The Renault Formula One Team looks ahead to the Bahrain Grand Prix, the opening round of the 2010 FIA Formula 1 World Championship. The Team Principal Eric Boullier gives his verdict on winter testing and looks ahead to Bahrain.
Eric, how would you rate the quality of the team’s preparations over the winter? "If we discount the bad weather, then overall our preparations have gone very well. We had a couple of minor glitches, which is quite normal for winter testing, but generally the car has run well and shown good reliability. Overall, considering that six days out of 15 were affected by rain, I think we have managed to maximise our mileage with the car. You can still learn a lot in the wet, especially for reliability, but the problem is that you don’t push the car to the limits like you do in the dry."
What has been your assessment of the team’s strengths since you were appointed? "Our biggest strength is our people. We have a very highly motivated team that is responsive and proactive in the way it goes racing. This was clearly demonstrated after the first test session when the factory made a big push to make changes to the car in time for the Jerez test."
How steep has your learning curve been as a new Team Principal? "It’s fair to say that it has been a very steep learning curve because there is so much more to absorb and understand, even compared to GP2. It’s much more intense, but I’m pleased with how things are going."
What feedback have the drivers given on the car, in terms of outright performance, driveability and potential? "There are a couple of things we need to change to make the drivers more comfortable in the car, but they like the general balance and how it responds to set-up changes. At the Jerez test, we found an excellent balance and both drivers said the car was easy to drive and gave them confidence. That was always the priority and it’s a good basis for developing the car throughout the year."
What is the team’s assessment of its competitiveness after winter testing? "It has been very tough to understand and unpick the details of winter testing and how we compare with the other teams because we don’t know what approach they have taken. We took a decision to run with heavy fuel at every test because we believed this was the best way to understand and improve the car. In terms of outright performance, I hope we are close to the top four teams."
Robert Kubica is rated as one of the most talented drivers in F1. What does he bring to the team? "It’s great to have Robert with us and it’s good to see his commitment and work ethic at every level. During the tests he was always at the track, working late, looking over data and available to the team, which is just what we need."
Are you pleased with how Vitaly Petrov is adapting to F1? "Yes, so far so good. Vitaly has shown a level of confidence as well as calmness under pressure, which has impressed the Team. There has been so much attention on him from Russia, but he’s taken everything in his stride and nothing seems to faze him. The only problem is his lack of dry running during testing, which isn’t ideal for a rookie. However, we are doing everything we can to make sure he feels comfortable in the team as he continues learning about Formula 1. I certainly have no doubts about his ability because his results in the past have shown how quick he is."
The team announced a partnership with Lada last week. Can you tell us more? "Our agreement with Lada is symbolic of the desire in Russia to support its first ever F1 driver at the highest level of world motorsport. That is a very encouraging sign not only for us, but for the sport as a whole. It is also an important deal for the team, because Lada is the first major new brand to enter Formula 1 in a significant manner this year – and we are proud to be the team that has made that happen. It’s a successful first step for our commercial strategy."
At the launch of the R30 you spoke about an aggressive development programme. Is everything going to plan so far? "Yes, we have been working to very tight deadlines and there has been a huge effort from the guys in the factory. So far, we are on track with our plans."
What updates are available for Bahrain? "I won’t go into details, but there is a big upgrade package for Bahrain, the main part of which is aerodynamic."
What are your expectations for this weekend’s race? "It’s not easy for me to say. I certainly have a dream result in mind, but I need to balance my expectations with reality. If we can have both cars qualify in the top ten and finish the race, that would be a great way to start the season."Source Renault