Pat Symonds Q&A

Benetton had a terrible season in 1999, slipping to sixth in the constructors' table after Jordan and Stewart surged ahead. However this year the team has fought back, inspired by the news of Renault's purchase of the whole operation before the Brazilian GP. Incredibly, only four times this year has anyone other than a McLaren or Ferrari driver actually stood on a podium - and three times it has been Giancarlo Fisichella. Ralf Schumacher was third in Australia, and then the Italian was third in Brazil, Monaco and Canada. In the first race he was eventually bumped up to second after David Coulthard was excluded. The team is now battling with Williams, BAR and Jordan for third place in the championship, while Fisichella is the best placed driver outside the top two teams, in fifth. Adam Cooper spoke to technical director Pat Symonds about the season so far, and the future with Renault

Pat Symonds Q&A

"I thought we would get on the podium this year. We've had a bit of luck go our way, for sure. It's been a better year than last year, which was obviously a very, very poor year by our standards. I believe we can finish third in the championship this year, and I guess that realistically that's not a bad achievement. But we're not in this game to finish third. It's only winning that really excites me, so I can't call it a good year!"

"I think we've got a much better car. Last year's car was quite troublesome. It had some problems that we identified as the season went on, but we really weren't able to cure them, without a complete redesign. We managed to eliminate a lot of those areas in the new car, so we've got a much more user-friendly car. The whole lot is working better - the engine is a lot better this year - so it's coming together."

"No, I don't think you can say that it's caused some immediate changes, but it does allow us to plan into the future. And that's very gratifying. As a team over the last few years Benetton has not been very rich. We're still a big team, but really operating on a small team's budget. That's been very hard to live with. I think now we can see the future with Renault, and that's very exciting."

"I think it's going to be great. Since Renault pulled out a few years ago a large part of our work has been trying to put us into a position to get them back, or to attract another a major manufacturer. But Renault was always my first choice. So this is the first part of fulfilling a bit of an ambition. There's a lot of work to do to justify the faith that they've put in the team, but I think we can do it."

"Yes, absolutely. It's becoming a very big job these days. Mike's a great guy, and I think we are going to really move on with him. So it is a very important part of the jigsaw."

"In the time he's been with us he's always driven well, but I think this year he's shown a lot more maturity and put a lot of effort in. Occasionally I was critical of him last year, but equally we gave him a very difficult car to drive. His finishing record this year is superb, and he's had some very good races. I would be very pleased if we keep him. He's yet to win a race, and that's always a bit of a landmark for any driver. But I think that will come reasonably soon, and then I think we'll just see him grow and grow."

"Yes, it's been a great disappointment. It's quite hard to understand, and we've obviously put a lot of effort into trying to understand it, trying to sort out the problems. It's has been difficult. At the moment Alex has no points and yet we've been third or fourth in the championship. If he could just get a few it really would make our life a lot easier."

"It's hard to say that there's one area where Alex is losing out. He's had quite a bit of luck go against him. He's always qualified behind Giancarlo this year, and sometimes it's by quite a small amount, and it's a little mistake here, or a yellow flag there. Things could be so different, but they're not, and that's motor racing."

"The stewards said it was a racing incident, and from what I've seen on the video, I have to agree. Giancarlo and Michael made similar starts. I think Michael's move was legitimate. Giancarlo maybe didn't expect him to come across and brake that early, but it's one of those things. I don't think there's much to complain about. I think the stewards were absolutely right."

"He had an alternator failure. The battery voltage dropped, the gearbox control unit lost control of the gearbox, put it into first gear, overrevved the engine, locked the back wheels, and spun him off the circuit!"

"Yes, it's annoying. I think the worst thing is that in every other sport you get a streaker with big tits, and we get a bloke in a plastic mac!"

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