A great baseline - Q&A with Bob Bell

Did Melbourne reach your expectations in terms of performance from the R.S.16?
Overall, I think it was a very credible start. The team gelled very well together and we were able to meet the technical and sporting challenges of our first race as a new team. We had a largely trouble free weekend, which was positive as we were able to go through our run programmes and get the best out of the car. We got the most out of the new qualifying format, which is a great credit to the team and its ability to think on its feet. In the race, we looked quicker than you might have expected from qualifying and we were able to manage the performance well. Kevin was unfortunate to get a puncture so early on but he recovered well, while we couldn’t have asked for more from Jolyon. Overall it was pretty good. We didn’t score any points, but we are eighth in the championship – first of the people not to have any points! – and I think for a first race as Renault it’s a credible position to be in.

What did you learn about the car in Melbourne?
The car behaved as we expected. We had ironed out any problems in testing or knew how to fix them so we came to Melbourne prepared. In qualifying we were a little better than expected but the pace of the car in the race itself was good. We looked after the tyre wear very well and in race trim the car behaved itself on short and long runs. That’s a great baseline and you can add real performance when you have that. We also brought a prototype front wing to Melbourne that Kevin used and it appears to have lived up to expectations. It will be on both cars in Bahrain.

Did the race in Australia highlight any areas for improvement?
We will obviously be approaching development on two fronts: engine and chassis. In the first half of the year we will concentrate on the engine and have a normal development programme for the chassis. We will have the standard aero developments from race to race, as everyone will do, then have the complex mechanical items that will come through when we get into the European testing programme. I think we have a credible plan to advance the car but obviously we have to balance what we want to do next year versus our aspirations for this year.

Where do you think Renault Sport sits in the order at the moment and what do you think is possible by the end of the season?
I think we need to consolidate our understanding of where we sit in the rankings and, once we know that, we can sit back and consider what is realistic for us to achieve by the end of the year and how we drive development to do it. We have a solid understanding of the car, we don’t have to work hard to understand performance problems, so now it is more a case of going back to base, reviewing, and then finding a clear route.

What can we expect in Bahrain given that it’s a very different type of circuit?
I don’t think we’ve seen anything at Barcelona or Melbourne that is worrying. Barcelona is pretty indicative of standard aero levels and mechanical grip so we haven’t seen anything that concerns us for the major tracks. Naturally we would like to repeat the form we saw in Australia, and maybe sneak into the tail end of the points if we can.