Symonds - Renault are ready to fight for fourth 03 Sep 2008
After the highs of the Hungaroring, Renault endured a bitterly disappointing race in Valencia with Fernando Alonso retiring and Nelson Piquet only managing 11th. With their midfield rivals Toyota scoring six points at the European event and the French team leaving empty-handed, Renault now face a 10-point deficit to the Japanese squad in their quest for fourth place in the standings. Director of engineering Pat Symonds, however, believes the teams package will prove strong enough to win out in the end
Q: Pat, a tough weekend for the team in Valencia - how would you sum up the overall performance?
Pat Symonds: We were certainly left disappointed and the source of our problems seemed to be qualifying, where we underperformed. If Fernando had managed a couple of clean laps in Q2, I think he would have been comfortably through to the final part of qualifying. As it was, the rest of the weekend was a direct result of our poor qualifying because starting in the midfield bunch always puts you at risk, just as Fernando found out. Nelson suffered similar trouble on the opening lap as he was held up with Fernando's accident and then tangled with Coulthard.
Q: Fernando's race in Valencia was brief. Will he be able to bounce back in Spa?
PS: Yes, absolutely. But it's not really a question of bouncing back because we know that we have a very definite level of performance that is strong enough to allow us to run in the top ten. Spa is a circuit that both the drivers particularly like and where the car will be good so I'm sure we will be back in our usual position.
Q: Spa is one of Nelson's favourite circuits and he was a GP2 victor there. Will that give him a boost?
PS: Although drivers can have favourite tracks, it shouldn't really affect their ability to perform and we've already seen that Nelson can be strong at any type of track. However, racing at a track you enjoy is the sort of thing that helps you raise your game a little bit. Nelson will be strong and he's looking forward to it.
Q: The fight for fourth continues with an in form Toyota. Do you still feel you can take the fight to them in the final six races?
PS: It's a tough battle and we know it's going to be hard work. With six races to go they've got ten points advantage on us, which is a reasonable lead, especially when you consider that we are fighting for the smaller points paying positions. We never underestimate anyone and we need to fight hard with them, but I do believe that we have what it takes, as a team, to beat them. We know there's a lot to do and, of course, a freak result can make a big difference, but if all things are equal and we battle until the end of the season, I think it's an achievable target.
Q: The midfield is incredibly tight at the moment - can you remember a season as competitive as this?
PS: I think it has always been tight. The nature of Formula One and the scoring system means that the midfield teams are left to scrap over a small number of points, which generates a closely fought championship. So it's not something new and with the three dominant teams establishing themselves early in the season, it means that the rest of the teams are left to fight for fourth position downwards.
Q: Tell us about Spa from a technical standpoint
PS: It's such a contrast with where we've just been. Valencia was a circuit where we were quite restricted with what we could do to gain performance and I don't think the drivers found it particularly challenging, except maybe the final sector. Spa is the complete opposite: it's very much a drivers' circuit and requires a car that has good stability through the quick corners. We'll be running with medium downforce, but overall you need good aerodynamic efficiency because you have to find the right trade off between straight-line speed and downforce through the quick corners. So the more aerodynamically efficient your car is, the more it pays you back.
Q: Six races to go, how is the mood in the team as we enter the final third of the season?
PS: The whole team is hungry for fourth place in the championship. We recognise that our start to the season had far too much hangover from last year, but I think we recovered well from that and have shown that we can out-develop most of our rivals. We desperately want that fourth place and we are going to be fighting hard to try and get it.