A tangible step forward - Q&A with Nick Chester

What’s the challenge of the Shanghai International Circuit?
China is an interesting circuit in terms of layout. The sensitivity is akin to the first two races, in that they’re all heavy power tracks so the relationship between drag, aero and power are similar but they each have unique aspects. The high speed first corner leading into tighter turn two and three is challenging for drivers with a variety of possible driving lines.

What went wrong for Jolyon in Bahrain?
It was a hydraulic pump that failed which is an extremely rare occurrence. The pump was just over a tenth of the way through its normal working life; usually if a component fails it’s very early in its life or near the end. We’re working with our supplier to ascertain the cause and have quarantined the batch of components until we can understand the issue. It was a great shame for Jolyon to have missed the race like that.

What’s the feedback from Kevin’s race?
It was good race from Kevin to finish just shy of the points from a pit-lane start to eleventh. He didn’t put a foot wrong and the three-stop strategy worked well. The R.S.16 performed well on the super softs in the race. Were it not for the penalty, Kevin should have started from a reasonable position on the grid and that could well have led to points.

Where’s the performance of the R.S.16 relative to the opposition?
On race pace there’s a very close group in the midfield; we saw this in Australia and we saw this in Bahrain. It means we need to maximise every opportunity we have and every performance increase we can find could mean the difference between finishing just shy of the points or scoring. Our qualifying pace has been behind our race pace in relative terms, so this is an area of focus, but one which goes hand-in-hand with the target of overall performance gains.

How much has been learnt with the new tyres and tyre rules?
We’re learning the compounds and how best to manage the potential allocations. It’s not been a huge surprise that everyone tends to run more on a softer compound than last year. There are different strategies available for those who want to do a stop less and run on a harder compound like we saw in Bahrain. There’s some variance but generally teams are dropping down one compound.

Anything in the treat cupboard for round three?
We do have some small aero parts to try, however we will have more further down the line with more aero and engine updates which should mean a tangible step forward. There’s a tight spread of cars ahead of us so we don’t need a lot to make a decent improvement.