Pat Symonds Q&A

Renault came away from Monza with only one point, but that didn't do justice to how competitive the cars were on a track where sheer grunt is so important. Jarno Trulli was pushing Juan Pablo Montoya when he retired on the first lap, while Fernando Alonso overcame a first lap shunt, an extra pit stop and another off to pinch eighth from Nick Heidfeld right at the end. It was a superb performance against difficult odds. Indianapolis and Suzuka could also be favourable, and perhaps allow the team to get its drivers in amongst the title contenders. Adam Cooper talked to Renault engineering boss Pat Symonds

Pat Symonds Q&A

"Monza was never going to be a great weekend for us, so Jarno's qualifying really was pretty impressive. The fact that people stopped in the race a little bit earlier than I expected reinforces the fact that we were a lot more competitive in qualifying than I thought. And Fernando's lap times towards the end were the equal of the guys up the front. So although we cam away with one point and a lot of disappointment, if you look at it the performance of the car wasn't bad, it was just the circumstances that happened over the weekend that were disastrous!"

"He damaged the nose, lost a barge board, and damaged the floor. The aero balance was miles out after that. We adjusted the front wing at the stop to compensate."

"Indy is just such a classic, isn't it? It's almost like being at two circuits in one weekend. The challenging part of Indy is the low speed stuff. It's rather like the old Hockenheim, where you used to scrabble round the stadium on much lower downforce than you really wanted to be. I quite like Indy. That twiddly bit is a little bit Mickey Mouse, but the rest of it is not bad."

"I think at Indy you can make up a bit. Of course I'm looking Suzuka a lot more than Indy. It's a wonderful circuit. Indy is not bad, and we won't have a bad weekend there."

"It's acceleration as well, and you see it very much off the start. Our launch control is very good, and you see the cars leap off the grid. If the first corner is a reasonable distance away, the torque of the other cars comes in and we start to struggle a little bit. So it's not just straight line speed and top end power, it's mid-range torque as well. Having said that we've had some good improvements in that area in the last few weeks that have certainly made life a bit easier."

"I did think at the beginning of the year that with a little bit of luck and a little bit of fortune, yes, we might win one. You've got to remember that Malaysia and Barcelona at the beginning of the season looked very, very strong for us. That gave me hope that there probably was a win there, but it wasn't going to come easy. When Williams raised their game I thought it had become more difficult, and the chance of a win was slipping away, not increasing. But the progress we made over the summer brought us back to that situation. I still didn't expect a result like we had in Hungary, to start from pole and drive away from everyone."

"Sometimes that works for you, sometimes it doesn't. If we're in a place that's marginal on tyres, then yes, it does help. But in Hungary every Michelin competitor was running the same compound, so we weren't able to gain any advantage by being able to get on a softer compound. Did we look after the tyres better than the others? I'm not sure really, but the overall tyre degradation was lower than we expected, partly because the track improved more than we expected. I don't think we gained a lot there in Hungary, but we have done in other places."

"It is a bit of a problem. Unfortunately in a situation like Hungary it appeared to show a big difference between the two drivers. It's a question of the punt from the engine. We have to chose our overtaking times so carefully, whereas if you put the car on a clean track, it does have the ultimate performance. When that performance involves overtaking people, we find it that much more difficult."

"At the time we considered the alternatives. We didn't feel that we could do a terribly good normal test programme, because we don't have the finances of Ferrari and McLaren. Above all we were going through some terrible engine reliability problems, and we really thought that we were going to solve those by being on the dyno rather than on the track. We thought that it would help us to cut down on the number of track miles that we were doing. We also thought that testing in 'real time' was going to be another advantage. We felt that advantage would probably carry through until the end of June, something like that. We felt maybe after that we might suffer a little bit. As it's worked out we've really got beyond that retaining the advantage.

"We were able to test the Hungary construction tyre at Hockenheim when the other guys were on their test break, for example. Even in Hungary, where the conditions on the Friday morning were absolutely appalling, I think there's no doubt that we gained a fair bit of race set-up information. So to me it's still paying off, and we might maintain the advantage of the testing all the way though to the end, which will be better than we even hoped."

"I would say you can only do it with three experienced drivers. When we said yes, we want to do it, it was instrumental in employing Allan. It's not the sort of thing you want to do with a young test driver, so Allan was a very integral part of it. He really has played quite a vital role in what we've done this year, and helped us enormously. We've devised different programmes for him which sometimes don't make him look quite as good as the race drivers, but it's valuable work. By running three cars properly, which is actually a bloody difficult thing to do, it's helped us a lot."

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