The ING Renault F1 Team prepares for the ninth round of the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship: the British Grand Prix, which marks the mid-point of the season. Bob Bell is very confident that the team can hit back at Silverstone and that they can move up from their current position to where they should be, at the front.
Bob, the team came away from France with its first double points finish of the season. Happy with the result?
"Although we’re obviously very pleased to see both cars finish the race in the points, I don’t think we can be totally satisfied with the result. I think Nelson got as much out of the race as he was ever likely to given his starting position, but it was obviously a great disappointment that Fernando was unable to bring home a potential podium finish, which is ultimately what we were aiming for."
Fernando’s qualifying form was again exceptional, but he struggled in the race. Is it fair to say that the team needs to work on improving its race pace?
"We were fairly confident that we could convert Fernando’s grid position into a podium finish, but he lost pace in the race, primarily in his first stint, and after that it was all over in terms of our hopes for a podium. We don’t fully understand yet why that was the case and so we are examining the data to try and get to the root cause of why he lost performance. So, yes, overall it is fair to say that we have seen more improvement in terms of our qualifying pace than we have seen in race conditions, and we need to address that."
Nelson had a great weekend and scored his first points in Formula 1. How did you assess his performance?
"I think that Nelson did a very creditable job and he kept improving throughout the race weekend. In the practice sessions on Friday he was quite a way off Fernando, and yet by the end of the weekend he was right up there with him and ultimately brought home more points. So it was a really positive weekend for him, which is great for his self-confidence. Hopefully it will act as a launch pad for the second half of the year as we travel to some of the European tracks that he has raced on before. I think this is a real opportunity for him to show his true colours."
Looking ahead to the British Grand Prix, what can we expect from the R28?
"I think we’re pretty upbeat about Silverstone. It’s a medium / high down force track with some high-speed corners – a bit like Barcelona – and the R28 has generally gone well in this configuration. You need good change of direction; good traction; good high-speed performance and so I think it will suit the strengths of the car. And having tested at Silverstone last week we should be able to dial the car in quickly to the circuit and find a good set-up."
Will there be further developments in time for the British Grand Prix?
"We hope to have some new parts on the car for Silverstone, but they will probably be very late additions and we cannot say for sure whether they will make the car. We ran them in the test last week and hopefully they will allow us to take another small step forward."
Silverstone will be the second home race for the team – is it a special feeling to race there?
"Yes it is. It’s pretty much the home Grand Prix for Enstone, and it’s a special race for everyone who works in England in the Formula 1 industry. With our factory being so close to the circuit, we are always determined to put on a special show there."
We’re approaching the half-way point of the season. What is the target for the second half of the year?
"It’s very much as it was for the first half of the season. We have got to keep developing the R28 to put us in a position were we’re regularly challenging BMW and McLaren and fighting for podiums by the end of the season. We need to do that so that we can go into 2009 feeling confident that we can move on from our current position to where we should be, which is at the front."