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Qualifying the key at Nurburgring
European GP - Renault - Preview
It was relatively slim pickings for the Renault squad at both the French and British Grand Prix with Giancarlo Fisichella and Heikki Kovalainen picking up six points from the four starts. The team are aiming to close the gap on BMW Sauber,
who are a firm third in the championship standings, this weekend at the European Grand Prix.

Giancarlo, we have passed the mid-season point. The last two races were quite tough, and you lost ground to BMW. Do you think you can turn things around this weekend?
"It is fair to say that the last two races were a bit disappointing, all the more so because they were our home races. We knew that it would be a tough battle with BMW: all of the teams are making progress, and our challenge is to do so faster than them in order to get ahead and try to close the gap in the championship. We are going in the right direction, and everybody is doing their maximum. I am convinced that if we carry on like this, our hard work will pay off."

This yearís only German race is the European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring. Do you enjoy the circuit?
"Yes, I have some good memories here. It is a famous circuit, and the new, slow section at the start of the lap is demanding for the drivers and the cars.
From my point of view, the old Nurburgring was definitely the best circuit in the world, so I am pleased to be racing here again."

What does the car need to do well, in order to set a quick lap at the Nurburgring?
"The most important thing is good traction on corner exit. We use quite high downforce, and the main worry is the understeer, which can be quite high. So we try and soften the front end to get good grip, by playing with the springs and anti-roll bars, while keeping the rear stiffer. That will be a major focus for us during the practice sessions."

This will be the first race in Germany since Michael Schumacherís retirement. Do you think that will change the atmosphere?
"Maybe there will be fewer spectators, maybe not. Racing in Germany without Michael will be very different, but there are a lot of racing fans there and the Nurburgring is an historic venue. We need to make sure we put on a good show for everybody."

Heikki, the last two races showed the team still has work to do in order to beat BMW. Is it difficult to stay motivated during these times?

"Not at all! Everybody in the team knows that we have only just passed the halfway point of the season, and that there is still a long way to go. The team has done a fantastic job to fix the problems we had at the start of the season, and I think we are all determined to show that we can bounce back. I still think that third place in the championship is achievable. Itís going to be tough, but I believe we can do it!"

This yearís German round of the championship will be at the Nurburgring. Would you have preferred Hockenheim?
"No, not really! In GP2, I had a very good race at this circuit, and itís probably my best memory of that championship. I won the first race on Saturday after starting from P17 on the grid. It was a consistent drive, we had a very good strategy and everything came together. At Hockenheim, I wasnít very competitive when I raced in GP2, so Iím pleased that my first F1 race is at the track where I did well! And to be honest, I think itís a more enjoyable circuit too, with some quite tough high-speed corners."

This season has already seen a number of races take place in unusual weather conditions. If we encounter hot conditions at the Nurburgring, as you might expect in the middle of summer, what will that affect in terms of the set-up?
"I think we are well-prepared for a race in hot temperatures. Malaysia is always the toughest race from this point of view, and the most important factor will be to avoid disrupting the carís aerodynamic performance if we need extra cooling. Like at every race, we will push the cooling to the limit, while maintaining optimum aerodynamic performance. Thatís always a difficult compromise to achieve."

What areas of the set-up will you be focusing on with the R27?
"I have never driven an F1 car on this circuit, but as always, I think you need a stable balance in the high-speed corners. On the way back up the hill from the hairpin, there are two high-speed right-left sections, and a good balance is important if you want to gain time. The other crucial factor will be to have good braking stability, to ensure we can attack the braking zones and corners with confidence. We will work on both of these areas during Friday practice, and also on Saturday morning during our qualifying preparation. Qualifying in the top ten is absolutely vital, and finding a good set-up for that single timed lap will be a major focus for us during practice."
Source Renault


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