James Allison Q&A: Renault can overhaul Mercedes 06 Sep 2010
Renault are convinced that the introduction of their F-duct at the last round at Spa was a significant step forward for the team, even if the development may not prove so relevant at this weekends Italian Grand Prix. With just six races of the season remaining - and much of their focus now on 2011 - Renault believe they still have enough up their sleeves to beat Mercedes to P4 in the final constructors standings, as technical director James Allison explains
Q: James, the team was back on the podium at Spa and both R30s were in the points. What was your verdict on the race?
James Allison: It was obviously a great way to come back after the summer break. It was a very encouraging weekend and bodes well for the remaining six races. Robert (Kubica) was quick right from the start of the weekend and was able to match the pace of the leading cars. To finish on the podium was a great effort and a fitting reward for the whole team. Vitaly (Petrov) also had a strong race and did well to recover from a disappointing qualifying session. He drove aggressively, had a memorable battle with the Mercedes, and managed to pull himself up from the back of the grid to score some valuable points.
Q: The R30 appeared to take a big step forward in Spa - how much was down to the F-duct?
JA: Spa was a big weekend for us because the F-duct is a significant upgrade that we have been working very hard to get right. And we knew Spa would be a track where an F-duct would bring considerable gains. I would say that it was worth more than half a second per lap at Spa.
Q: After all the effort of designing and manufacturing the F-duct, it must have been especially satisfying to see it work on the car straight away
JA: We started looking at F-ducts way back at the start of the year and, although the gain was evident right from the start, it was also clear that it would be a difficult device to get right. We also knew that we had a very substantial set of conventional improvements that were much easier to implement with less technical risk, so we chose to prioritise these over the F-duct. However, from as early as the Bahrain Grand Prix we had a small group of aerodynamicists establishing what we would need to do to put the concept on our car. Once we had a concept that we felt had a good chance of working properly straight out of the box, we committed to manufacture. It was therefore extremely pleasing to see that the device worked correctly from the first free practice runs in Spa.
Q: Lets look ahead to Monza, the fastest track of the season. Can we expect to see a new aero package on the car?
JA: Yes, Monza is very different from all the other circuits and so we have had to prepare a bespoke package that we will not use anywhere else. Monza has such long straights and so few corners that it requires much smaller wings than any other track. To add further complication, the F-duct is a potential alternative option for Monza. Like several other teams, we too are evaluating whether we can make the device work in the particular, low-downforce environment of Monza.
Q: What is the development strategy for the rest of the season?
JA: By this stage of the season any sensible team will be spending most of its time working on next years car, and we are no exception. However, weve still got a few more upgrades to come before the end of the season, although its fair to say they will not be as significant as those we were bringing to the car at the start of the year.
Q: And what is the teams approach for the final part of the season and the close battle with Mercedes?
JA: Were currently 23 points behind Mercedes so weve got to take four points off them in each of the remaining races. We only managed to take three points out of their lead in Spa, but Im hopeful that, if we can maintain our current level of competitiveness, we can start finishing ahead of Mercedes with both our cars. If we can achieve that, and race effectively with no reliability issues, we stand a good chance of catching them by the end of the year.
Q: What are your expectations for the weekend?
JA: Monza is very different from the mainstream bunch of tracks that make up the calendar, but generally speaking the cars that are good at one track tend to be good everywhere, regardless of the downforce levels. The performance of the R30 in Spa therefore gives me confidence that we can compete for similarly good results at all the remaining tracks, including Monza. We will be aiming to get both cars well inside the top ten both in qualifying and the race this weekend.