Transcript of Webchat with Pat Symonds

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Joined: Fri Jun 03, 2005 9:54 am

Transcript of Webchat with Pat Symonds

Post ... at-symonds

By RF1 Paddock Pass, saturday 7 april 2007 at 00:40 :: Talking Points :: #316 :: rss

Welcome to our exclusive Webchat with Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering, live from Sepang!

MODERATOR: Good evening from Sepang and welcome to the ING Renault F1 Team's first live webchat of the 2007 season.

MODERATOR: As you know, Pat Symonds, the team's Executive Director of Engineering, will be joining us live in about fifteen minutes' time for an exclusive webchat.

MODERATOR: We are sat in the paddock in Sepang, as the sun is setting after a productive first day of practice.

MODERATOR: The drivers finished the day 2nd and 3rd on the timesheets, an encouraging performance, even if the real level is probably not quite that high up. We ran new option tyres and lower fuel at the perfect time, so it's not a totally representative comparison with some of our rivals, but it has nevertheless proved a good start to the weekend.

MODERATOR: Both drivers completed over 60 laps, equivalent to a race distance, and they are well tuned in to the circuit.

MODERATOR: Fisi is suffering a little with flu, but will be OK for Sunday.

MODERATOR: Heikki is very upbeat and positive, and determined to put Melbourne behind him. You can hear some of his interviews elsewhere on the site, and they make interesting listening to get a real feel for his character and how he is responding.

MODERATOR: Prior to Pat joining us, please start sending in your questions if you want to know any more about the day's events so far...

MODERATOR: No questions for me so far - Pat is not here yet guys, he will join in about 10 MINUTES. So send in general questions if you have them!

Rad Victor : Hello everyone... I wasn't able to watch the second free practice session live, only the live timing was available for me. What was an average lap time in one of Fisi or Heikki's long runs?
MODERATOR: Hi Victor, the long runs really got better and better during the session - just ten minutes apart, and they gained maybe half a second on average. By the last long run we did, we were running in mid to high 1.37's. It's worth noting that Massa set his best lap at the start of a 12 laps run...

MODERATOR: Guys, this is the moderator here again. I am seeing a number of questions appearing in French. It needs to be English ONLY please!

MODERATOR: Pat will be joining us in about 5 MINUTES time. Please send in your questions now - we need to chat about something!

Rad Victor : You were mentioning that Fisi has caught a bit of a flu. How can that affect driving performance in these conditions?
MODERATOR: Victor, it makes things a bit tougher for him physically and can leave him a bit drained. But he will be fine.

emilio70 : F1 should be very important too Renault, and I would like that we with success improve company image in sport, the image that Ferrari, McLaren-Mercedes already have, even if we’ve done more in last 30 years then them. So what is the next thing to do, to improve the sport image, as winning is not the only thing, obviously.
MODERATOR: Pour nos amis francophones, ce chat se déroule en ANGLAIS. Nous ne pourrons répondre à aucune question en français, désolé.

MODERATOR: Pat Symonds has now joined us, so please keep the questions coming. You have half an hour to answer, beginning now!

Principessa : Pat, What are the updates on the R27 at Malaysia?
Pat Symonds : Our aero updates are centred around the front wing. But just as significant is the fact that we adopted a different philosophy for setting the car up at the test here last week, and it looks as if everything is now working better.

elno : What are the strengths and weaknesses of the R27?
Pat Symonds : The strength of the car is reliability, we've covered, together with McLaren, more km in testing than anyone else. The weakness is obviously that it's not winning races at the moment, and that's something we want to change as quickly as possible.

emilio70 : Hello Pat, I just want you to know that you have huge number of fans behind yourself as a member of Renault F1 team. Please don’t leave the team ever, and make us happy as much as you can with RF1 success. Now, simple question, why we are so behind the others and just few months ago we were the best. What happened?
Pat Symonds : A simple question, but a difficult answer. It is definitely linked to the change to Bridgestone tyres, but not necessarily in the way most people think. The tyre affects the aerodynamics of the car an awful lot, and after years of working with Michelin, we were each able to contribute to the total package. Now it is purely down to us to make Bridgestone's tyres work with our car, both as a tyre and an aerodynamic device, and I'm afraid we're a bit behind in this process.

Rad Victor : You were, of course, Michael Schumacher's race engineer in his Benetton days. How would you compare working with him to working with today's drivers (Giancarlo and Heikki)?
Pat Symonds : One season is a long time in F1, and it's over ten years since I worked with Michael. A lot has changed in that time, and what we require of the drivers is different these days. But as human beings, they don't change. Michael showed the world what can be achieved with hard work and dedication when added to an exceptional skill. I hope all drivers and indeed engineers, learnt from this.

elno : In general, are you in favour of more openness in F1? Would you agree to show TV viewers some telemetry data, for example?
Pat Symonds : I think that Formula 1 needs to balance between being a sport, and being an entertainment. I am all for improving the entertainment as much as we can. A large part of this is sharing the trackside experience with people at home. If you log on to our website while the cars are running, you will be able to follow a reasonable amount of data. We are also working with FOM to add more of this data to the broadcast television.

Rad Victor : Mr. Symonds, I have a few massive questions about the strategical thinking of any team. About how many variables are taken into account at any given time in preparing a strategy? How long can it take to change a strategy on the pit wall and relay it to the driver? And is there a possibility to trick other teams into believing that less fuel was put on board, while the flow rate of the nozzle stays within the regulation-specified 12 l/second?
Pat Symonds : A lot of questions! If we are saying that strategy is really about what happens on Sunday, then the major variables are tyre degradation and the effect of the fuel weight. Of course, those of you who have listened to my rantings before, will know that I regard strategy as being much more than simply what happens on Sunday. To answer your second question, we can react very quickly and often do. Of course, we cannot extend a stint if there is not enough fuel in the car, but we can change a strategy even up to the point of the car entering the pitlane and indeed I have done this many times. For the third part, we are always trying to mislead our competitors! But it's very difficult to hide the amount of fuel you are putting in a car during a race.

robert : What training do you need to do your job?
Pat Symonds : The obvious answer is that you need a good engineering degree. I started with mechanical engineering, and then later specialised in automotive engineering. But I think the true answer goes beyond this. One needs many other attributes to be successful in Formula 1. Among these are dedication, hard work, open-mindedness, and believe it or not, honesty.

stefan : I would like to know if you will change the wheelbase (to make it longer) of the R27, and if so, when?
Pat Symonds : I think this question is inspired by the fact that the dominant Ferrari is a very long wheelbase car. It is not always easy to simply copy something from another car. One must first understand the design philosophy. I think a lot of people believe that the long wheelbase of the Ferrari has come about because of the tyres. I believe it has much more to do with aerodynamics. At the moment we are investigating why we are not as competitive as we were last year, and I will not rule anything out, but I think it is unlikely that we will follow this route this year.

victor : Pat, do you think the team will be able to catch McLaren and Ferrari this year?
Pat Symonds : I certainly hope so! But I am realistic enough to know that it will be extremely difficult, particularly with Ferrari. However, we must remember that for the last two years, Renault have started the season in a dominant fashion, but had to fight to the end as others caught us up. This year, I hope it is us that is doing the catching up.

Principessa : How did the team help Heikki to get ready for the second race after his debut in Australia?
Pat Symonds : Heikki had some justified criticism from Flavio after Australia. The engineers tried to be very objective in our criticism, and hence make it constructive criticism. Heikki is a very intelligent young man, and he has taken our comments on board. This, coupled with a good test at this circuit, has got him well-prepared for round 2.

elno : Do you think that the FIA will now be able to monitor illegal driver aids from next year onwards? How will they do it?
Pat Symonds : This is a good question. As many people know, the FIA banned traction control some years ago, and then allowed it back inwhen it was suspected that it was impossible to police. 2008 brings a totally new situation to Formula 1. This is because we need to all use a standard electronic controller (ECU) for our cars, engine and chassis. The limitations of the software in this ECU make it infinitely more easy to ensure that no-one is using traction control.

pierreleg : hello pat ! do you think we'll be better than Melbourne this week ? and will ve be before the BMW ?
Pat Symonds : Indications from testing and practice today show that we will be more competitive than we were in Melbourne. Is it enough to beat BMW? It's hard to say, but our feeling and our analysis from today's sessions are that we are extremely equal.

Principessa : There have been talks/rumours about a B-chassis of Renault. What about that?
Pat Symonds : My answer to this is very similar to the one earlier about long wheelbase. We will do what is necessary within our budget and resources, but this does not necessarily mean a "B car".

ProstForever : Hello Pat, Do you still have a lot of things to learn from the tires ?
Pat Symonds : I certainly do! But that's one of the fascinations of Formula 1. Tyres are a mixture of physics, mathematics and good old fashioned experience. I have room to learn in each one of these!

Jose : Why didnt Renault used the rim covers at the end of last year and they are using them now in Sepang?
Pat Symonds : I said earlier that one cannot just copy an idea from another car. You need to understand the design philosophy. We tried these devices last year on the R26 and found no improvement. The changes at the rear end of the R27 have now made them work. The gain is small, but nevertheless measurable.

elno : Pat, how do you explain in modern f1, it is so difficult to over take while in sixties and seventies we saw so many beautiful over taking ? thank you very much for your response
Pat Symonds : If I could give the absolute answer to this question, I would be a very popular man! As you know, we are trying hard to improve overtaking in Formula 1 by 2009. In order to do this, we need to be able to answer your question, and are working hard to understand it right now. Of course aerodynamics plays a part, and this is something we are starting to get on top of, and will improve for 2009. But it is also interesting that other factors that one may not think of played a big part in those days. For example, how many times was an overtaking manoeuvre just because the leading driver missed a gearchange? The engineers have worked to ensure that it is impossible to miss a gearchange, and the unfortunate consequence of this is less overtaking.

Principessa : We saw Nelsinho sitting at the Pit wall at Australia and seems very motivated. He also showed his pace during winter testing. What is your opinion of him?
Pat Symonds : It's very strange working with him, having worked with his father. It certainly makes me feel old! I am however very impressed with him. He always wants to be with the team, and learning everything he can. What you saw on the pitwall in Melbourne is repeated every week as he follows our racing and testing. I'm impressed with his speed, I'm impressed with his maturity, and I'm impressed with his work ethic.

elno : Now that the engines have a maximum rev limit, are you working on improving torque levels through the rev range?
Pat Symonds : The engines, as well as having a maximum rev limit, are also severely restricted in the areas where we can make design changes. This is what is known as the 'homologated engine' that we have to use for the next few years. So the answer is that we can't make fundamental changes, but some items such as the inlet and exhaust systems, are still capable of being developed - and indeed, we are doing this.

emilio70 : How good is your relationship with Flavio as he is not a easy man to work with I think, specially during the bad periods
Pat Symonds : I have now worked with Flavio for 19 years, and in that time, I've learnt a lot about him, including his wonderful version of the English language. I've always enjoyed working with him. He contributes a lot to the team, and his flamboyant and open style permeates down through every employee. Of course, he can be hard at times, that's what being a boss is all about. But you cannot argue with the success he has achieved in Formula 1.

elno : Could you explain the flexible floor debate, and the consequences for the Renault team? In the media, we can read every possible opinion, it's hard to know what to think!
Pat Symonds : This has been the hot topic of the last week. It's difficult to answer without getting too technical but basically, the bodywork of the car should be rigid. Now of course nothing is really rigid, and therefore, certain tests are done on the bodywork to ensure that it is not too flexible. In the case of the floor, one critical area is at the front. The test for this part is to apply 500 newtons to the floor, and measure the deflection. This deflection must not exceed 5mm. Now of course, the floor can see loads much higher than 500 newtons, and there has been some suspicion that on certain cars, the deflection for let's say double the load, goes up by more than two times. The new test procedure is an attempt to stop this happening, if indeed it actually is.

emilio70 : Pat, do you think that we, Renault, can be on the top again, like in 1992-1996, 2005-2006, considering the drivers, new rules, motivation in the team, etc…
Pat Symonds : Of course I do! It's impossible to always stay at the top, whether you are a football team, a Formula 1 team, or even a high-street business. Our structure at Renault goes very deep. And while this year may not be starting as well as we would like, and obviously not as well as the last two years, all the fundamentals that we put in place to win our previous championships, are still there. One might say that the driver who won the championships isn't, but my answer to that is that the mechanism and the philosophies that went out and found that driver, are still within the team - and still looking for the next champion. Maybe we even have him in the team at the moment.

emilio70 : How much lower budget is a problem for you engineers working for top team, did you ever think it would be easier for you to join richer team
Pat Symonds : Engineers are very adept at spending money! Within our team, we have a lot of people who have gone racing on very, very small budgets. They have learnt how to use the money wisely, and even as budgets have got better, this philosophy has helped our team. I think it is important for Formula 1 that we maintain sensible budgets that are sustainable in the future. At Renault, this is something dear to our heart, and very much in my thoughts. It's one of the very many reasons why I have no interest in joining a richer team. Our team is rich in ways that go above and beyond finance.

Pat Symonds : Thanks to everybody for joining us this evening. It's time to get back to work - and try and make the cars even quicker for tomorrow. Enjoy qualifying, and of course the race on Sunday!

MODERATOR: Thank you to everybody who joined us this afternoon for the webchat. We hope you enjoyed Pat's insights into a wide range of subjects, and join us again soon for the next webchat with a team personality.

emilio70 : GO PAT!!!GO RENAULT!!!!

Rad Victor : Thank you, we will enjoy it as much as possible.

Principessa : I hope the team will do well at Sepang!!

Rad Victor : Thank you, we will enjoy it as much as possible.

elno : thank you very much Pat for your responses !!

elno : Allez les jaunes !

adenomiosis : we are with all of you ! keep this so nice competition philosophy ! thanks for all that you are doing !

Principessa : Renault for champion!

User avatar
Ciro Pabón
Joined: Tue May 10, 2005 11:31 pm


Well, Principessa seems a little optimistic. :wink: She asked intelligent questions, too. Way to go, Princesa. And a great interview by Symonds: prudence makes true wise men.

User avatar
Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2007 1:32 pm


Renault may have

their share of trials and tribulations now, but when it comes to interactivity and openness, they're right up there. Symonds is certainly showing his experience, insight and wit, answering questions in-depth with such ease. Kudos to Pat and the team for their efforts.

And thank you for Principessa for highlighting the chat.