Bob Bell : We have to catch-up

"Aero and mechanical grip is where we want to make progress"

By Franck Drui

23 April 2016 - 18:05
Bob Bell : We have to catch-up

Outlining the reasons why Shanghai was a shocker for the team, Bob Bell looks to the next challenges.

What are the challenges of the Sochi Autodrom?

It’s an interesting circuit in terms of engineering challenges. It is essentially a street circuit however the layout doesn’t demand maximum downforce. There are a lot of 90° corners so straight-line braking and traction are called for, with less emphasis on mid-corner balance. It is a demanding circuit for brakes and tends to require a harder tyre compound as there’s a significant loading on the tyres through the long turn three-four combination so it’s likely to be a one-stop race.

Its stop-start nature means that fuel consumption is quite high and because of the nature of the track there’s more of a risk of the safety car coming out, so you have to remain poised with a variety of strategy permutations. It’s a track which in many senses is relatively straight-forward because of a preponderance of low-speed corners but it can easily throw some tactical issues because of tyre wear and higher risk of safety cars. It’s not the easiest circuit for overtaking and we also see issues with tyre warm-up. It’s probably not the most difficult circuit for us relative to our car’s current performance so a respectable job should be possible.

Last time out wasn’t the greatest display from the team; what went wrong?

Firstly we saw a rear suspension failure on Kevin’s car in the first session in Shanghai. We understood the problem and how to rectify it and were able to engineer and implement a solution whilst in Shanghai so we had no concerns with continuing to run the car. Of course, it shouldn’t have happened, but we understand what occurred and why so we’re confident we won’t see an issue of this type again.

What was the impact of this on the weekend?

The loss of track time for Kevin in FP1 after the failure and his subsequent non-running in FP2 did have ramifications, especially when we saw a wet FP3 the following day. This left us with a relative scarcity of data for dry set-up as normally you try different things across the two cars to be able to arrive at the best set-up.

Kevin wasn’t able to give his usual feedback and didn’t get to run with the soft tyre in the dry for any long runs so when you look at it we lost 50% of our information base for set-up and we felt the pain of this in our race where the balance and then the wear meant a significant lack of performance from where we could or should have been.

Shanghai is quite a particular track, is this why Renault didn’t look too flash in the race?

We had an issue, which was shared by some other teams too, where the track varied a lot between Friday and Sunday and the information we accumulated on Friday led us to a race set-up which wasn’t that required when we raced on Sunday. This is a contribution of the track evolution over the weekend and the different weather conditions. Essentially, we took the wrong direction on balance and suffered because of this.

Where are the improvements for the R.S.16 to come from?

We’ve seen a good step forward in performance from the power unit relative to last year and there’s more to come in that area. The next power unit upgrade will come as a step whereas on the chassis side it’s more of consistent evolution. We don’t have any specific problems with our car so it’s a case of improving downforce and grip as these are the areas where we’re lacking relative to our rivals, and this is a result of our late start to development. Aero and mechanical grip is where we want to make progress.

Where does the development split lie between this year’s car and next year’s?

The regulations for next year represent a significant change so work on this year’s car is not as relevant as it would be if the regulations were relatively static. We still have a sensible development programme for the R.S.16, and we expect to see a decent raft of upgrades in the early to mid-season and these chassis upgrades are both aerodynamic and mechanical. Equally, the 2017 regulations represent a significant change. We have to catch-up to our rivals so next year does give us a good opportunity to do this.


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