Having achieved a podium position at each of the GP's of the 2011 season, Renault's Technical Director praises his teams development and is confident of more success with their R31 as it is expected to go well in Shanghai. And the team is also confident of reliability, especially when it comes to the uprights which failed in Malaysia.
James, Two podiums in a row for LRGP – you must be a happy man? "I’m happy for the entire team. It’s been a mega effort and I feel we’ve really got the most out of the car in the last two races. Also, the car has scored podiums on two very different tracks and has performed well in the temperate conditions of Melbourne and the heat of Sepang. It all bodes well for the season ahead."
We saw the R31 demonstrate good race pace in Sepang - arguably stronger than its qualifying pace – what is you verdict? "We’ve seen that twice now. It was a characteristic of last year’s car that it performed well on high fuel and the same seems to be true of the R31. But we still have work to do on both qualifying and race pace before we can call ourselves properly competitive."
Vitaly’s accident in Malaysia saw significant damage to the steering column – what happened exactly? "Dropping the car from this height gives a substantial impact to the car (around 30g). The weight of the wheel, coupled with the weight of the driver’s arms are greatly multiplied in such an impact and they were sufficient to cause the steering column to fracture where it emerged from the bearing on the dash bulkhead."
Is this damage something you expect from this sort of accident? "The car is not really designed to withstand an impact of this sort completely undamaged. We are looking at the data from the crash to decide whether or not we should modify our design cases accordingly."
Will Vitaly need to change chassis for this weekend’s race in China? "We suffered some damage to the chassis around the front of the T-Tray mount – this is being repaired in Enstone and will be back to the circuit to act as a spare. So for this weekend, Nick will use chassis 4; Vitaly will use chassis 1. Vitaly will probably be back in his usual chassis for the next race in Turkey."
Can you update us on the situation with the uprights? Has the team fully resolved those issues now? "As we said at the time, the failures were as a result of a lower than expected set of material properties in the uprights that we had fitted for the first time on Friday morning. The Melbourne uprights ran without problems for the remainder of the weekend. As a precaution we are also redesigning the uprights to lower the stresses in the region around the failure. All being well the modified designs will be available in China."
The race in Sepang was full of action, largely due to the tyres and the impact of the DRS. How was it from the pit wall? Calling a race like that is a very difficult job for our Strategist and Chief Engineer. To get all the major decisions right is really challenging, and I’m glad that I don’t have to do it! It was good to see lots of overtaking and I think the FIA got the DRS settings just about right in Sepang. For China, they will need to choose the DRS activation point carefully because the DRS straight is around three hundred metres longer compared to Sepang.
What are your expectations for China? Will LRGP fighting at the front once again? "I certainly hope so and it’s a circuit that should suit our car. We brought a reasonable upgrade package to Malaysia and will have some more aero tweaks for China."