The ING Renault F1 Team prepares for round eleven of the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship: the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Fernando Alonso: "Budapest is a circuit where I have happy memories."
Fernando, the team scored its first podium in Germany. But you were out of luck in the race and finished outside the points...
Yes, I had a difficult race, but I was prepared for that because I knew it would be difficult to convert the pace I had shown in qualifying into race pace on Sunday. It's a disappointing result for me, but with the podium for Nelson the team scored lots of points and that's important for the championship. For my teammate it was important to get a strong result; it's positive for the team and will help us all attack the second half of the championship.
We are now in Budapest, a circuit where you have had success in the past and some great memories...That's right, I won my first Formula 1 race at this circuit with the Renault F1 Team in 2003 and it's a place were I have always gone well. So I'm happy to go back there again this year and determined to bounce back after my result in Germany.
Is this generally a popular Grand Prix? Do you think there is a special atmosphere?I don't know really. For me it certainly is because I have some great memories here and the race usually takes place around the time of my birthday. There are always lots of spectators, the people are very kind, and we always enjoy a warm welcome - that is why the paddock enjoys coming back to Budapest each year.
Can you tell us about the circuit?It's quite a demanding track and the temperatures are often quite high for the race, which makes things even more difficult, especially for the drivers and the mechanics. To be quick here you need very high levels of downforce, as well as good grip and traction to get performance out of the low-speed corners. So we will begin working on these things as soon as free practice begins on Friday, building on the information we learnt last week in Jerez.
Nelson Piquet: "To get a podium is a great reward for the whole team"
Nelson, you finished second in the German Grand Prix. Talk us through your weekend… Finishing on the podium was obviously an amazing result for the team. After a disappointing position in qualifying, I thought that was the end of my weekend as I knew it would be difficult to score points. But we didn't give up and the team chose to do something different with the strategy by only stopping once to see if we could take advantage of anything – that proved to be a great decision as I made my only pit stop just as the safety car came out. That meant that we were on the ideal strategy and able to finish on the podium.
How did it feel to stand on the Formula 1 podium for the first time?Standing on the podium and seeing all the team so happy felt great and it's a big boost for all of us. I know that I was a bit lucky, but you have to take the luck when it comes your way and towards the end of the race we were strong enough to hold on for second place. The car was handling really well, even though we were on the soft tyres, and I was able to push hard and stay consistent. To get a podium is a great reward for the whole team, especially after some of the problems we have had this year, and I'm delighted to get this result in my rookie season. Obviously I hope this is just the beginning as I want to experience the feelings I had in Germany again soon.
We head to Hungary next – a circuit where you enjoyed a great GP2 race a couple of years ago. Are you looking forward to going back there? Absolutely. My GP2 weekend in 2006 was very special because I won the feature race on the Saturday from pole position and then the sprint race on the Sunday, as well as setting the fastest lap in both races. It was definitely one of my best weekends in racing. It's quite a rewarding track to drive if you can find a good rhythm and it seems to suit my driving style. Obviously I haven't driven there in a Formula 1 car yet, but I'm looking forward to doing that this weekend.
And finally, what are your aims for the weekend?I think it will be difficult to fight for another podium under usual circumstances because the gap to the leading cars is still too big. I also think that the battle in the midfield will be very competitive, just as it was in Germany, and so I will need to concentrate on getting a good grid position because it is so difficult to overtake in Hungary. If we can reach Q3 then I think the realistic goal is to fight for some points on Sunday, and if we can do that I will be very happy.
Pat Symonds: "There is still a tough fight ahead of us"
Pat, Nelson scored the team's first podium of the season in Germany. The whole team must be delighted... Obviously the result was welcome, as were the points. So far this season we seem to have been talking about unfulfilled promise with the car, and, although luck played a part in this result, we certainly feel that it makes up for some of the times in the last few races where the luck hasn't gone our way. It's great for Nelson as he's had a tough time in the first half of the year, and I certainly hope that this is a turning point for him. But, we have to be realistic, there's still a tough fight ahead of us, and Toyota and Red Bull Racing are still very competitive so we need to continue working hard. But at least we have grabbed a bag full of points, and the performance of the car should allow us to fight for fourth position in the championship.
What impact do you expect this result to have on Nelson's confidence for the rest of the season?Very often when a driver has had a difficult start to their career, they get a good result and after that nothing seems to stop them. I've seen it happen so many times before and hopefully it will be the same for Nelson because we know he has the ability and we know how quick he is. It's fair to say that he has found the pressure quite difficult this year, but the result in Hockenheim is the perfect response from him.
What has the podium done for team morale?I think it has given everybody a boost because no matter how strong you are as a team, it's always nice to have the reinforcement of a good result. But I think the team is also being quite analytical because we accept that the car needed luck to get a second place, and we know that realistically our challenge is to fight BMW, and that's what we must aim to do. But, at the same time, we do feel that the points that we grabbed in Germany make up for some of the disappointments earlier in the season.
Fernando had an eventful race, but luck was not on his side. Sum up his weekend for us…It was a tough race for Fernando. Together we probably hadn't got the best out of the car throughout the weekend, so the car was not easy to drive and it was difficult to race in close proximity with the others. Just as Nelson had some very lucky breaks, nothing seemed to go Fernando's way. So it's one to put behind us and I'm sure he will come back stronger in Hungary. We know what the car can do and we know what Fernando can do.
Looking ahead to this weekend's race, can you tell us about the challenges of racing at the Hungaroring?It's a difficult track, which is often quite dirty for the first day of practice, and so you spend a lot of time sliding around with the car, understeering mid-corner and oversteering on corner entry and exit. But you just have to stick with it and wait for the track to come to you. In terms of downforce it's a very high downforce track and it's also pretty hard on the tyres due to the traction zones out of the low-speed corners. The tight and twisty nature of the track makes overtaking extremely difficult and so getting a good grid position for both cars will be a higher than normal priority for all teams.
Hungary requires some of the highest levels of downforce of the year. Will there be any special updates for the R28?There has been quite a big development programme recently, part of which was on the car for Hockenheim, and part of which was left for Hungary. But these are not Hungary-specific updates and are part of the ongoing package, which we will be able to carry forward through the rest of the season.
Budapest: Tech File
The Hungaroring offers plenty of challenges to drivers and engineers alike. The circuit features no high-speed corners, leading the team to run the highest possible downforce levels, while the primary concern for the engine team is ensuring good cooling in the usually hot conditions. The high summer temperatures also make life difficult for the drivers, who need to be in peak physical condition to cope with a race that gives them very little respite over its 70-lap distance.
AerodynamicsThe twisting, 14-corner layout of the Hungaroring features just one legitimate overtaking opportunity per lap, into turn 1. Apart from this straight of just over 700m, the circuit is filled with sequences of low to medium-speed corners, with short braking distances which make overtaking nearly impossible. The result is that the teams all run with maximum downforce levels, similar if not identical to those used in Monaco, in order to optimise not just cornering speeds, but also braking and traction. Maximum speeds achieved on the main straight rarely exceed 300kph with the V8 engines.
Suspension Mechanical grip is an important factor at a low-speed circuit such as this, and teams will generally try to run the car with softer settings all round to improve mechanical grip. The drivers want a responsive car in the low-speed sections, with good traction on corner exit, which will usually lead the teams to a forward mechanical bias (stiffer front/softer rear) in terms of set-up. However, rear tyre wear must be monitored very carefully, particularly to avoid overloading the softer compound available this weekend.
TyresBridgestone will bring the Soft and Super Soft compounds from its 2008 range, as were used in Monaco and Canada. The low-grip circuit conditions, coupled with the absence of high-speed corners, make these choices possible. As has become customary, the tyre management challenge for the weekend will be to control graining on the softest compound, and this should improve as the circuit rubbers-in throughout the weekend. Data collected during practice will determine whether the super-soft is suitable for use during the majority of the race, while cooler-than-expected temperatures, or overnight rain washing the circuit clean of rubber, could further complicate matters.
CoolingAnother important chassis parameter will be ensuring good cooling of the mechanical parts. Although the car's cooling capacity is now well-known, attention must be paid to ensuring the radiators are still well-cooled in spite of the high levels of front downforce we run at this circuit. This will have been the object of particular attention in the wind tunnel, and will be fine-tuned during the weekend to ensure the cooling solution required brings the minimum performance penalty.
Engine With the longest period spent at full throttle barely exceeding ten seconds, and with only 56% of the lap spent at full throttle (significantly lower than the average), this is not a demanding circuit for the engine. Of the 14 corners, five are taken in second gear at around 100kph. Unlike Monaco, where the cars reach abnormally slow speeds in the hairpins, the minimum speed at the Hungaroring is approximately 90kph. This means the engine spends the majority of its time in a relatively narrow operating window between 100kph and 250kph, and the closely-spaced gear ratios we use are selected to ensure optimum performance in this range. As always on a circuit featuring a large number of slow corners, good torque is important to help launch the cars out of the turns.
Renault at the Hungarian Grand Prix
The Hungaroring saw just one race in Renault's turbo era, the very first race in 1986. Ayrton Senna's Lotus took pole position, and then engaged in a race-long battle with Nelson Piquet's Williams. Piquet ultimately emerged victorious as Senna settled for second, while two more Renault-powered cars (Dumfries/Lotus and Brundle/Tyrrell) finished in fifth and sixth positions, the final points-scoring places.
On Renault's return in the V10 era, the company began a series of strong performances at the Hungaroring that would see Renault-powered cars on the podium every year until 1997. Patrese took pole in 1989, the year of Renault's return, while team-mate Boutsen took the final podium position. The Belgian followed up the feat the following year by winning from pole position, while in 1991 Mansell and Patrese took a double podium finish behind Senna's victorious McLaren. 1992, though, was the year which engraved the Hungaroring in Renault's sporting history. The Williams-Renaults annexed the front row and while Mansell only finished in P2, it was enough to bring him his only, and Renault's first, world championship.
The run of success continued in 1993: an all Williams-Renault front row, with Damon Hill taking his first Grand Prix win. In 1994, the Englishman started and finished second, while twelve months later the Williams-Renault duo of Hill and Coulthard took the front row – and a 1-2 finish. Things improved one step further in 1996, with a one-two-three finish for Hill, Alesi and Villeneuve in three of the four Renault-powered cars, while in 1997, Villeneuve made the most of Hill's misfortune aboard his ailing Arrows to make it three wins in a row for Renault power in Hungary.
In the era of the Renault F1 Team, the Hungaroring has also come to be regarded as something of a milestone. After an inauspicious race in 2002, the following year saw the team take its first victory since Renault's return to Formula 1, after Fernando Alonso dominated from pole position. The Spaniard followed this up with a podium in 2004, but after that the team had to wait until 2007 to return to the points as Heikki Kovalainen picked up a point for 8th place having started down in 12th.
In total, Renault power has competed in 17 Hungarian Grands Prix, taking 7 pole positions, 6 wins and 16 podiums. Having scored its first podium of the season with Nelson Piquet at the German Grand Prix, the team is determined to shine once again in Hungary, a track where the ING Renault F1 Team's drivers have always been successful.
Budapest: Over at Red Bull Racing
Fabrice Lom, the man responsible for the coordination of Renault's V8s at Red Bull Racing talks about his hopes for the team in Hungary.
Fabrice, how do you look back on Red Bull Racing's weekend in Germany?It was difficult and we were not as competitive in Hockenheim as we had been in Silverstone. That's a situation that we discovered during the test in the week before the race. But the team worked very hard and we continued making progress so that both cars were in the top 10. However, seeing Toro Rosso and Toyota so close we knew that it would be a difficult weekend and we ended up without any points. That is disappointing, especially when the championship is so tight, but we hope to rediscover our usual speed in Hungary.
What are your aims for Budapest?The test that we had in Jerez was very encouraging. We will therefore aim to finish in the points with both cars. The track is not very demanding for the engine and it is more a test for the chassis. If it is hot, we will have the aerodynamic advantage on our side because the cooling demands of the Renault V8 are supposed to be less than those of our competitors and we can drive with closed bodywork even in very hot conditions.
What is the engine situation for both drivers?Mark will have a new V8 in Hungary. For David, he will use his engine for a third consecutive weekend – this is the first time we have taken this decision.
Why is that?First of all his V8 has not done too much running and we are not especially worried about its reliability. Plus, having our two drivers out of synch on the engine cycle means that we won't be putting all our eggs in the same basket. This decision will also help us in the second half of the season in terms of the logistical challenge. And finally, it means that David will not have to use the same engine in Spa and Monza, which are two of the toughest challenges on the calendar.