Q & A with Renault's Bob Bell

Conducted and provided by the Renault F1 Team press office

Q & A with Renault's Bob Bell

Q: We have completed a quarter of the season, and the R25 no longer enjoys the advantage of the early races - how is the team competing in the race to develop the car, relative to the competition?

Bob Bell: I think we have two teams as our main rivals for the season - McLaren, and Ferrari. There is no doubt Ferrari have a good car, but they were certainly flattered by the tyres in Imola, and that performance may have been a bit of a one-off - although they will be serious rivals for the rest of the season. As for McLaren, it is no surprise to see them where they are - even during the winter, it was nip and tuck as to who was quicker over the long runs. I think Kimi's pace in Imola was genuine, and this was borne out in Barcelona. At the minute, they are slightly quicker than us, and that means we need to work even harder to pull that back in.

Q: The car has a major update package in Monaco, as McLaren did in Spain - will this be significant?

Bell: I think so. The deficit at the moment is not huge, perhaps several tenths of a second per lap. They had a new aero package in Barcelona, and we have a big update for Monaco. I think we may well see the teams leapfrogging each other according to the timing of updates, and undoubtedly they will be quicker than us at some races, and we faster than them at others. The race until the end of the season will be close, and it will be won by the team that has the better reliability, and is able to maintain the development pace. We know what we have to do.

Q: McLaren and Ferrari both have more resources than the team - will this be a handicap?

Bell: On paper they ought to do a better job, because they are better resourced than us. But we don't race on paper, and I have enormous faith not only in the ability of our team to be creative and come up with the ideas we need to improve performance, but also be extremely efficient in how we operate, in order to put the parts on the car that will make the difference. I think we can match them over the course of the year.

Q: Let's talk about the team's two drivers - Fernando has been much talked about in the early part of the year...

Bell: When you are talking about the best drivers in the field, Fernando is among the names you will hear - along with Michael and Raikkonen, they are all very strong. But you cannot ignore the fact that we have let Fisi down with the car, and he has done a fantastic job this year. We saw him win in Melbourne, and he was flying in Barcelona - he would certainly have been second. I have a lot of respect for that drive, and his performances and attitude this year so far.

Q: Looking at Fernando, do you think he has raised his game this year compared to 2004?

Bell: I think Fernando is driving as he did in the final races of last year, when he moved up a level in his commitment, and perhaps his personal development. Over the past year, he has remained incredibly fast but we have also seen him mature in himself. More than anything, he is an extremely intelligent racing driver capable or recognising problems, and dealing with them. That kind of maturity, just as we saw in Imola under pressure from Michael or in Spain, is remarkable.

Q: How do you assess the performance of the competition - have there been any surprises?

Bell: I think Jarno (Trulli) has had a great start to the year. That is not a surprise, because we have always had respect for his ability, but he has begun showing this year that he is as quick as anybody out there over a race distance when he is in the right situation. He has been putting in a string of very solid performances, in and around the podium, and that has been good to see. On the technical side, there is no doubt that Toyota have done an incredible job over the winter to make a big step forward. Williams have not yet shown the pace we might have expected, and McLaren are where we expected them to be. As for Ferrari, their car is technical very good, and very quick, but I have been a little surprised at how they have managed the start of the season. Deciding not to produce a new car for the first races, then rushing the introduction of the 05 car, have all been slightly unusual decisions for them to take.

Q: We are now at a stage when the voluntary testing agreement the team has signed up to may be starting to be felt - is that the case?

Bell: I think we are starting to see the first signs that the agreement is having an impact on preventing us from doing what we really want. Undoubtedly, it has made our testing operations more efficient, we have to prioritise more clearly, and also be more reactive to potential bad weather. In this area, Ferrari have a significant advantage because in our situation, in order to race approve components, we have to meet certain test deadlines to run the parts. If the weather intervenes, that can have a serious impact on our development. But the agreement is what we have signed up to, and what we intend to operate to. It certainly represents a net cost saving relative to last year.

Q: What about the fact that Renault is not the only team running Michelin tyres - does that provide a significant advantage in tyre performance?

Bell: There is no doubt that the tyre manufacturers have very different approaches in how they go about their business. Michelin may complete more miles than their rivals because of the number of teams they supply, but I am not convinced that this is a huge advantage for them - because they must take account of the fact that every team has different requirements, and they support these demands, even if they are conflicting, with a very strong degree of fairness.

Q: So far, the team has looked competitive during the Monaco weekend...

Bell: Things have really gone to plan so far. We expected the car to be quick here, and it has proved so, with the new aero updates working as we expected. The drivers have made no mistakes, and are doing a great job. There's no reason why it should not continue through the weekend.

shares
comments
Fisichella Fastest in Practice 4 - Monaco
Previous article

Fisichella Fastest in Practice 4 - Monaco

Next article

Monaco will be a Bike Ride for Button

Monaco will be a Bike Ride for Button
Load comments
How Formula E factors could negate Red Bull's Jeddah practice gap to Mercedes Plus

How Formula E factors could negate Red Bull's Jeddah practice gap to Mercedes

Mercedes led the way in practice for Formula 1’s first race in Jeddah, where Red Bull was off the pace on both single-lap and long runs. But, if Max Verstappen can reverse the results on Saturday, factors familiar in motorsport’s main electric single-seater category could be decisive in another close battle with Lewis Hamilton

Formula 1
Dec 3, 2021
Why Norris doesn’t expect Mr Nice Guy praise for much longer Plus

Why Norris doesn’t expect Mr Nice Guy praise for much longer

Earning praise from rivals has been a welcome sign that Lando Norris is becoming established among Formula 1's elite. But the McLaren driver is confident that his team's upward curve can put him in the mix to contend for titles in the future, when he's hoping the compliments will be replaced by being deemed an equal adversary

Formula 1
Dec 2, 2021
What Ferrari still needs to improve to return to F1 title contention Plus

What Ferrari still needs to improve to return to F1 title contention

After a disastrous 2020 in which it slumped to sixth in the F1 constructors' standings, Ferrari has rebounded strongly and is on course to finish third - despite regulations that forced it to carryover much of its forgettable SF1000 machine. Yet while it can be pleased with its improvement, there are still steps it must make if 2022 is to yield a return to winning ways

Formula 1
Dec 2, 2021
How F1 teams and personnel react in pressurised situations Plus

How F1 teams and personnel react in pressurised situations

OPINION: The pressure is firmly on Red Bull and Mercedes as Formula 1 2021 embarks on its final double-header. How the respective teams deal with that will be a crucial factor in deciding the outcome of the drivers' and constructors' championships, as Autosport's technical consultant and ex-McLaren F1 engineer explains

Formula 1
Dec 1, 2021
Why Ferrari is sure its long-term Leclerc investment will be vindicated Plus

Why Ferrari is sure its long-term Leclerc investment will be vindicated

Humble yet blisteringly quick, Charles Leclerc is the driver Ferrari sees as its next
 world champion, and a rightful heir to the greats of Ferrari’s past – even though, by the team’s own admission, he’s not the finished article yet. Here's why it is confident that the 24-year-old can be the man to end a drought stretching back to 2008

Formula 1
Nov 30, 2021
The downside to F1's show and tell proposal Plus

The downside to F1's show and tell proposal

Technology lies at the heart of the F1 story and it fascinates fans, which is why the commercial rights holder plans to compel teams to show more of their ‘secrets’. STUART CODLING fears this will encourage techno-quackery…

Formula 1
Nov 29, 2021
How getting sacked gave Mercedes F1’s tech wizard lasting benefits Plus

How getting sacked gave Mercedes F1’s tech wizard lasting benefits

He’s had a hand in world championship-winning Formula 1 cars for Benetton, Renault and Mercedes, and was also a cog in the Schumacher-Ferrari axis. Having recently ‘moved upstairs’ as Mercedes chief technical officer, James Allison tells STUART CODLING about his career path and why being axed by Benetton was one of the best things that ever happened to him

Formula 1
Nov 28, 2021
The remarkable qualities that propelled Kubica’s F1 comeback Plus

The remarkable qualities that propelled Kubica’s F1 comeback

It’s easy to look at
 Robert Kubica’s second Formula 1 career and feel a sense of sadness that he didn’t reach the heights for which he seemed destined. But as BEN ANDERSON discovered, performance and results are almost meaningless in this context – something more fundamental and incredible happened…

Formula 1
Nov 27, 2021