Winds of change - Q&A with Nick Chester

Baku, the city famed for its strong wind, is the next stop on the 2019 Formula 1 calendar. After the team returned to the points and moved into fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship last time out, Chassis Technical Director Nick Chester talks about the unpredictability of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Why does the Baku Street Circuit seem to throw up a number of surprises?
Baku has a nice layout, which makes it very interesting. It’s almost three circuits put together. The first section is like Sochi with right-angled corners and some straights, then the middle section is similar to Monaco and the final part like Canada with a long straight. It’s a tricky combination to get right as, ideally, you’d run a different downforce level for each sector. There’s always a compromise for downforce levels there. Any mistake will get punished and, unlike a lot of street circuits, Baku is quite fast. Drivers find it tricky, but it’s an exciting track that’s for sure.

What’s required to do well in Baku?
More so than most circuits, you need an efficient aero package where you can run a reasonable amount of downforce without too much drag. Drivers need to be good on the brakes and also through tight and slow corners.

What changes are there to the Renault R.S.19 to accommodate the challenges of Azerbaijan?
Most teams will run a lower downforce rear wing than they’ve run in previous races. There will be a variety of levels with a trade-off between time in the middle section against the last section. The main change on the R.S.19 is the medium downforce package with new front and rear wings as well as a small update to the sidepod area.

How does the team look back on China?
It was a mixed weekend overall. We had a sensible qualifying in seventh and eighth, which we were fairly satisfied with. Daniel drove a very good race and he made a difficult one-stop work, having had to start on a used Soft. He responded when he needed to and made it look pretty easy. Nico was unfortunate with the MGU-K issue.

Nico and Daniel are top drivers and the car has, at the moment, enough pace to be at the top end of the midfield. We want to show that in the next few races. Daniel was satisfied in Shanghai with the balance and the changes we’ve made to the car has helped him in terms of braking and suspension. We have made a step forwards in China, but there’s still a lot more work to do.