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.

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
Why Mercedes believes it can make the step F1 needs to fight Red Bull Plus

Why Mercedes believes it can make the step F1 needs to fight Red Bull

The 2022 Formula 1 season was Mercedes' leanest for a decade, achieving just a solitary pole and grand prix win. Yet the team is confident it has got the tools it needs to cast that disappointment aside and return to the front of the field again next year

How BRM's one-off F1 double defied its rollercoaster history Plus

How BRM's one-off F1 double defied its rollercoaster history

It’s 60 years since BRM achieved its goal and Graham Hill led the team to a world title double. But that was just part of the remarkable story of a unique team that at times overstretched its resources and had its fair share of disappointments

Formula 1
Dec 8, 2022
The bold F1 DRS experiment that could end the debate forever Plus

The bold F1 DRS experiment that could end the debate forever

OPINION: The effectiveness of DRS in Formula 1 remains a topic of debate as the winter break gives a chance for reflection on the racing we saw in 2022. For all of its detractors, perhaps an experiment where DRS is cast aside and the impact this has on racing is in order to truly understand its merits in modern F1

Formula 1
Dec 8, 2022
The sliding doors moment that saved Red Bull and Porsche Plus

The sliding doors moment that saved Red Bull and Porsche

OPINION: Everything looked set for Red Bull and Porsche to join forces for the 2026 season, before the marriage between both parties was called off. While at the time it looked like a major coup for Formula 1 in gaining both VW Group powerhouses Audi and Porsche for 2026, Red Bull and Porsche have really been spared a potentially fractious relationship.

Formula 1
Dec 7, 2022
How Tyrrell’s post-Stewart era descended into a fight to survive Plus

How Tyrrell’s post-Stewart era descended into a fight to survive

Glory days for Tyrrell became increasingly infrequent
 after Jackie Stewart’s retirement. But in the latest instalment of his history of the team for Autosport's sister title GP Racing, 
MAURICE HAMILTON recalls how Ken Tyrrell’s plucky and defiantly small team stayed bold enough to innovate – springing a surprise with F1’s first six-wheeled car

Formula 1
Dec 6, 2022
The forgettable final car of a former F1 giant that gave Damon Hill his start Plus

The forgettable final car of a former F1 giant that gave Damon Hill his start

While it launched the F1 career 
of a future world champion, STUART CODLING recalls that the BT60 was also the final nail in the coffin of a once-great marque 30 years ago. Here is its story

Formula 1
Dec 5, 2022
How departing F1 boss Brawn views F1’s new rules - and the future Plus

How departing F1 boss Brawn views F1’s new rules - and the future

Multiple-title-winning designer and team boss Ross Brawn is finally leaving Formula 1 after nearly 50 years in motorsport. But he still has plenty of insights on what’s working and what comes next, as he revealed to Autosport in a far-reaching exclusive interview in Abu Dhabi

Formula 1
Dec 2, 2022
The key F1 management call Ferrari must make to avoid more defeat Plus

The key F1 management call Ferrari must make to avoid more defeat

OPINION: Mattia Binotto’s departure from Ferrari will naturally bring a range of changes across the Formula 1 team. But how the changes shape up and the impact they could have is set to be dictated by a key direction Ferrari’s top dogs will need to pick

Formula 1
Nov 30, 2022