Q&A with Renaults Alan Permane 14 Jul 2008
From its difficult beginnings, the Renault R28 has slowly picked up pace and the team are looking ahead optimistically to the forthcoming German Grand Prix. Here chief engineer Alan Permane reflects on the recent British race and discusses the French teams chances at the imminent Hockenheim round
Q: Alan, looking back to Silverstone - and the wet race lottery - were you happy with the final result?
Alan Permane: We have mixed feelings. While it was good to get some more points on the board, there is definitely a feeling that we could have come away with even more. Obviously the decision not to change Fernando's wet tyres at the first pit-stop proved to be the wrong one, and the rest of his race was compromised. Equally, Nelson's weekend ended in disappointment when he was caught out by the heavy rain, which probably cost us a double points finish.
Q: Fernando Alonso was strong all weekend. Sum up his performance for us?
AP: Fernando was excellent and got the most from the car as always. The hard work was done the week before the race at the test and so we arrived at Silverstone with a well balanced car. He was competitive at the beginning of the race, but at the first pit stop it was 50/50 as to whether it would rain again and we chose to gamble by not changing his tyres. Ultimately that didn't work, but it was definitely worth taking the chance because we've seen similar decisions in other races really pay off.
Q: And your thoughts on Nelson Piquet's weekend overall?
AP: It was a shame that Nelson's race ended prematurely because he was having a really strong weekend. He had struggled a bit in the test the week before, but over the race weekend he really got down to things and was looking strong. He qualified well, with a reasonable fuel load, just behind Fernando, and made the most of a circuit that he knew well. He had a great start to the race, but like many other drivers he spun in the heavy rain and was unlucky to get stuck in the gravel.
Q: There is still a feeling that the team has not fully realised its potential so far. Would you agree?
AP: Yes. Despite scoring points at Silverstone, it still felt like a missed opportunity. That is very often the case when you have the benefit of hindsight and you think about how you could have done things differently. But we will take the lessons we've learned from the first half of the season, and come back stronger in the second half.
Q: It has been a couple of years since we raced in Hockenheim. What are the main challenges of racing there?
AP: It's a demanding track which is hard on tyres and on the brakes. But we've seen some good racing there in the past as it's a track where you can overtake. This will be the first time we have raced in Hockenheim with this generation of Bridgestone tyres, and so evaluating the tyres was one of the main focuses of the test there last week. We have gathered some valuable data and will complete our assessments when free practice begins on Friday.
Q: What are the objectives for the weekend?
AP: Having tested in Hockenheim last week, we should be in good shape for this weekend. Obviously we go to each event aiming to win, but we have to be realistic, and, based on our performance in the last two races, I think we can aim to get both cars into the top ten in qualifying and hopefully race strongly in the points on Sunday afternoon. We have quite a large aero update for Hockenheim, and we know the car has speed, so the mood in the team is one of optimism. We're focused on what we need to do, and ready to close the gap on those around us to try and secure fourth place in the constructors' championship.