Q & A with Renault's Bob Bell

Q. We another major change in the tyre rules. Last time that happened in 2007 it caused you dramas. Are you confident that won't happen this time?

Q & A with Renault's Bob Bell

Bob Bell - Renault's technical director: I hope so. When we ran these slicks last year we didn't really see any major problems in terms of the balance of the car. It was pretty similar.

I'm sure when we get into using them in anger on these cars with different aerodynamic regulations, and the secondary effect of KERS, we'll have tyre issues to overcome but on a scale of one to 10, if the transition for us from Michelin to Bridgestone was a 10, this is probably a two. Not such a big deal.

Q. Can the R29 run with or without KERS?

BB: It can run with either. Our intention is to run it with KERS. That's our prime development path but if it all turns to worms we can run without.

Q. Does that involve much of a compromise?

BB: If you started with a blank sheet of paper with a non-KERS car you could squeeze a bit more out of it but not massively so.

Q. Is the plan to have it on the car in Melbourne?

BB: Yes.

Q. Is it on the car now?

BB: It's on but it's not functioning. We're carrying all the hardware around but it's not operational. We're just making sure it all lives in a purely mechanical sense. We're taking it very much one step at a time whereas some other teams have jumped in with the all-out approach, putting it on and firing it up and then finding they're not doing much track running.

Q. You have developed KERS in partnership with Magneti Marelli. They are doing the same thing with other teams, but where does your package diverge?

BB: Marelli are providing to all their customer teams the motor generator unit and the control unit that goes with it. The MG unit comes in various flavours according to the team. Fundamentally the design's the same but it's being tailored to suit. Our unit is exactly the same as the Red Bull unit, which makes sense as it's the same engine. The control unit is virtually identical between all the teams.

There's a well-structured set of walls within Marelli that allow different versions of the same product. Then the other main ingredient is the battery and there we all go our own ways. We are using a product from a company called Saft - they make the cells that make up the battery pack. It's assembled, designed into a functional unit and then all the teams will be approaching that differently - bespoke.

Q. Is yours lithium-based?

BB: I think everybody's is.

Q. Do you have any safety concerns?

BB: Very much so. This is unknown territory for us. We are not used to seeing cars with high voltage stickers. I think there will be some accidents this year, it's inevitable. And you'll probably see some mechanics get nasty shocks. Let's hope it's no more than that. The same could be said of marshals. The sport has done a very good job of trying to minimise the risk for mechanics, technicians and trackside people, but there is still a risk. It's several hundred volts and the potential to be tens of amps, pretty lethal. And it's DC, so if you hold it you cannot let go.

Q. What about battery disposal concerns?

BB: It is a real issue. We'll return the cells back to Saft. They've been building lithium cells for the military and other customers for years and they have their own disposal systems. But you could say that F1 is adding to the stock of waste batteries around the world.

Q. Do they have a single-race life?

BB: It depends. Most of us would like to think we might get a couple of races out of them. And if we could get four we'd be in heaven. The jury's out on where that will fall.

Q. Will you have the same specification battery for each race?

BB: The charging cycle will vary from race-to-race when it's on the car but we're not doing different batteries for different circuits. We are having a logistical nightmare just making the one type of battery. Having several different versions certified would be a nightmare.

One of the biggest challenges is to intelligently monitor the charging and cycles throughout the battery life, where all of the cells - 60-odd of them - are all in the same state of charge. It's dangerous if you have one abnormally low or high. The electronics to monitor and control all that is an important part of it.

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