Symonds: Renault targeting fourth in title race 19 Aug 2008
After scoring arguably their best result of the season at the last round in Hungary, Renault head into this weekends European Grand Prix at the all-new Valencia Street Circuit in confident mood.
Currently fifth in the standings, director of engineering Pat Symonds believes they can move up to fourth come the end of the season - by which time, he says, the R28 should be the third-fastest car on the grid
Q: Pat, looking back to Hungary, how do you rate the team's performance?
Pat Symonds: I think it was probably our strongest result of the season. While Nelson's (Piquet) finishing position in Germany was a better result on paper, we were the first to acknowledge that luck played a major part in that result. In Hungary things were very different as we had two cars racing competitively all the way, racing against strong competitors and racing them on equal terms. From the moment we arrived there the car was competitive: we qualified well, we raced well and had to use strategy to get our result. The points were very welcome and in the last two races only McLaren have scored more points than us.
Q: Fernando Alonso matched his best result of the year. Talk us through his weekend
PS: It was another strong weekend for Fernando, although the only disappointment was that we lost out to Raikkonen towards the end. While I fully accepted that Raikkonen had a much quicker car, I really thought we had done enough to be able to stay ahead of him at the second pit-stop. In the end things didn't work out and we missed out on a potential podium, but it was still a great result for Fernando and equalled his best finishing position from earlier in the season in Australia.
Q: Nelson also continued his good form with another mature drive
PS: We all hoped that after Hockenheim he would have renewed confidence, which proved to be the case: he was calm, he was confident, and he went into qualifying believing that he would get through to Q3. Then he went on to drive as perfect a race as he drove in Hockenheim without making any significant mistakes. He was quick when he needed to be, preserved the tyres when he needed to and drove a strong and intelligent race.
Q: The team was able to carry its qualifying pace through to the race. Is this a trend that you expect to continue for the rest of the season?
PS: You have to remember that Hungary is a very particular circuit and although Fernando did a great job of keeping Raikkonen behind him until the final pit-stop, this wasn't indicative of the pace of the two cars. Indeed, as soon as Raikkonen broke away from us, he was able to lap considerably quicker. But, having said all that, the rest of the weekend showed the improved pace of the R28 and the improvements that we have been making bit-by-bit over the last few races. So the performance in Hungary reinforces the belief that we are moving in the right direction and gives me confidence that we can finish fourth in the championship and end the season with the third fastest car.
Q: Did we learn anything new about the pecking order in Hungary?
PS: We saw that BMW had a poor weekend and Toyota had a good weekend, but I don't believe the pecking order suddenly changes. There are certainly trends, and at the moment we have a very distinct upward trend, whereas BMW have a little bit of a downward trend and Toyota seem to fluctuate. So I don't think that the race itself shows a change to the status quo, but merely reinforces the trends which have been developing for a little while.
Q: We head to Valencia next - a home race for Fernando. Is the team looking forward to this race?
PS: We look forward to every race and I think we like the challenge of a new circuit. We enjoy the ambiance of visiting new places and the race team have had a short break so they will head there raring to go. It certainly looks like a fabulous venue
Q: Valencia is an unknown for everyone. Does that level the playing field?
PS: The teams are all well used to going to new circuits so I think the playing field is pretty level anyway. However, I would say that going to a new track is much more a test of a team's ability to adapt to new circumstances and manage change, which is one of the reasons why I enjoy the challenge of a new circuit.