Allison: Renault upgrade worth 10 seconds over Barcelona race 16 May 2011
Renault technical director James Allison is expecting the team to take a significant step forward with their R31 in Barcelona this weekend. And though the Circuit de Catalunya is not known for its abundance of passing, Allison reckons the combination of KERS, DRS and increased pit stops could make this years Spanish race a rather more breathless affair than usual
Q: James, both drivers scored points for the first time this season in Turkey - you said after the race that it was a satisfying result?
James Allison: Having both cars in the points, nose to tail is satisfying. All of us would have preferred it to be closer to the front, but its okay and probably a fair reflection of the pace of the car.
Q: The team continues the development race - whats new for Spain?
JA: We bring another handful of aerodynamic upgrades for the next race - the development race never lets up. None of them are individually large, but there are six in total and they add up to another 0.15-0.20 seconds per lap. It isnt a huge upgrade but if we can keep that up for every race then it starts to tell.
Q: This year, we have also seen that preparation in terms of tyres has been key to the race weekend
JA: At some tracks these tyres are really on the edge - Turkey was one of them and Barcelona will be another. So having a very careful plan on Friday to prepare for the race is very important. Also, it has increasingly become clear to everybody that to conserve tyres during qualifying in order to maximise results on Sunday.
Q: Pit stop executions have always been highly important; we have been witnessing an increased number of stops - are they still key to a good race outcome?
JA: Making fast and reliable pit stops is as important as developing the car aerodynamically. Our aero upgrade for Barcelona will be worth around 10 seconds over the whole race - one bad pit stop and the value of that upgrade is entirely wiped out. Even if you avoid a single very poor stop, but make four stops around one second slower than the opposition then it is the same as taking a reasonable upgrade off the car. So yes, pit stops are important and they are an area where we havent been as strong as we would have liked this season. The race team, supported by several engineering functions back in the factory are putting a big effort in to bring our stops up to the required level. We are not there yet, but we took a noticeable step forward in the last race and we will to continue to make progress in the coming races.
Q: Barcelona is a circuit the teams know well, what is its main challenge?
JA: The Barcelona track places a very high premium on aerodynamic efficiency, so the main challenge is designing a car that is efficient aerodynamically. A string of long, high-speed corners and the nature of the asphalt make it very hard on the tyres. Although we will have a revised hard tyre from Pirelli at Barcelona, which may change the picture somewhat, it is likely that the race will be loaded with pit stops in Spain.
Q: Will DRS and KERS play a key role here?
JA: By far the biggest influence over the ease of overtaking in Turkey was as a result of the track being very tough on the tyres. Barcelona is likely to be similar, with soft tyres that degrade up to 0.3 of a second per lap. This means that small variations in strategy yield very large differences in performance at different times in the race. Stopping just three laps different to another car will give nearly a one second per lap difference in performance. Set against that, the DRS and KERS have only a second-order effect on the ease of overtaking. We can expect another breathless race with a lot of on track action - not a traditional hallmark of the Spanish GP.
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