Q&A with Renault's Bob Bell: KERS should help us in China 14 Apr 2009
Although neither Fernando Alonso nor Nelson Piquet ended the Malaysian Grand Prix in the points, Renault technical director Bob Bell believes the French teams KERS system could stand them in good stead for a better result in China this weekend. Here he reviews the R29s performance in Sepang and looks ahead to Shanghai
Q: Bob, what was your verdict on the team's weekend in Malaysia?
Bob Bell: It was clearly below par. We weren't running any new parts so it was basically the same car we had run in Melbourne and we saw a similar level of competitiveness. However, during winter testing we have seen a higher level of performance from the car and so we know there is more to come. It's just at the moment we're not extracting that performance from the car. I suspect there is something quite subtle and sensitive that we need to put right, but it's a case of understanding what that is and resolving the issue. There are definitely some changes we will make to the car for China to try and restore our performance to where we want to be, but it won't take us to the front of the field just yet.
Q: Are you satisfied with the performance benefits of running KERS and will the team use it in China?
BB: We haven't changed our fundamental view that our default position should be to run with KERS as opposed to without it. There are certainly circuits where running KERS is a distinct advantage and Malaysia was probably the first of those, although as the year unfolds there will be circuits where it may be debatable whether running KERS is an advantage or not. So we need to evaluate its merits on a race-by-race basis, but China is definitely a track where we should see a benefit. Overall the system is working well and it gives us the advantages we hoped for, such as making overtaking or defending a position easier, as well as clear benefits at the start of the race.
Q: Tell us about the Shanghai International Circuit and the challenges it presents?
BB: It's a modern circuit that's quite smooth with a mix of high and low-speed sections: long straights, tight chicanes and fast, sweeping corners. Any circuit like that presents a challenge for the engineers to find a set-up that works well across a wide range of corners and speeds. It's not a particularly demanding circuit on the brakes, but it can be quite hard on the tyres, especially the first corner with its constantly tightening radius. In terms of aero levels, we will run a fairly standard package, but the priority is to find a good balance between a low and high-speed set- up.
Q: What is the team's mindset after two races?
BB: The whole team is extremely motivated and working very hard to improve the car. We have some interesting projects going on back at the factory that will add performance to the car, both in the aero and mechanical domains. Everybody is very positive and up for the fight.