Renault: Expecting more for Oz

If you listened to you race review podcast, Paul, Mark and I were pleasantly surprised with Renault’s performance in Bahrain. They didn’t win the race but Renault showed a potential that has us wondering if the team can recognize a baseline to work from that could see it challenge for the best of the rest instead of back marker.

With the acquisition of 75% of the team by venture capital firm Genii Capital, it was concerning, to me at least, as to the amount of resources the team would have available for development and the future of the program. Optimistically those questions are being answered.

Renault’s new website looks terrific, their car had pace and looks to be a step forward from the last few years, they have two skilled drivers and a positive outlook on 2010. Robert Kubica is feeling positive about the R30 and this weekends grand prix in Australia:

Robert, what more have you learned about where the team stands after the race in Bahrain?
We had a very intense winter working hard to understand and improve the car, so it was nice to finally be able to compare where we stand. I still want a couple more races to really judge the situation, because Bahrain is a slightly unusual circuit in some aspects, but I’m feeling very positive. We didn’t achieve our full potential in qualifying or the race, for different reasons, but seventh position was realistic in both cases. It was disappointing not to achieve that, but encouraging to know that we had the possibility of doing it.

You talked about the car’s potential – what are your thoughts on the R30 now?
The weekend in Bahrain basically confirmed the feelings I had in Valencia at the first test, in terms of where the car is strong and where we can still improve. The car has a lot of strengths and we are working hard to get even better in what we do well, and improve in the areas where we are less strong. The race this year is not just at the track, but also in the factory to deliver new developments. The team at Enstone has been working 24/7 to produce updates and the first results in Bahrain gave a good step forward in performance.

The racing in Bahrain came in for a lot of criticism. What was it like from the cockpit to race without refuelling?
Especially at the beginning, it felt like the race was happening in slow motion compared to last year because we had so much fuel onboard and the lap times were so much slower. It was interesting to see how the different teams reacted to the challenge: we set a benchmark for the strategy by stopping very early for new tyres, and we saw the other cars that started on the softer tyre all came into the pits two or three laps after us. We now only have three sets of tyres to use in Friday practice, and the running time is quite limited, so you can’t develop such a good understanding of the differences between the two compounds. Teams will have to be very reactive to how the tyres are behaving in race conditions, and they’ll need to adapt their strategies quickly.

How will the R30 cope with the demands of the Melbourne circuit?
Overall, before the start of the season, I had the feeling that Melbourne would be a better circuit for us than Bahrain. Now that we have seen the other cars running and collected more information about where we stand, I think even more that it will be a good circuit for us. The circuit is very low grip at the start of the weekend, and you need good mechanical grip, braking stability and ride, so I hope we can put in a strong performance and achieve the car’s full potential.

The goal for Australia is to capitalize on the momentum that Bahrain showed. But what is a realistic goal for the team? Alan Permane explains:

We have some new aero parts for Melbourne, which should give us a bit more performance. There’s a new front wing and a new part on the rear wing, which improves our overall downforce.

The target is to get both drivers into Q3. I think that’s a realistic target given our competitiveness. If we can do that then both drivers should be capable of fighting for points.

Renault also announced a change in their Altran/Renault internship program for aspiring young engineers this week prompting a back-slap from F1B as we think it’s a great way for young talent to enter F1. For all of you aspiring F1 engineers, here are the details:

For 2010, the Renault F1 Team will offer not one but two internships to the winning finalists. The first will be at the team’s chassis development facility in Enstone, UK; the second at its engine development centre in Viry-Châtillon, France. In both cases, the winning student will join the team for a six-month placement that could open the door to a long career in F1. Included in the package is a six-month salary of €6,500, a Renault pool vehicle with a business fuel card and accommodation in a one-bedroom flat. What’s more, every finalist will receive a special engraved edition of the recently launched Pilot Watch from Renault F1 Team partner TW Steel to commemorate their achievement.

In order to enter the competition, applicants must be final-year students or recent graduates of a university or prestigious school, who have specialised in science or technology. Entry to the competition takes the form of a 500-word submission describing a technological innovation in one of eight areas related to F1 development: aerodynamics, control systems and electronics, design and analysis, performance engineering, power train energy recovery, materials research and development, transducers and test technology or vehicle dynamics. The focus of the presentation is on how this innovation can improve car performance, and how the student plans to conduct the project over the six-month internship.

The entry period lasts from March 22 to May 28 2010, with the finalists to be announced on June 14. The 2010 Altran Academy will feature representatives from 18 countries that reflect Altran’s positioning and international reach. They are organised into 11 global regions, and each region will provide one finalist in the competition. These 11 finalists will present their projects to an expert jury chaired by Robin Tuluie, Head of R&D at the Renault F1 Team, on July 13 2010 at the team’s Enstone headquarters. The winning finalists will begin their placements in September 2010.

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