The ING Renault F1 Team prepares for the tenth round of the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship: the German Grand Prix.
Fernando Alonso: "Finishing strongly in the points must remain our priority"
Fernando, the British Grand Prix took place in dreadful weather conditions, but you managed to score three points. What are your feelings after the race?I had said that when it rains, anything can happen, and that turned out to be the case. It was a difficult race, with changeable track conditions and we did not make the best choice in terms of tyres when I made my first stop. After that my tyres wore out quickly and controlling the car therefore became difficult, especially towards the end of the race. We probably could have had a better result, but in the end I scored three points, which is important for the team and the championship.
We've reached the mid-season point. How do you view the rest of the championship? It's important for us to continue improving because we want to finish this season strongly and have some good races. At the moment we are not on terms with the leading teams, but we are moving in the right direction. The team is working hard and I will continue to give my maximum.
The German Grand Prix returns to Hockenheim this year. What are the challenges of the track?It's a very physical track for the drivers. It can also be quite hot, which makes things difficult for the whole team. For the car, good straight-line speed is necessary, but not as much as it was in the past when the circuit was different. In the slow corners grip is always poor, but it is possible to make up for some of that with a good mechanical set-up and a car that is easy to drive. To be fast in Hockenheim, the right compromise is always difficult to find.
Do you think that the R28 will perform well in Hockenheim?We drove in Germany three days last week to improve the set-up of the car and so that we could approach the race in the best shape possible. The weather was mixed, but we were still able to complete our programme, and I think that we have a good basis to work from when we start free practice on Friday. The R28 has performed well on different types of circuit already this season, and we must concentrate on realising our potential this weekend.
Nelson Piquet: "I'm motivated for this race and really looking forward to racing in Germany"
Nelson, the British Grand Prix was a mixed weekend. You qualified well, and raced strongly until your retirement. How do you look back on the race?I was obviously disappointed to retire from the race, especially from such a strong position with a car that was handling well. We were on course for a great result, but I went off in the heavy rain which flooded the circuit. Still, I take some positives from Silverstone because the car was good, we improved it throughout the weekend, and I qualified well inside the top ten, just behind Fernando.
Silverstone marked the half-way point of the season. What do you hope for from the second half of the year?For me personally the priority is to keep learning and improving as a driver. We have shown in the last two races how competitive the car is, and so we have to build on that and approach the coming races determined to score points so that we can improve our position in the championship. The European part of the season will take us to some tracks that I've raced at before, which should make things a bit easier.
Hockenheim is another familiar venue for you. Tell us about the circuit…It's a fun track to drive and I've raced there at a few times before when I was in GP2, although it's quite different in an F1 car. It's a demanding circuit with several heavy braking zones and so you need a well balanced car that is stable under braking and which also has good traction and grip out of the slow corners. It's quite a rewarding place to drive and, as we tested there last week, the car should be well sorted already when we start free practice on Friday.
What are your aims for this weekend?As always, we will be aiming for points. I'm very motivated for this race and really looking forward to racing in Germany. I expect the midfield battle to be incredibly tight once again, but, if we can reach Q3 in qualifying, I think that points will be a realistic target. The whole team is focussed and working hard for this coming weekend, and it would be great to reward everyone with a strong result. I will do everything I can to achieve that.
Alan Permane: "The mood in the team is one of optimism"
Alan, looking back to Silverstone – and the wet race lottery – were you happy with the final result?We have mixed feelings. While it was good to get some more points on the board, there is definitely a feeling that we could have come away with even more. Obviously the decision not to change Fernando's wet tyres at the first pit-stop proved to be the wrong one, and the rest of his race was compromised. Equally, Nelson's weekend ended in disappointment when he was caught out by the heavy rain, which probably cost us a double points finish.
Fernando was strong all weekend. Sum up his performance for us?Fernando was excellent and got the most from the car as always. The hard work was done the week before the race at the test and so we arrived at Silverstone with a well balanced car. He was competitive at the beginning of the race, but at the first pit stop it was 50/50 as to whether it would rain again and we chose to gamble by not changing his tyres. Ultimately that didn't work, but it was definitely worth taking the chance because we've seen similar decisions in other races really pay off.
And your thoughts on Nelson's weekend overall?It was a shame that Nelson's race ended prematurely because he was having a really strong weekend. He had struggled a bit in the test the week before, but over the race weekend he really got down to things and was looking strong. He qualified well, with a reasonable fuel load, just behind Fernando, and made the most of a circuit that he knew well. He had a great start to the race, but like many other drivers he spun in the heavy rain and was unlucky to get stuck in the gravel.
There is still a feeling that the team has not fully realised its potential so far. Would you agree? Yes. Despite scoring points at Silverstone, it still felt like a missed opportunity. That is very often the case when you have the benefit of hindsight and you think about how you could have done things differently. But we will take the lessons we've learned from the first half of the season, and come back stronger in the second half.
It has been a couple of years since we raced in Hockenheim. What are the main challenges of racing there?It's a demanding track which is hard on tyres and on the brakes. But we've seen some good racing there in the past as it's a track where you can overtake. This will be the first time we have raced in Hockenheim with this generation of Bridgestone tyres, and so evaluating the tyres was one of the main focuses of the test there last week. We have gathered some valuable data and will complete our assessments when free practice begins on Friday.
What are the objectives for the weekend?Having tested in Hockenheim last week, we should be in good shape for this weekend. Obviously we go to each event aiming to win, but we have to be realistic, and, based on our performance in the last two races, I think we can aim to get both cars into the top ten in qualifying and hopefully race strongly in the points on Sunday afternoon. We have quite a large aero update for Hockenheim, and we know the car has speed, so the mood in the team is one of optimism. We're focussed on what we need to do, and ready to close the gap on those around us to try and secure fourth place in the constructors' championship.
Hockenheim: Tech File
The revisions to the Hockenheimring in recent years have transformed what was once a flat out burst through the forests into a medium downforce circuit, with the team having to balance the demands of a long back straight and a low-speed stadium section at the end of the lap. The team therefore has to adopt a compromise with the set-up. The benefit of such a diverse track usually gives an exciting race with plenty of overtaking opportunities.
AerodynamicsLike the latest generation of Tilke tracks, Hockenheim is characterised by long straights followed by slow corners and hairpins, designed with overtaking in mind. With such a long back straight, a good top-speed is essential to fend off competitors in the race, but this has to be balanced with the grip needed in the medium and low-speed parts of the lap. Downforce settings are therefore a compromise, requiring the team to adopt a medium downforce set-up and leaving the drivers short of grip in the low-speed stadium section, but allowing a reasonable top-speed on the straights.
BrakesThe circuit is one of the hardest tests of the year on brakes, being similar to the demands of Bahrain. Braking stability is vital, especially into the hairpin at turn 6, where it is easy to lock a wheel, and even more challenging following the removal of electronic braking assistance. The team therefore play close attention to finding the optimum braking and cooling solutions, which was one of the priorities at the pre-Grand Prix test.
Suspension The long straights and low-speed corner mix of Hockenheim requires contrasting suspension set-ups. Mechanically, we are able to run the cars quite soft as there are no significant high speed changes of direction on the circuit. Front to rear, we run a forward mechanical bias ie: a stiffer front end, in order to get good traction out of the slow and medium speed corners and keep the rear stable under braking. Indeed, with the braking zone into turn 6 being the main passing opportunity, braking stability is something we work hard to get right.
Tyres The demands on the tyres are quite severe and so Bridgestone will supply the hard and medium options from its range. The stress does not come from the lateral load of the corners, but is due to the traction zones and heavy braking required at this circuit. It will be the first time we have raced in Hockenheim with this generation of Bridgestone tyres and so the team made the most of the test last week to begin its tyre evaluation work. Hockenheim in July is also a place were we can expect high track temperatures and, coupled with the heavy traction demands, the team needs to keep a close eye on wear rates for the rear tyres and beware of blistering which will make the car unstable.
EngineThe engine requirements at Hockenheim are not as demanding as in the past, but, with 63% of the lap spent on full throttle, it's still a challenging workout and about average for the season. With a lack of high-speed corners, the main demands come from the long back straight. Good torque is essential and so the engine needs to work well at low revs to help the cars get a good exit out of the low-speed corners. The potential for high temperatures in Hockenheim also means the team must pay attention to cooling to avoid overheating, but the latest generation of V8 engines are capable of running at peak revs in high temperatures.
Renault at the German Grand Prix in Hockenheim
The Hockenheim circuit has welcomed 30 Grands Prix since 1970 with Renault engines shining there on many occasions.
The first participation of a Renault car in the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim came in 1978. Starting ninth on the grid, Jean-Pierre Jabouille's race was short lived as the Frenchman retired from the race after just five laps. The following year, Jabouille set pole position before retiring once again, while in 1980 promising second and third starting slots for Jabouille and Arnoux failed to produce a victory. In 1981, the two RE30s dominated the front of the grid but, once again, victory remained just out of reach with Renault having to be content with a second place…a result that was repeated in 1982.
It was not until 1991 and the partnership with Williams that a Renault engine triumphed in Hockenheim. Nigel Mansell set pole position and claimed the win, while teammate Riccardo Patrese set the fastest lap. 1992 saw the same result with the same team and same drivers. In 1993 Renault engines scored a third consecutive victory in Hockenheim, this time with Alain Prost, the Frenchman having started from pole position.
In 1995, Damon Hill secured pole position in his Williams-Renault, but it was Michael Schumacher who took his first home victory in the Renault-powered Benetton. The following year, Damon Hill bounced back and realised the ‘hat trick': pole, fastest lap and victory – an achievement that Gerhard Berger would repeat the following year in 1997 for Benetton-Renault.
In 2001, when Renault returned to the sport with Benetton, Giancarlo Fisichella and Jenson Button finished in fourth and fifth places respectively. It was not until 2005 that a 100% Renault car took victory in Hockenheim as Fernando Alonso swept to victory en route to the world championship.
In total, that makes seven victories for Renault on this famous German track: one as a 100% manufacturer team, four with Williams and two with Benetton.