Symonds predicts competitive Canada weekend for Renault 02 Jun 2008
Renault have had a tough first third to their 2008 campaign. Six races gone and they have just nine points on the board, all of them scored by former champion Fernando Alonso, whose rookie team mate Nelson Piquet has so far failed to make his mark.
However, director of engineering Pat Symonds is confident for the coming races and this weekends Montreal round. Not only is he sure that Piquet can bounce back, he is also confident that Renault have the ability to out-develop their immediate rivals in the latter part of the season
Q: Pat, Monaco was a disappointing weekend for the team. Do you view it as a missed opportunity and what do you think might have been possible?
Pat Symonds: I think so. What might have been possible is hard to say in a race like that because so many factors come into it, but reducing the race to the simplest of facts, we can see that before Fernando's first problem on lap eight he was 32 seconds ahead of Mark Webber, who went on to finish fourth, and so I think a strong points finish would have been achievable.
Q: Fernando had an eventful weekend in Monaco, but he remains positive and seems to be enjoying his racing again - is that a fair assessment?
PS: In the early part of the season he was getting a little bit frustrated, but we made a huge leap forward in performance for Barcelona and I think the car did become more enjoyable to drive. So, yes, I think it is fair to say that he is enjoying his racing, and I think that he has faith that the car will continue to improve.
Q: Nelson is still on a learning curve and had another tough weekend in Monaco. How is his confidence as we approach the Canadian Grand Prix?
PS: His confidence is suffering a little bit, but we hope to see him bounce back soon - he's definitely got the ability and we've already seen he's got the speed. He just needs to restore his self-confidence and that is something we will help him do.
Q: We're a third of the way through the season now. What positives do the team take from the first six races?
PS: The most positive thing is that we've shown our rate of development can exceed that of the other teams. We've pulled ourselves up the field in the first third of the season and there's every reason to think that we can keep improving. I'm not saying that we will be challenging for pole position and wins, but I certainly think that we've got plans in place that should allow us to out-develop those around us, which should help us get closer to challenging the BMWs and the McLarens in the next part of the season.
Q: Canada is the first low-downforce circuit that we will visit this year. How do you think it will suit the R28?
PS: The R28 has shown well through the extremes of Barcelona and Monaco, but Canada is a different place altogether with long straights, chicanes and kerbs - it's all about braking and traction. Of course aerodynamics is extremely important, because while the corners are relatively slow in Canada, you still need efficient aero to ensure good braking and traction. Traditionally Canada has been a place where our aero has been better than at the higher downforce end of the scale, so I think we can approach Canada expecting a competitive weekend.
Q: The Canadian Grand Prix has traditionally been a race of high attrition. Why is it such a tricky place to get a result?
PS: It is a race of high attrition and the statistics show that it is a race with a lot of accidents and a high percentage of transmission failures. In terms of the accidents, it's always difficult for the drivers when they go to a low-downforce track because the car feels like it's lacking grip and it can be quite difficult for them to reset their sights and adapt to the lower downforce and lower grip levels. And Canada is an unforgiving track with plenty of places where a small mistake can lead to retirement. It's tough on the transmission because there are a lot of chicanes where you are coming off kerbs and trying to get on the power early. It therefore puts high shockwaves into the transmission and that's why components such as the gearbox and the driveshaft have been high on the list of failures over the years.