Italy Preview Quotes: Renault

Q: McLaren were very competitive in Turkey - is that a worry for you?

Alonso: McLaren are very quick, there's no doubt, but Monza is a completely different circuit to any other, so we approach it feeling confident. We have had good straightline speed all year, and that is one of the things you need there. So it could be a good race for us.

Q: What is it like to drive at Monza?

Alonso: It is a legendary circuit, with an important place in the history of Formula One, so to win there would be something special. You have the highest average speed in the championship, so it is a good feeling for the driver - I like the combination of speed and risk.

Q: How do you need to adapt the car?

Alonso: You need a very specific set-up there. The team builds new parts only for this race, because it is very strange from an aero point of view with very low downforce, and you need good grip in the corners from the mechanical balance and the tyres. Also, the tyres can get cold on the straights which makes it hard to have good grip in the corners, but Michelin understand the challenge, and they have been fantastic so far this year.

Q: What is your view on the championship position?

Alonso: It is the same as before Turkey - as long as we finish the races, we are OK. If we are competitive and can get on the podium, then it will be hard to lose my advantage. The advantage we have is that I can still afford some bad races and not lose the lead. McLaren have pressure to be perfect until China, and if they are not, we will be there to punish them.

Giancarlo Fisichella

Q: Giancarlo, tell us about your feelings on Monza...

Fisichella: It is my second home Grand Prix, and a very important weekend because a lot of fans come to cheer me on. I won there in F3, but have never been on the podium in F1, and I want to do it this year. I like the circuit, even though the speeds make it a little dangerous, but it is an impressive place to drive.

Q: What are your goals for the rest of the year?

Fisichella: To try and help Renault win both championships. The constructors' championship is really important to us, so I need to score as many points as possible, and try to win another race if I can.

Q: And what about Monza - will it be a race you enjoy?

Fisichella: Yes. We run with very, very low downforce, so corners like turn 1 are difficult - you have to stop the car from 360 kph to 60 kph in first gear, and that's really difficult. But there are nice corners too: the Lesmos, and high-speed curves at Ascari and Parabolica, which I really enjoy.

Flavio Briatore

Q: There have been suggestions that Renault used team orders in Turkey, after some radio traffic was broadcast on live TV during the race...

Briatore: If others think they need to try and pressure us by saying that then it is a good sign, but it doesn't bother us. I am surprised nobody has asked why viewers heard those comments on live TV? The answer is that our team doesn't believe in unnecessary secrecy, and we have nothing to hide.

Q: Even so, it wasn't difficult for Fernando to overtake Giancarlo...

Briatore: Giancarlo is a team player. He had problems with his tyres in the first laps, and Fernando was faster - something we told Fisico over the radio. So when Fernando got alongside him, he didn't fight his teammate. It is not about team orders, it is about working as a team.

Q: Are you worried about not winning races as the season draws to a close?

Briatore: No. We have already shown we can do that this year, with both drivers. Our sport is not about dominating at one moment or another, but about scoring points progressively through the season. As far as I know, the driver who wins the championship is still the man with the most points at the end, and nothing else.

Q: Even so, the battle for the teams' title is getting close...

Briatore: Things are much closer with only a nine point gap, but I am still confident. McLaren are the ones who need to take risks and attack all the time. Let's see how the next races unfold...

Rod Nelson, Chassis Race Engineer Car No 5

When it comes to setting the car up for Monza, it is all about striking the right balance between absolute chassis and engine performance, and driveability. A very stiff set-up may look good on paper, and better horsepower figures might seem desirable - but if they come at the price of poor driveability or peaky engine performance, they can actually make the car slower. Instead, we need to find the balance between pure performance and usable performance.

Unlike many circuits we visit, where downforce is one of our major considerations, drag is studied just as closely at Monza. Of course, the aero department produces wings specifically for this track as it is now so unique in the calendar, and minimising drag is an even greater priority than usual for these Monza packages.

The circuit is quite bumpy into turns 4 and 11 (the Roggia chicane and Parabolica), probably because of the circuit's age. However, with the low downforce levels, this becomes more of an issue than usual. In addition, the drivers use the high kerbs aggressively through the first and second chicanes, meaning we run the car relatively soft, and with a forward mechanical bias (stiffer at the front) in order to get the best mechanical grip and good braking stability.

In terms of ride heights, there is a performance advantage in running low front ride heights in the slow speed corners. We try to achieve this without touching too much on the straights, and we do so by running bump rubbers on which the car 'sits' at high aero loadings. It then rises up from these in the slower corners, and the suspension works more conventionally in order to get optimum grip.

Of course, Monza is a power circuit - but also one where the cars spend 13% of thee lap braking. This means that the brakes undergo severe stress - the high speeds of the start finish straight followed by the low speed turn 1 impose a deceleration of some 300 kph, the making this the most severe corner of the year. Cooling the brakes efficiently is an important area to which the aerodynamicists pay attention ahead of the race.

Remi Taffin, Engine Race Engineer, Car No 5

Monza is the most severe test a Formula 1 engine encounters. The circuit offers no respite, which 71% of the lap spent at full throttle and no sequences of slow corners at low throttle openings. With an average lap speed of 260 kph - compared to a season average of 220 kph - this is comfortably the most severe duty cycle of the season.

The high proportion of the lap spent at full throttle means that engine power has the biggest influence of any circuit of the season. This year, with the RS25, we have not only a driveable V10 but also an engine that is competitive in terms of its power output. However, pure power is not the only important characteristic: the engine needs to be driveable from low speeds on the exit of the chicanes at Rettifilo and Roggia, and to provide smooth power delivery to allow the driver to take the optimum line through these slower sections.

In terms of reliability, the severe duty cycle is clearly a demanding challenge. In addition, the chicanes pose an additional worry as the car's passage over the kerbs can lead to the rear wheels losing contact with the ground - and potentially to either hitting the rev limiter, or to damaging the transmission when the spinning rear wheels land back on the track surface. The violent forces the car undergoes can also potentially have consequences for the reliability of accessory components such as oil and water pumps.

In 2005 more than ever, the pre-Grand Prix Monza test will prove useful for the engine team. This test allows us to conduct some of our usual Friday tasks - such as selecting gear ratios and determining cooling levels - during the test, and hence allows us to economise our mileage. With Monza forming half of the most demanding pair of races of the season, with Spa, laps will be at a premium - and each team running fresh engines in Monza will be monitoring closely how they exploit the two-race performance potential of their engine. Any small gains of this nature could potentially prove valuable come the race in Spa next weekend.

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