Boullier: Renault have risen to the challenge 05 Jul 2010
Prior to the start of their 2010 campaign, Renault had been all but written off by many. Their parent company had sold off a chunk of the team, the R30 looked less than convincing in pre-season testing, and their line-up included a rookie driver and a new team principal fresh to Formula One. Renault never dropped their heads, though, and nine races later that team principal, Eric Boullier, has led his men to two podiums and a healthy fifth place in the standings, hard on the heels of the 2009 champions
Q: Eric, looking back on the first half of the season, has the performance of the team met your expectations?
Eric Boullier: At the beginning of the season we had a reasonable performance level with R30 and we knew that we needed to push hard to develop the car. Everyone in the team has risen to the challenge and we have seen the result of all this effort at the track with the car improving race by race. So, yes, Im pleased that we have made good progress and I hope that we can maintain this for the rest of the year.
Q: The team took nine points out of Mercedes lead in Valencia. Do you feel you can overhaul them before the end of the year?
EB: The battle with Mercedes is a fight that I expect to last throughout the season. They are a very strong competitor and it would be wrong to underestimate them. They have two very good drivers and they are ahead of us in the championship so its clear that we will have to work hard to beat them. Obviously they were missing some performance in Valencia, which was a surprise, but I dont think they will underperform at every race. So it was important that we took points off them because I know they will fight back.
Q: Vitaly has now completed nine races. What can we expect from him in the second half of the year?
EB: Although he has half a year of F1 under his belt, we have to remember that compared to some of the other rookies he has a lot less F1 experience. Drivers like Hulkenberg and Kobayashi completed lots of testing miles in previous seasons, whereas Vitaly only drove an F1 car for the first time in February this year. So I know it has been an incredibly steep learning curve for him, but already he has shown on several occasions that he has the speed and can be close to Roberts pace. What we need to see now is more consistency over a weekend without any mistakes. This is what I expect from him in the second half of the season so that he is regularly in Q3 and scoring points in the races.
Q: What is the development plan for the remainder of the season?
EB: The strategy will certainly be different compared to the start of the year, although its clear we need to keep pushing hard because were still not quick enough to challenge for pole and race wins. And we know that we need to keep up this work rate because Formula One is so competitive these days and all our competitors are working hard to improve their cars as well. But at the same time its important that we look ahead to next year and we must not neglect the development of the 2011 car, which is already well underway. We need to find the right balance of resources and that is a decision we have to make in the coming weeks.
Q: Silverstone is the teams local race - does that make it more special?
EB: Renault is clearly a French company, but there is no longer a French Grand Prix on the calendar and that makes Silverstone even more important for us. Monaco earlier this year felt almost like a home race, so you could say that Silverstone is our second home Grand Prix because the factory at Enstone is only 40 minutes down the road. Were also planning to hold a special event at the factory on race day with a big screen so that staff and their families can enjoy this special weekend with us.
Q: What are your hopes for the performance of the R30 at Silverstone?
EB: Im looking forward to seeing the cars on the new layout and hopefully it will encourage more overtaking and improve the show. In terms of our performance, the recent upgrades we have made to the car should work well at Silverstone and Im hopeful that we can score some big points this weekend.