European GP - Renault - Preview Part I
With three wins from the first four races, Renault head to Nurburgring with an 18 point lead in the constructors' championship while Fernando Alonso
is leading the drivers' title with Giancarlo Fisichella
- Fernando, two wins and two second places, including last race in Imola. Were you pleased after that result?
"Absolutely. I went there saying that second would be a good result for me, because Ferrari have always been strong in Imola. They were competitive, like we expected, but I think that in the race, the Renault was very close in performance – and maybe even a bit quicker in race conditions. So far, I have had perfect reliability this season, and we are working hard to make sure that continues – while adding performance as well. This has been a dream start for me, because there is such a high level of competition in the field. I hope it will continue!"
Looking at the Nürburgring, what are the important characteristics at that track?
"I think the most important thing is that you need good traction. There are a lot of slow corners, which means lots of hard acceleration out of the turns. With the V8 engine, this will be less of a problem. That's because we have less power this year, so the car is not so much on the limit in terms of the traction.
But that is the area we always concentrate on for this circuit, as well as finding a good balance. And we have already seen that the R26 is very strong in both those areas."
Conditions can often be cold at the Nürburgring. Will that be a worry for tyre performance, like we saw in Melbourne where people struggled?
"Honestly, I don't think it will be a problem for us. In Australia, the car was really good in cold conditions and using its tyres well. The same was true in the winter: when it was cold, we were very competitive. So if the conditions are similar at the Nürburgring, it will be good for us."
Are you optimistic ahead of this race?
"I am expecting a big fight again. I think the level of competition is much closer than the championship standings suggest, and there will be some big challengers. The Michelin tyres have performed very consistently at every circuit this year, and they have done a great job. It will be the same in Germany, I am sure, so we will see a big push from McLaren-Mercedes at their home race, running on the same Michelin tyres as us..."
And how about Ferrari and Michael Schumacher
"What we don't know at the moment is how consistent Ferrari will be. So far, they have been strong at the same tracks as in 2005, and not so good at others. It is too early to say if it will be the same this year, so we can't write them off – and Michael is racing in front of his people too. We must concentrate on our job though, at Renault. I have the new B spec RS26 engine, which is a good step forward, and there are new developments on the car at every race. So I am sure we can be fighting for the win again on Sunday afternoon."Giancarlo Fisichella
- Giancarlo, Imola was a disappointment for you… what happened?
"I pushed as hard as possible in the race but from eleventh [his qualifying position], there was not so much I could do. The car was very heavy in the first stint and difficult to drive. The handling came back in the next stints – but there is only so much you can do with the strategy at Imola, and it is hard to make up places. I got stuck behind Barrichello at one point but even so, nearly got sixth place. It is frustrating, but we know we lost the chance of a good finish in qualifying. We made some mistakes, and it won't happen again."
How hard is it to bounce back from a race like that, where you don't reach your potential? It must be massively frustrating…
"Of course. But you have to keep your concentration, and your motivation. If you lose that, you cannot go on. Behind me, there is a team working at the maximum to support both of the drivers, and giving us the same possibility to win. So I want to win for them as well, to pay back their hard work and their commitment."
Going to the Nürburgring often means rain… is that a worry for you?
"Yeah, that's true – it can be cold and raining too, at some point in the weekend and sometimes in the race. But I don't think it's a problem because I feel very comfortable in the conditions and my smooth style works well in the wet. Michelin made a big step on their intermediate and wet tyres last year, so rain won't be a worry for me or the team."
The Nürburgring looks like a ‘complete' circuit with a bit of everything – is that accurate?
"It is a good circuit, for sure, and one that I enjoy driving. There are a few slow-speed corners, like turns 1 and 6. You have a slow-speed chicane where you jump on the kerbs and the car feels nervous. There are quick curves, some of them you have to attack aggressively, and they link together so you need to get a perfect line to be quick. It is an interesting circuit, and it should suit the R26."
So what are your predictions for the race…?
"I think we will be right up at the front. I still have another race on the B spec engine, but we have had excellent reliability on it, so we know the performance will be there. The car was very quick last year at this track – I went from the pit-lane to P6 in the race, so we had strong pace and the Michelin tyres worked well. The R26 will be quick, like it has been at all the circuits. I am sure the competition will be strong too, from the usual teams. But we will fighting for the podium, and to score the maximum points possible."
E.A. Source Renault