Renault F1 Team took its second double podium in two years at Suzuka yesterday afternoon – and struck an important blow in the world championship. Here's the story behind the scenes…
A Renault F1 Team tradition was continued on Sunday afternoon when a team member took to the podium to collect the trophy for winning constructor. In Suzuka, it was the turn of Fabrice Lom, engine race engineer to third-place man Giancarlo Fisichella. Himself an amateur racing driver in the Legends series, Fabrice enjoyed a special moment in his racing career:
Fabrice, what a moment for you. What was the feeling like?
Fabrice Lom: It was a fantastic feeling, but it is quite a selfish pleasure up there as well – you are representing the team, but enjoying the moment all alone. It was a shame we couldn't have everybody up there on the podium today.
You were belting out every word of La Marseillaise…
FL: For sure! I know the words by heart, and it was a great moment to hear La Marseillaise ringing out. I think the next challenge is to teach the words to some of our colleagues from Enstone…!
What were your thoughts on this weekend's performance?
FL: Most of all, this is a race we won fair and square. There was no luck involved, it was all about hard work. We have had our problems with the engine this year, and the team has worked so, so hard to fix them. Today, we had no problems and others did. It was a victory born of a lot of hard work over the past month.
Executive Director of Engineering Pat Symonds was a happy man after the double podium finish in Suzuka. He is the man famed for saying that every win is worth the same ten points, so how did this one feel?
Pat, all victories are equal in mathematical terms, but that must have been a particularly satisfying one…
Pat Symonds: It was. Ever since Hungary two months ago, we have been threatening to win again, and it has been frustrating for the whole team that it hasn't happened. That makes today's win particularly sweet. Of course, it comes at a critical time of the championship, but it certainly feels like a reward for the disappointment of the past two months.
Michael Schumacher has almost conceded the drivers' championship after this race. Does that make your life any easier?
PS: It doesn't change a thing! Today's result makes our approach for Brazil easier, but while Michael might be playing down his chances, it is still statistically possible for him to win and we must acknowledge that fact. I am sure he will be racing just as hard, as well. As always, our strategy for Brazil will be grounded in solid reliability, and giving ourselves the tools to finish races. We are in a position were we do not need to take undue risks.
The key moment in today's race clearly came when Michael's engine failed. Looking in your crystal ball, what might have happened without that failure?
PS: Fernando seemed to be catching Michael quite convincingly in that middle stint, and the projection was that he would have caught him – but the performance differential between the two cars would probably not have been enough to overtake on a circuit like Suzuka. I think Michael's failure probably robbed us of a classic Alonso-Schumacher battle in the closing laps…
Fernando's race was flawless from start to finish. What about Giancarlo, who finished third?
PS: Fisi drove a brilliantly controlled race, he was really very good this afternoon. He pushed at the right times to make the strategy work, and a podium finish was a just reward for his efforts.
This is the final visit to Suzuka for the foreseeable future. Are you sad to be losing this circuit from the calendar?
PS: I really am, yes, because it is such a fantastic circuit. And that sadness is compounded by the fact that the new venue does not seem to have anything like the same character or challenge. The facilities at Suzuka are not the best, but ultimately we go to any track to race. It is a special place and I think today's race gave it the send-off it deserved.
Looking ahead to the championship decider, who will have the advantage in the final race at Interlagos?
PS: I think it is going to be very even, and the team with the advantage will be the one whose tyres are working better, on that track surface, on the day in question, with the ambient temperatures at the time. Both teams have had a lot of success there, including Fernando's championship win last year, and we know the circuit well. It will be a fascinating battle.
It had been a while since we saw an Alonso victory dance in parc fermé, 105 days in fact. The celebrations were back on Sunday, but the most significant gesture came as he celebrated the win with his mechanics before climbing to the podium. Fernando's number 1 mechanic Chris Hessey (who celebrated his creatively-counted 48th birthday on Saturday) was there waiting, with a newspaper in his hand.
With helmet and HANS device still firmly in place, Fernando took the paper (Sunday morning's edition of the pRed Bulletin), pointed at the cover – and then
tossed it into the crowd of well-wishers. The headline? "Under Pressure: Alonso Has It All Do".
The result? Job done!