Q&A with Renaults James Allison 20 Jun 2011
After a highly promising start to their 2011 season, with podiums at rounds one and two, Renault looked to have gone off the boil in recent races. But after Vitaly Petrovs fifth place in Canada, the team are eager to resume an upward trend in Valencia this weekend, where technical director James Allison hopes to see further gains from the latest improvements to the R31
Q: What are the key challenges in Valencia?
James Allison: Valencia is dominated by low speed corners. Although there are a couple of fast corners, they are normally taken flat out so the challenge, therefore, is to get the car working well in slow corners. Furthermore, as this will be the first opportunity to run the new medium tyre compound in a Grand Prix, it will be important to get settled on it quickly and to establish a good race set-up with it.
Q: Valencia has not seen the greatest amount of overtaking in previous races - should this year be different?
JA: I would expect it to be different this year, yes. The straight is long enough for DRS to function and there is likely to be a reasonably different level of performance from the two tyre compounds. This will lead to plenty of overtaking.
Q: What evolutions and modifications are planned for the car?
JA: As always, there will be a host of aero updates. The most significant of these will be a new top rear wing with a bigger DRS switching effect. This will bring outright lap time in qualifying and offer better overtaking potential during the race.
Q: How do you evaluate the performance of the R31 in wet and variable conditions at the Canadian Grand Prix?
JA: We were not very happy with the performance of the car on either the full wet or the intermediate tyres. However, once we got on to the dry tyres at the end of the race we looked much more in the hunt and were able to make inroads on all but the top two cars.
Q: Nick Heidfeld and Vitaly Petrov both looked very strong in Montreal - how difficult is it to make strategy calls in conditions like those experienced there?
JA: We looked okay on the dry tyres, but while on the wet-weather rubber we were kept in the race as a result of a good reading of the rain radar and good strategy calls. In changeable conditions like we saw there, it is extremely difficult to make the correct decisions all the time as there is a degree of luck involved. All that Alan Permane (chief engineer) and Matthieu Dubois (strategist) can do is to hope to have a good batting average. Thankfully they are pretty reasonable at it, and at the last race they made another set of decent calls to leave us well placed to capitalise on very difficult circumstances.
Q: Were now back in Europe for the next six races - how does this affect the development programme?
JA: Europe or flyaway races do not really have an impact on the development programme these days. We push as hard as we can from the first race to the last, and we will try to bring new performance to each and every race in the championship. We have a more efficient rear wing for Valencia, and we are looking to ensure that we make as good a job as possible of coping with the impending changes to the blown floor engine mapping.
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