- Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - Renault preview
'We need to get everything 100% right to be in front'
How would you summarise your weekend as a whole in India?
Well, on one hand it was a good weekend, but on the other hand we did not deliver. The fact that we were competitive on Friday and that we had good potential makes the result much sourer. It was expectation, more than anything, that caused us to be disappointed. At times, we demonstrated the car's pace, which is why the end result was such a bitter pill to swallow. We had a few problems that didn't allow us to be up where we hoped to be, but this sometimes happens in motor racing and the main objective now is to understand why.
Did you enjoy the overall Indian experience?
India was extremely interesting, yes. The country is a very different place from anywhere else on the map; you can experience an entirely different culture. It was a completely new race weekend experience; a new circuit which faced its own challenges and hurdles but one that showed the world it can host an F1 event. The track is a hugely enjoyable one to drive on, and I think the race was a real hit with everyone involved.
Abu Dhabi next - how much did you enjoy racing there last season?
Well, Abu Dhabi and Brazil were probably my best two races last season, where I didn't experience any problems. I know the Yas Marina Circuit well; the track clicked with me. I really took to driving there and I think it suited me well. I really do feel we could have a strong race weekend if we put everything together, despite the fact that our car does not seem to like slow corners that much. It is going to be a long race and I think some of the other teams have a little bit of an advantage, but we are going to be pushing and will do our utmost to stay ahead of our rivals.
You talked about high expectations going into India - how will you manage your expectations as you approach the penultimate race of the season?
Well, we need to be realistic but also put in a massive effort to extract the maximum possible from the weekend. In terms of managing our expectations, fortunately we always wait until Friday to know what to expect in terms of results, and we believe that we can do a good job again in Abu Dhabi. It is a very tight group; we need to get everything 100% right to be in front of them. We are at the business end of the season now and, make no mistake, we will be putting in every ounce of effort to secure some pride for the team.
Now you've had some time to reflect, how was your first Indian Grand Prix?
It was certainly not an easy weekend for anyone. It was a new circuit, with new tarmac and corners which certainly were not very easy. It was difficult to find the right set-up, but we had a strong car. It took us a while to find the right balance, but we know this is never easy when venturing to a new track. The car was pretty good and relatively fast in qualifying, but I made a mistake and didn't get into Q3, which was poor. Add that to the five place penalty and I had it all to do on the Sunday. In the race we were quick; quick enough to finish in the top eight, but it did not happen for us. We left India very disappointed, as we scored no points. I think we will be much better prepared when we go there next season.
What do you think about the Abu Dhabi circuit?
Abu Dhabi has a good atmosphere. It is a good track with a lot of spectators - even Russians - who come to watch the race. I do in fact quite like the track. It has smooth tarmac which might mean we start the weekend in slightly dirty conditions; we shall see how prevalent this is when we get to the track. I am naturally inclined to say I don't know if the circuit will suit our car. When we arrive and are able to observe how the tyres are working, we will know where we are placed relative to our rivals. I hope we show signs of speed, like we have at time during the past three races. The concern is we have not exploited the potential the car has shown at the crucial times. Of course, that is always the fine line between a successful outing on track or a less successful one. Overall, I am confident it can be a good race weekend.
Last year you memorably kept Fernando Alonso behind you even though he was fighting for the championship win - what are your memories of that battle?
That was last year, that's history. Yes, it was a good race for me as I made no mistakes and drove really well. Combining that with the circuit layout meant that Fernando was unable to overtake me, even though his car was much quicker. It must have been very hard for him being stuck behind me for so long, but honestly it was not that difficult for me to keep him behind me. That sounds quite blasé I know!
What are your goals and targets for the final two races of the season?
To score more points in these last few races - that is my first target. We have shown that we have good pace in high speed corners. We know we struggle with low speed corners but if we can stay focussed, and put every ounce of effort into these last couple of weekends with no mistakes in qualifying or during pit stops, I think good results are attainable. I want to end the season on a high.
Eric Boullier, team principal
How would you summarise the team's performance at the inaugural Indian Grand Prix?
It was a frustrating weekend because we had some performance and, at times, the car was delivering. As a result, this was not the end product we were looking for or expecting. We went into the weekend optimistic that it might be a track that would suit our car. What was most frustrating about the whole experience was that there were glimpses of performance. We did not deliver when it mattered, however, and that's at the very heart of our slightly underwhelming weekend. We were looking to the Sunday as a real opportunity to get some points in the basket, but it was not to be.
Looking to Abu Dhabi - how does it rank alongside other modern F1 events?
Abu Dhabi is a very, very popular event and racing spectacle. To give you an example: we are absolutely jammed to the rafters in terms of the number of guests we have, and the interest we have received. It arrived on the calendar back in 2009 and since then it has acted as an extremely important race for the annual F1 circus. It brings motorsport to the United Arab Emirates in a big way. As I've said before, for the sport to be global it needs to plant its flag in many different parts of the world. Formula 1 has done that in Abu Dhabi and the race has been a massive success in the two years it has taken place as we saw at last year's season finale in which our very own Vitaly was heavily involved. From a team side of things, we expect to use the Abu Dhabi race weekend as an opportunity to secure our fifth place in the championship, and to secure as many points as possible.
The midfield competitiveness on the grid has increased in recent weeks…
It has, yes. However, for a few races now it has been clear that our pace is better than these competitors. At times we have even matched the competitiveness of Mercedes. We know where we are in terms of pace, which is between fourth and fifth place on the grid and we just want to ensure we get to the end of the race weekend with some points to our name. That alone will solidify our position as the fifth best team on this year's grid. It is our only target now that we get our car up amongst the points and show people that this team is ready to launch its assault on next year's championship. For now, it's heads down and all eyes focussed on giving this team a result to be proud of in the UAE.
James Allison, technical director
What's your assessment of the team's performance at the Indian Grand Prix now you have been able to reflect on it?
I am as fed up about it now as I was in the immediate aftermath of the race. In every session of the weekend it was clear that the car had sufficient pace for a good result on Sunday. Despite this, poor qualifying laps from both cars, Vitaly's penalty from Korea, Bruno losing his KERS in the race and a few mistakes from both drivers led to us coming home empty handed.
What can be done to improve matters for the final two races of the year?
The team needs to keep preparing the car carefully as they have done all year. We need to keep making clean pitstops; an area where our crew have made very clear improvement over the course of the year. We need to ensure that we continue to make competitive starts. Most importantly, however, we must do everything possible to make sure that the potential in the car is realised on Saturday and Sunday afternoon. In this last area the main input must come from the drivers who are extremely keen to ensure that we have a clean and successful end to the season.
You've said that the Yas Marina circuit layout may not favour our car - why is this?
Our car performs relatively better in high speed corners at tracks which place a fair burden on the front tyres. Yas Marina is biased towards lower speed corners which place a larger emphasis on rear tyre and traction performance.
How is our engine allocation looking now there are just two races left and does this impact on our race weekend strategy at all?
Our engine allocation is fine. The Renault Sport units have performed flawlessly this year and we are able to perform both of the final races with no restrictions on our strategy whatsoever.