the whole team has taken to the result because we were racing a lot closer towards the front than we have been for a considerable period of time. But we need to start scoring points again and if we had not shown the potential we did in Spain, then I don't think we would know how we were going to get those points. The fact is that we have shown the potential and therefore we can go out and race for the points.
Q: As you say Nelson had another short lived race after a midfield collision, but how was his weekend overall?
PS: It was very nearly a perfect weekend, spoiled by one mistake, which is a great shame because on Friday, when the track conditions were poor, he dealt with the car exceptionally well. He was quick on Saturday and his qualifying time in Q2 was very impressive and right up there with Fernando's time. So it was great to see him reach Q3, where his fuel-corrected time was still impressive and was not far behind Fernando. And let's remember that we are comparing a rookie with a double world champion, and so to be close to Fernando is a great credit. It's just a pity that the race was spoiled by one silly mistake, which ultimately led to the collision with Bourdais.
Q: Can the team deliver an equally strong performance in Istanbul?
PS: Aerodynamic efficiency pays dividends at nearly every track, and so there is no reason to believe that we will not be in a similar position in Istanbul. I firmly believe that we are within 1% of the leading team now, which is a big improvement from where we were at the beginning of the season. But we must not be complacent because there is still a lot to do and so we will introduce further aero upgrades in time for Istanbul.
Q: What about the mood in the team at the moment?
PS: There is a great deal more confidence at the moment, although I think it's fair to say that the belief that we would progress has always been there because nearly all the guys in the team have been through the winning experience of a couple of years ago. The last few weeks have been very hard for the team and so there is no better reward than seeing the evidence on the track of all the work that has gone on. It makes everybody upbeat and ready to put a lot more in for the coming weeks.