Conducted and provided by the Renault F1 Team's press office.
Q. Steve, what is the atmosphere like in the factory at the moment?
Steve Nielsen - Renault F1 Team's Sporting Manager: We are all very motivated. Winter testing has shown that the R26 is a quick car, and we are feeling confident. Of course, there are still some things to fine tune, but we have prepared well and are ready to defend out titles. The equipment leaves for Bahrain in one week's time... Enstone is a busy place at the moment!
Q. Once again this year, the first three races are "flyaway" races outside Europe. Is that a problem?
SN: Not really because we are all used to it. This year, the races are in a different order, but in fact it is just the same as last year - but in reverse. So that's not a problem. There will be very few alterations: cooler weather in Australia, and just one week between Bahrain and Kuala Lumpur. It will be a tight schedule.
Q. What is the schedule for the coming days?
SN: We have been testing every week since early January, and this week is no different. Today, the whole race team is in Barcelona and will be practicing pit-stops, qualifying simulations and trying out new procedures. It's the first time they have all been together since Shanghai 2005.
Q. Has the team changed compared to last year?
SN: Not especially. In the pitstops, we have moved some people around and we have one new person. We have also split the former chief mechanic's role into two roles: Gavin Hudson will perform the role of Chief Mechanic, while Paul Seaby will be our Engineering Coordinator. Gavin will be in direct contact with all the work on the cars, while Paul's role will be more administrative.
Q. So what happens next with the programme?
SN: The race team returns home tomorrow, while the test team will be moving to Valencia ahead of our final test next week, on 27 and 28 February. Meanwhile, at Esntone, they will begin packing the freight for the opening races. This will leave the factory on 3 March: one of the cars from Valencia will be turned around and sent out to the first race as well. In total, we have around 30 tonnes of air freight and 7 tonnes of sea freight. And we can't afford to forget anything...
Q. Will some of the team be carrying 'hand baggage' which looks like Formula One car parts to the first race?
SN: It's highly likely! Most of the team will leave on Sunday before the race, with the final team members landing on Thursday.
Q. The team will be at the head of the pit-lane this year. Will that change much relative to last year?
SN: There will be small differences, yes. The position of the garage gives us a slight advantage during pit-stops: it will be either the first or last in the pit-lane, according to the circuit. For the drivers, that means they have a clear run into the pit-box, or out of the pit-lane. Next, we will have a bit more space, but there was already plenty in 2005. Personally, I am of the opinion that everybody should get the same working area in the pit-lane.
Q. You mentioned pit-stops earlier. Does the return of tyre changes mean you have to train differently?
SN: Even in 2005, we had to be ready to change all four wheels while refuelling the car, in certain circumstances - in a wet race like Spa, for example. Of course, we have done a lot of training recently, but we are essentially going back to what we did in 2004.
Q. So, is the team ready for 2006?
SN: More than ever. We can't wait to go racing...!