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Q & A with Eric Boullier

Despite a discreet showing in winter testing, Renault was not too far from the top teams at the Bahrain Grand Prix thanks to the introduction of new updates

Now the French squad is aiming to continue that trend, and has vowed to keep pushing hard to return to the sharp end of the grid.

AUTOSPORT talked to team boss Eric Boullier after the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Q. You went into the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend with no one outside the team expecting much, but in the end your pace was pretty good. Were you happy with how the weekend went?

Eric Boullier: Yes. We are very definitely happier - but very frustrated and disappointed also. We had the crash at the first corner, which ended any chances for Robert [Kubica]. But after that he had a very strong race, with good pace, and did not give up. I think it is good to be starting from the back and still finish 11th. The other frustration was with Vitaly, who did a very good start and a very good first lap - and then for me, most impressive, was that he was on the pace. He was catching up with [Rubens] Barrichello and was faster than the Sauber of [Kamui] Kobayashi, so I was quite happy.

Q. Was it important, going to Bahrain with a new diffuser and a new front wing, to get such progress after a quiet winter?

EB: Yes, but we had a different approach during the winter. We wanted to focus more on the reliability, and the race-pace actually. We also knew that we could not have on time our aerodynamic upgrade, so that is why we chose to focus on that part. Jerez went very well, but when the other teams brought their upgrades we were a little bit further down the order in Barcelona. But I am happy because compared to last year; we have really closed the gap with the top four teams. Ferrari is ahead of us, Red Bull is ahead of us, but McLaren is not so far and Mercedes GP is not very far.

Q. So do you feel you are a bit further ahead heading into the season than you expected in the build-up?

EB: Yes. If we don't do any mistakes, and run the car very properly, then our expectations will be to be regularly inside the top ten. We will keep this aggressive development for the first part of the season - and every race, or every other race, we will have an upgrade.

Q. There was a lot of interest in F1 in the build-up to the season, with four or five teams gunning for the championship and the return of Michael Schumacher. The spectacle in Bahrain was not fantastic. Is it bad of F1 that the season opener was not so good?

EB: I think you need to give it a little bit of time. It is not easy to make a perfect show, and track layout can help or can hinder. I think it will be interesting to see how it develops because I strongly believe this format of the championship is good, and it should be very good.

Q. Some team bosses have suggested already that we should revisit talk about two mandatory pitstops. What do you think?

EB: I am not sure that would be a big help for the spectacle. I believe there are a couple of ideas of having more different between tyre compounds, which would make the show better. Or, if you look at other categories, they have more tyre degradation which makes the show more tough.

Q. Ahead of Bahrain, there was a lot of interest in the McLaren F-Duct, and some outspoken remarks from your managing director Bob Bell. Is that matter finished as far as you are concerned?

EB: A regulation is created to be interpreted. Every team has his own interpretation. It was not our interpretation that such a modification would be legal, but the FIA is ruling the series, and if its interpretation is that it is legal then we are fine with that. It is just now opening up some opportunities for us to investigate and look - so it means some more work and some interesting research in the wind tunnel.

Q. Renault lodged some requests to the FIA to upgrade its engine for cost and reliability reasons. Has there been any response yet?

EB: Like every manufacturer here, we have some allowance to fit our engine and have a better integration with the chassis. So, I think, out of the requests that were requested - some of them were quite tricky so the FIA was not positive, but I think most of them have been approved.

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