• Indian Grand Prix - Renault preview

'India will be a complete voyage into the unknown'

ESPNF1 Staff
October 22, 2011
After a disappointing weekend in Korea, the Renault drivers are hoping for points in India © Sutton Images
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Bruno Senna

It was a trying weekend for you in Korea - what was your judgment?
In all honesty, it was a weekend riddled with problems. On Friday, our running was limited and we had some issues with the balance and aerodynamics of the car. On the Saturday I also endured a tough time, as I wasn't able to pick myself up in qualifying and, as a result, ended up P15 on the grid. As for the race, I think the car was better than where it finished. I had a poor start again, which dampened my expectations but I still gave it my all and managed to recover a few positions to finish in 13th. Unfortunately I didn't have the performance necessary to overtake a few more cars and my tyres were pretty beaten up by the end.

A relatively unknown track in Korea to a completely unknown one in India - what are your thoughts leading into this race?
India will be a complete voyage into the unknown, as no one has ever raced there before. We do not yet know how the car is likely to perform, though looking at the track layout it should suit us quite well, and we can expect to be up amongst the mix in the top 10; although we need to remain careful at this stage. From the maps I have seen, it looks to be a fast, flowing track that suits my style of driving so I am looking forward to racing there. It will be a test of who learns fastest. I think that whichever teams can extract the maximum from their cars in the short period of time that we are there will benefit most.

Are you excited to go to India?
Yes, very excited indeed. It's a country that loves its sport, and we have seen new sports events take place there recently such as the Commonwealth Games; I've no doubt it will be an interesting Grand Prix, with a completely different culture from anything I have seen before and I think Karun Chandhok is going to show me around - it's always good to have a local as your guide so I'm enthusiastic to get out there.

What must Bruno Senna take from the last three races to ensure he's a happy man come the end of the season?
Ha ha, well some of my best races were in Abu Dhabi and Brazil last year so there's no reason why I shouldn't enjoy similar fortunes this time around, especially because I am in a competitive car that can score points. The aim is to keep learning, keep improving, and to arrive in India with a much clearer head after the frustration of my weekend in Korea. I loved the experience of being in the points in Monza, and that's something I want to repeat. I have three races left to do that.

Vitaly Petrov

Looking at your early exit from the Korean Grand Prix, how would you evaluate your performance?
Over the course of the weekend we did a fantastic job; the whole team worked very hard. We got into Q3 comfortably and showed stronger pace than some of the teams we are fighting against. We were closer to Mercedes and I was fighting with Nico (Rosberg) and Michael (Schumacher). It was a pity the race ended the way it did. My first stint showed good pace. We had a fierce battle, but this time it was me who took Michael out of the race - normally it is him that takes me out! I apologised to him, and concluded that that's racing.

How did your incident with Michael come about?
I was fighting with Fernando (Alonso) on the straight. I used DRS to pass him, then he switched on his DRS and KERS, and passed me on the left hand side. This meant I was then on the right hand side which was a little dirty. I braked 15 metres earlier than normal, but because it was dirtier and I was travelling nearly 20 kph faster due to the slipstream, I was unable to stop the car. Not only could I not stop the car, I couldn't move to the left as Fernando was there and I was going to hit him. It was a pity, but on the plus side we were battling for high end places. We were disappointed about the weekend but there were some positives to be taken away.

What are your thoughts heading to the Indian GP?
It will be quite challenging for the teams and drivers because it is a new track where no-one has raced before. That was the same story in Korea two years ago so I know it's quite a tricky scenario. I have prepared in many ways and racing in India will be a refreshing challenge. As a new circuit, it is a level playing field for everyone.

How much do you enjoy the adventure of going to a circuit which has never been raced on before?
It is a good challenge for drivers as you never know what to expect. Sometimes the car will be very good straight out of the box, sometimes not, so it's difficult to know what will happen until you complete your first laps. When I saw the layout of the circuit I said it would be quite difficult, but for the last two races we have shown good performance even if we didn't always achieve the results we were capable of.

How will you prepare for this race?
We will arrive a little earlier than we would for a circuit we already know. Regrettably, I am starting with a five position penalty, due to the incident with Michael in Korea, so I will have to be right at the top of my game.

Renault boss Eric Boullier said it was disappointing Bruno Senna did not qualify higher in Korea © Getty Images
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Eric Boullier, team principal

Disappointment in Korea - how would you summarise the weekend?
I had mixed feelings coming away from Korea. If I look at the weekend as a whole, we showed good pace but did not capitalise on it. It was disappointing for Bruno not to qualify higher than he did and the result was a tough race. Vitaly had a healthy grid position and was looking good until his mistake cost him on lap 15. If he had carried on as he did during the first stint of the race - when he was on soft tyres - then we could have expected him to finish at least eighth or maybe seventh. Unfortunately it was not to be, but we'll now look ahead to an exciting venue - the Indian Grand Prix.

Next stop India - what was your reaction when you first heard the country was going to host a Formula 1 race?
With an Indian Formula 1 team and an Indian driver - in Karun Chandhok - in the sport, a race was always the next logical step. It is a big country; a promising, powerful nation that is at the forefront of a lot of global activity. India is also a country that loves its sport. It is definitely a good thing to have a Formula 1 race in a new, emerging world economy, and for this sport to consider itself global it is important to bring the show to new territories. Taking F1 to India is a positive step for both the sport and the country. I'm thoroughly looking forward to taking the team racing there.

What have you heard about the Buddh International Circuit itself?
We, the team principals, have been updated regularly about the facilities by Bernie himself. It is always difficult to judge by pictures alone, but it appears to be a very promising facility with a strong, suitable infrastructure and I'm sure we will have a great event there. I, for one, am excited about it as it will be deviating from the F1 norm, and I've little doubt it will be a great experience all round. Let's hope we can take a good result from the weekend too.

Three races remain - how hard is it for the team to keep its focus on this season only?
There will be increasing temptation to start looking to next season, and to contemplate what exciting times might lie ahead. However, we have to maintain focus and look at the here and now; We won't allow ourselves an ounce of complacency from the team going into these final three races. We must ensure we have a good car to take with us to India, Abu Dhabi and Brazil; our pace has been satisfactory recently, we have some performance now but we must translate this performance into points. We will be disciplined in achieving that.

James Allison, technical director

Although the results did not come, the pace in Korea looked good - is there cause for optimism?'
The pace was good in Korea. Part of this is as a result of track-specific characteristics. In Korea, most cars suffered from understeer in the race. This appeared to affect us somewhat less. However, we have continued to modify and improve the car and we hope to put up a respectable showing in the remaining races.

How much simulation can we do for a new track? What can we do in advance and what can only be learnt upon arrival at the site?
There are lots of tasks that can be well simulated prior to arriving at a brand new circuit. Conventional lap simulation can give us a good idea of items such as: optimal gear ratio selection, which rear wing to fit, what springs and rideheights to fit, fuel consumption, cooling levels, DRS effectiveness etc. Although much preparatory work has been done, there will remain several areas where the team can only really react once we start running in anger. For example: grip level of the tarmac, effect of track bumpiness on the optimal suspension setup, tyre degradation etc. To give you an example, a 3% variation in the asphalt grip would lead to 1 second difference on the lap time.

Are there elements of the circuit layout which resemble tracks we already visit on the calendar?
The track is a conventional downforce circuit with a decent array of cornering speeds and a sensible length main straight. At one level all tracks are sort of the same, with similar straights and corners. However, the real character of a track only really unfolds once you start to run on it. This track looks like it offers a range of challenges to the drivers and I am sure it will prove to be popular.

How should the final three races suit our car?
We are a little concerned by Abu Dhabi as it shares many of the features of the other three tracks where we have not fared well this year. However, both in Abu Dhabi and at the other two remaining circuits of the year, the team will do their utmost to extract the maximum available performance from the R31.

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