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Q&A with Renault's Rob White

NEWS STORY
30/11/2006

The Renault F1 Team's Engine Technical Director reviews the 2006 season, and explains the challenges ahead in 2007.

Where were you for the final race of the 2006 season?
Rob White: I was in Renault's Square Com' building in Boulogne, Paris. There were team members from Viry, from Renault and the F1 fan club too. It goes without saying that the atmosphere was wonderful. It was a long, stressful race but we what we wanted at the end. That was a fantastic moment. We proved that Renault F1 Team is a true top team, that knows how to stay focused and motivated under pressure.

Both cars proved reliable: the E and D5 specifications lasted the distance…
RW: Yes, and that was particularly satisfying. We took an unusual decision to use two different engines and it worked out well. Even so, I cannot help thinking of the engine problem we had this season in Monza. We operate a zero-defect policy. That is one of the mainstays of our development philosophy: we must finish races to win championships. But I think we need to put this incident in relative terms. This was the first season for the V8 engines and overall, our rivals seemed to suffer many more problems than we did.

The RS26 ran well immediately from the start…
RW: I think its main qualities are a direct consequence of the steps we took during the engine's design process. With the project manager Léon Taillieu, we spent a huge amount of time defining the concepts of the engine, understanding its technical challenges – and assessing its impact in terms of our resources. We worked very hard on the dyno during the winter, and our communication with the chassis team in Enstone was exemplary. Our engine was not the first to run on track – and we were widely criticised for it – but it was the first V8 to win a race in 2006. That was exactly what we wanted.

How did you develop the RS26 during the season?
RW: The starting point was good initial reliability. From that point, the engine began a normal development path. We quickly designated the areas with the potential to raise the level of performance, and planned our developments. On each occasion, of course, we had to assess the reliability impact of the performance gain and re-design certain components.

Was the entire development path planned from the beginning, or did you have to juggle your priorities as events unfolded?
RW: It is always a mixture of the two. The engine's development is planned from the beginning to end of the season, but this plan can be modified according to many different parameters, be it problems at the track or steps forward in the design office…

Did the failure in Monza lead to some sleepless nights?
RW: I am particularly proud of how Léon Taillieu and his team managed to resolve this incident. After Monza, our initial reaction was one of surprise and disappointment. But we converted that energy into something concrete. We understood the origin of the failure, developed a solution, and approved that solution. In parallel, we contacted our suppliers and partners to ensure they could meet the deadlines. When we validated the solutions for the final time ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix, there were two potential solutions. The first was completely safe and known, the other a little more daring but with a performance advantage. We took the second option! That is typical of our approach.

Was that solitary failure late in the season another proof that reliability can never be taken for granted?
RW: Exactly that. You never stop striving for reliability, and the secret of success is constant vigilance. However, it is wrong to focus solely on being reliable, even at the end of the season. An engine must perform to the maximum too, and the trade-off between these two independent parameters is what we are seeking to improve every day. Our strength was that we found the best compromise.

The cycles of engine use for Fernando and Giancarlo were out of phase from the second race onwards (Fisichella changed his engine after retiring in Bahrain). Was this an advantage or a problem for the team?
RW: Neither one nor the other. It allowed us to introduce certain developments earlier than planned, but doing so often brought with it a huge increase in workload to complete the necessary approvals in time, ahead of the original schedule.

Could you give us some idea of the progress you made in terms of power output and maximum revs during the season?
RW: (smiles) I'm not sure I understood the question…

How would you define a good modern F1 engine?
RW: In my opinion, it is simple. You don't score any points for power, torque or maximum revs. The best indication is given by the number of championship points scored because in the end, all that counts is the combined performance of the chassis-engine package.

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