Renault expecting a step forward in Spain 05 May 2009
Renault have not had the easiest of starts to the 2009 season, with five points from four races falling well below their expectations. However, since adding a twin diffuser to the R29, the car has become easier to set-up and there are more developments for Barcelona this weekend, including further floor revisions, a new rear wing and new wheel fairings. In combination, Renault believe the changes should produce a noticeable increase in performance, as Executive Director of Engineering, Pat Symonds, explains
Q: Pat, after four races, what's your verdict on the team's start to the year?
Pat Symonds: I'm disappointed with our start to the season. We're all well aware of the difficulties of trying to assess competitiveness through winter testing, but when we arrived in Melbourne we did feel we were higher up the pecking order than the performance we actually delivered. However, what has impressed me is how the whole team has responded to the need to become more competitive, particularly following the clarification of the diffuser regulations as we managed to get the new-style diffuser onto one of the cars in China, which is a credit to the whole team. So it has been a disappointing start, but we've definitely moved up the order in the last four races and there's a lot more to come.
Q: Do you feel the drivers are getting the most from the R29?
PS: I think they are, especially now that we've introduced the twin diffuser because the car was quite sensitive and difficult to set-up with the more conventional diffuser. The car used to have a very small sweet spot in terms of set-up, which made it difficult for Fernando (Alonso) and Nelson (Piquet) to get the most from the car. I do believe that this has improved since we've fitted the new diffuser, but it's still difficult to judge because we have been so limited with the amount of running we've done, especially in dry conditions. So we still have a lot to learn about the R29, but I do feel it's becoming easier for us to get the most from the car.
Q: Can you update us on the team's development programme as the European season begins?
PS: The whole team is still pushing hard with development and the diffuser and floor that we brought to China was very much a first attempt and over the course of the year we will see several more versions, the first of which we hope to have in Barcelona. In addition, we've got new wheel fairings this weekend with quite a major design change to give us an increase in downforce and a new rear wing. On top of that we've got a few small aerodynamic tweaks that we will introduce on a race-by-race basis. Overall we can expect a reasonable step in performance for Barcelona.
Q: Have you been surprised by the relative competitiveness of all the teams this year?
PS: Yes, I've been very surprised by just how close the racing has been in the first four races. Normally you expect stability of rules to lead to close racing and change of rules to move things apart, but that hasn't been the case this year, although the new rules have certainly shaken up the order of the grid. I don't have an explanation as to why things are so close, but I can speculate that one of the reasons is that the aerodynamic performance of the cars is probably a bit closer this year. With much simpler aero regulations, the advantage that some teams were getting from winglets, deflectors and vortex generators may have been lost. The aero domain has therefore been neutralised to an extent and the relative aero performance of the cars is perhaps a bit closer.
The second reason might be to do with tyres as I wonder whether the formula is becoming tyre-dominated. The fact that we are all using a Bridgestone control tyre that is relatively conservative is probably another factor that has led to the closing up of the field.
Q: How do you expect the R29 to perform in Barcelona, which is renowned as the definitive aero circuit?
PS: We weren't particularly satisfied with our performance in Barcelona during winter testing and I think that was probably because our aero performance was significantly below that of the cars with twin diffusers. Now that we have hopefully improved our performance with our own new-style diffuser, we certainly hope that Barcelona will be a bit more favourable for us.