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Q&A with Renault's Steve Nielsen 11 May 2010

Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Renault R30.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice Day, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 7 May 2010 Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Renault R30.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 9 May 2010 Robert Kubica (POL) Renault.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race Day, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 9 May 2010 Eric Boullier (FRA) Renault F1 Team Principal on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 9 May 2010 Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Renault R30 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice Day, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 7 May 2010

Although Vitaly Petrov’s race ended just outside the points in 11th, Renault left Barcelona relatively content thanks to Robert Kubica’s eighth-place finish. With just a couple of days to go until this weekend’s Monaco event, the team’s sporting director Steve Nielsen reflects on the Spanish Grand Prix and looks ahead to making more progress in Monte Carlo…

Q: Steve, after three strong races, the team came away from Barcelona with just four points. What was your verdict on the weekend?
Steve Nielsen:
The verdict is pretty simple: we were pleased with qualifying, but less so with the race result. Vitaly’s accident in third practice was unfortunate, because it left him on the back foot going into qualifying: he lost track time, and also suffered a five-place grid penalty after his gearbox was changed to repair the damage. As for Robert, he did an excellent job to qualify seventh, and from there we were hoping for a good solid points finish. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the greatest first lap, and it’s more important than ever under this year’s regulations. It’s a shame to say it but you’re basically reliant on others making mistakes after Lap Two - and especially in Barcelona where overtaking is so difficult.

Q: The team demonstrated its quality once again this weekend: they did a herculean job to repair Petrov’s car for qualifying, and both drivers made up ground at the pit stops…
SN:
It’s hard to praise the team enough for the job they did this weekend. They worked into the small hours on both Thursday and Friday nights in order to prepare the cars, and fit the latest developments to them; they did a brilliant job to repair Vitaly’s car between practice and qualifying; then they delivered flawless pit stops during the race. It’s a great credit to everybody involved.

Q: Rival teams announced major developments for this race, but in qualifying the team seemed to have maintained its competitive position. Was that a source of satisfaction?
SN:
We were very pleased after qualifying. It’s no secret that we had a difficult test here during the winter, and we were all a little apprehensive ahead of the race weekend. But the car performed well. Of course, it was a shame to do well in qualifying, to race so hard and only score a handful of points. But I think we can be optimistic that we have a car capable of racing strongly at every circuit.

Q: The cars will be back in action in Monaco on Thursday. What are your expectations?
SN:
We’re looking forward to Monaco and feeling confident. Robert’s driving fantastically well, while Vitaly is getting stronger with every race as he gains experience. But more than ever, Monaco will be about qualifying and the start.

Q: Traffic is a notorious problem there. Are you expecting a busy time on the pit wall?
SN:
I think it’s first qualifying that everybody is dreading, with 24 cars out on track and some big performance differentials between the fastest and slowest. The challenge will just be to get a clear lap. But it will be a real lottery, and some big names could easily go out in Q1.

Q: Is it an extra challenge that the race is a back-to-back?
SN:
Back-to-backs are tough enough anyway but when Monaco’s the second race of the two, everything’s got to be ready a day earlier because we practice on Thursday. That makes a steep hill just a little bit steeper. It was a bit of a breakneck 24 hours to get the team and equipment to Monaco, but everybody is now working hard to make sure we’re ready to go in first practice on Thursday morning.