Alan Permane: "The R30 should perform well in Melbourne"
The Chief Race Engineer reflects on Bahrain and reveals his hopes for Melbourne.
Alan, what did we learn about the R30 in race one?
Bahrain was obviously the first time the R30 had run in hot temperatures
so it was good to see that this didn't pose any problems for the car or our systems. We also learnt a lot more about the tyres: how to use them and how to look after them during long runs. Completing the race with Robert also gives us a lot more data and understanding of how the car behaves over a race distance as the fuel load comes down.
Where is the team focussing its efforts to improve performance?
We're looking at all areas, but it's no secret that downforce still rules in F1 and the more downforce we can put on the car, the better. We're also looking at addressing some of our weaknesses on the mechanical side, but that's a longer term project and it will be a few races before we can integrate suspension updates.
How did Vitaly settle into the team over his first weekend and were you happy with his performance?
Vitaly didn't have the best winter because he was unlucky with the weather during testing, which meant his first race was an especially steep learning curve. He had a lot to get used to and, although his race was short, he can be very proud of his performance. He made an excellent start jumping up from 17th to 11th and showed good pace in the early laps until we had a problem with the suspension. When he got out of the car he was understandably disappointed, but he still had a big smile on his face. His performance in Bahrain will definitely boost his confidence ahead of this weekend.
What about Robert's first race with the team?
It was such a shame that he got hit on the opening lap because it completely destroyed his race. He did a very credible job to fight back to eleventh in the middle part of the race and his pace was very competitive -- as quick as the two Mercedes and the McLaren of Button. It's clear that we're not in the same league as Ferrari and Red Bull at the moment, but the performance in Bahrain gives me confidence that we can challenge for some good points this year.
Tell us about the challenge of Albert Park and the key to a good set-up?
It's a track where you need good braking stability because it's very bumpy in the braking zones. You also need good traction because the lap is mostly made up of second and third gear chicanes where a good change of direction is important. In the final part of the lap the car wants to understeer, especially through the final corner onto the pit straight, so you need a good front end to cope with this.
What upgrades are planned for this weekend?
We have some new aero parts for Melbourne, which should give us a bit more performance. There's a new front wing and a new part on the rear wing, which improves our overall downforce.
Will the circuit suit the car?
I think it will because Albert Park is a bumpy track and our car rides the bumps well. We saw that in Bahrain where Robert and Vitaly were very competitive in the new section of track, which was very bumpy.
What are your targets for the weekend?
The target is to get both drivers into Q3. I think that's a realistic target given our competitiveness. If we can do that then both drivers should be capable of fighting for points.