Q. Is this a dream job and a dream opportunity for you, but under very difficult circumstances? Is that a fair verdict on the current situation for you?
Bob Bell: Yeah. It is a dream job obviously, but in very difficult circumstances. I am taking a very pragmatic and realistic approach to it. The team needed somebody to step in and see through the rest of the season. I have agreed to do that. I am very happy to do it. My motivation as ever is to see that the team continues and continues successfully - and I am very proud that I have been asked to do it and I relish the challenge.
Q. To what extent do you have to be a crisis manager now?
BB: I don't know. I think there are so many times nowadays that you feel you need to reach for a book of law rather than a book of engineering when you go to work in the mornings. It is a sad reflection on Formula 1, but it is a fact of life.
Q. Can you give us a sense of what the ordinary members of the team have had to go through in the last few weeks? It must have been a huge trauma for everybody?
BB: I think for the ordinary guys in the factory, and indeed for all of us, myself included, we were quite genuinely sitting there thinking we could potentially lose our jobs over this. How are we then going to pay the mortgages?
There were very deep and heartfelt feelings in the factory of, first of all, sadness that we would find ourselves in the situation in the first place. And then, of course, the consequences of it � for the team members as individuals and their families. And the concept of the team itself, which is something we are very proud of. We do genuinely subscribe to the view that we are a real racing team and most people in the team feel themselves as being a member of a family, an extended family, and we are very proud of it. But we were never comfortable with the situation we found ourselves in, and the consequences that we could have gone out of business as a result.
Q. Do you feel there is a stain on the team that is impossible to expunge at the moment?
BB: No, I don't think so. I think temporarily the team is not going to look perhaps in the greatest of light, but the team will pull through it. Life moves on. Formula 1 is no exception and I think that the team will pull itself out of it. It will demonstrate what it does on the track, and in the factories, and show again to people that we deserve the high reputation that we have always held.
Q. How big was the personal disappointment learning that people you've known for years did what they did?
BB: I don't want to comment too much on this. For everybody in the team the incident was a huge disappointment for everybody. We all felt it.
Q. What is the impact of your new job on your old one, which was co-ordinating the work on next year's car?
BB: Hopefully it will not impact on it too much. I am blessed with extremely good support on the engineering side � with my deputy James Allison and other senior engineers within the organisation. I don't think it will impact if we organise ourselves properly we will be fine in that regard.
Q. How wounding was it for you personally and the team that two of your biggest sponsors, including ING, just dropped Renault like a stone?
BB: To some extent it wasn't unexpected. Both of those sponsors were due to finish with us at the end of the year. They chose for their own reasons to terminate earlier than that. It wasn't a huge surprise. It was a disappointment but we expected it, and we will move on from it.
Q. Does it mean a loss of money for you?
BB: I really would not like to comment on what the consequences of it will be, for obvious reasons.
Q. Are you confident that Renault will stay in F1 in the long run, or do you think they may have to re-evaluate it?
BB: It is very early days. All I can is, look at the facts. We have been through a very dramatic and unsettling episode, and Renault is still here. We are still here racing. We are doing a good job and we are getting full support from Renault in the process. I think that speaks highly for Renault and what it has done to support the team.
Q. Have you talked to Carlos Ghosn personally since you took on the job?
BB: Not personally, in recent days, I have to say.
Q. I just wondered if you had pointed out what he expected from the Renault team after the recent events?
BB: I think Renault is Carlos Ghosn at the minute, and quite rightly so. He is a very, very capable leader and I think his view is steadfast. Renault is fully supportive of the F1 programme, provided it meets the basic criteria of being successful on the track and we don't break the bank in doing it. Nothing has changed.
Q. Do you consider your job as an interim one, or do you think it will be for the long-term?
BB: I see myself very much as a night-watchman, as they say in cricketing terms. I am here to see the team through. Give it some breathing space. The worst thing you want to do in a situation like this is rush out and make rash decisions about how you are going to structure the team or what you are going to do to replace the individuals who have gone. So we have brought ourselves some time. We need to steady the ship, calm things down, get things back on track again and that is what my role will be over the coming weeks.
Q. So you would be happy to be the team principal in 2010?
BB: I am not even thinking about that. I really am not. It is not the important thing to deal with at the minute.
Q. A tongue-in-cheek question: who ordered Romain to crash at Turn 17 in that session?
BB: Yes, it was spectacularly unfortunate. It really was.
Q. We saw you on the pitwall shaking your head ruefully. What was going through your head then?
BB: It was the obvious comment: oh god, not there!
Q. And was there anything on the radio?
BB: No, we all kept quiet.
Q. How involved will you be in the quest to find a new team principal for next year, and how much are you simply focusing on the day-to-day running of the team?
BB: I will have an involvement, there is no question about that. I would not have been asked to take on this role if Renault was not prepared to listen to my opinion on such matters. So I will be involved. Exactly, how it plays out and what we do in detail has yet to be decided.
Q. Do you think Renault has to do something to re-establish people's trust in this sport, because it has taken a huge battering and F1 has been getting publicity for all the wrong reasons? Can Renault play a role in fixing that?
BB: I do. I think it goes wider than that. I think a lot of sports have taken a battering recently for incidents that are less than ideal. F1 is not alone. I think Renault are a very prominent name in the world of motorsport, they have got a very long and prestigious history and I think that Renault have a large role to play in restoring public faith and confidence in F1. I would say that goes broader. I think the public want to see the same thing happening in other sports as well.
Q. Some people like Bernie Ecclestone have said that the lifelong ban of Flavio Briatore was a bit harsh. What is your opinion on that?
BB: It is genuinely not my position to comment, it really isn't. And it remains to be seen, of course, as to whether Flavio appeals that or it is reversed. It was a world motorsport council decision. We have to trust in their judgement. They are the law makers, the judiciary in this business, and we have to trust them.
Q. Can you tell us from your own personal experience the moment you realised that that crash was on purpose?
BB: It was very much a huge shock to the system, to learn what had happened. Instantly, because it is not the first shock to the system we as a team have had in recent years, not all of them making the public gaze quite as much as this one, you instantly switch into defence mode: what do we do to deal with this situation? Your thoughts very quickly move on from shock and horror to, okay, now what do to resolve this situation? What is the right way forward? You just take a pragmatic approach to it.
Q. But this must be the worst thing you have experienced in your career in terms of a sporting moral crisis?
BB: Oh yes, very much so. And I hope I never get sight or sound of anything of that magnitude again.
Q. Would you expect a driver to say no when asked to do something similar in the future, in whatever team it may happen?
BB: I think whenever anything like this happens, it is exactly the same situation as the 'spygate' scandals. Although it is not something that is discussed in the public domain I think it had a huge impact on the way the engineers and technicians treat intellectual property and so on in the world of F1 nowadays. People are much more cautious about what they do and they don't do. I think this will have exactly the same effect on the sporting side of things, with both drivers and engineers. I would be absolutely amazed if anyone did anything even remotely like this again.
Q. At the moment you cannot be sure that Fernando Alonso is driving for you next year or is going to Ferrari. Are you already searching for a new number one driver?
BB: Yeah, you cannot afford to wait. I cannot comment on whether Fernando will or will not be with us next year, but you cannot afford to sit around and wait. We will obviously be weighing up alternative options in the eventuality that he does move on next year.
Q. Is it important that this driver brings some money with him?
BB: No. Our first criteria is that we want the best drivers from the driving point of view in the car. Quite clearly, and that is the Renault view as well, we want the best people we can get our hands on. The money side is nice, but it is not a priority.
Q. In the past you have had to deal with questions only about designing the best car. Now you have to deal with finding the best driver, how different is that for you?
BB: It is a different scenario. I must say, obviously in the last two or three years, I haven't exactly led a team that has done the best job in building the best car, so maybe it is time for a change of scope from my perspective.
Essentially it is the same thing. You've got to apply a lot of determination and effort and stick by your principles about the best way to deal with any situation is. A good example of that was in 2007, when we had a real performance problem with the car that had its roots in 2006. We made a conscious decision not to rush around changing bits on the car to try and claw back performance.
We said let's deal with the fundamentals of why the problem happened in the first place, and we did that. It is the same � whether it is deciding on drivers or something else. You have to stick by the principles that you believe are the right ones to make the decision. We will be pragmatic. We will be thorough about it. And, hopefully, we will end up with a strong driver line-up.
Q. How have you found the attitude of the team members and how easy has it been for you to come in and steady the ship?
BB: Well it's very easy for me because I am well known in the team. I have been around the team a while now and I have a reasonable body of respect and support and I think most people in the team will see the reasons for me being asked to step in and do it as being sensible and pragmatic. So the guys have been great. I haven't had any issues at all. I have asked for their full support and co-operation and out-lined to them how we need to approach the year that remains and everybody has lined up behind that. It has been very easy. If it had been somebody coming in from the outside it might have been a little more difficult.
Q. Has it been a help having Jean-Francois alongside and a link to the Renault side of it?
BB: Yes very much so. We genuinely do think of ourselves as a part of Renault. We like to think that if you cut us open we bleed a bit of yellow. That is important to our culture and so having strong links into Renault through people like Jean-Francois is very important for us.
Q. Who is going to replace Pat Symonds?
BB: Alan Permane is going to look after all of Pat's track-based responsibilities. That's one of the easiest bits to deal with because it was pretty much planned that Pat would start backing out of the track side of life anyway, almost certainly from next year. So Alan was prepared and was ready for it. A lot of Pat's work at the factory was liaising with the FIA and with FOTA on technical matters and I've asked James Allison, my deputy technical director, to take over those responsibilities. James deputised for Pat on occasion when Pat couldn't be around - he is very able, very competent and he'll do a super job on that side of things.
Q. There are quite a few people from your background in the pitlane in your role. There is no reason why you shouldn't continue this in the long run is there?
BB: Yes in theory I could, but I have got a very open mind as to whether or not it would happen. I am not looking for it to happen, I am looking to make the sure the team gets through the next few months in best shape. There are some engineers now in the pitlane reaching the lofty heights of team principal, so it's a little bit of a trend. Whether it will be continued or swing back more to the commercial side of life, I wouldn't like to say.
Q. Are you confident Renault will stay?
BB: From my perspective I am assuming that we are going to be around in the long term. It is a sad fact of life at the moment that with manufacturer teams, or indeed any team that is owned by a major manufacturer, whether it's washing machines or cars, the success of that team's future does depend a lot on the success of the parent company. If washing machine sales hit rock bottom, and you are owned by a washing machine manufacturer you are going to be in big trouble.
There is always that worry but I don't think that, from that perspective, Renault are in any worse a situation than any of the other manufacturers.
Q. How involved will you be with decisions on customer engines and what is the state of discussion with Red Bull and Williams?
BB: I will have some involvement in that though the bulk of that work is done by our commercial people and very ably conducted as well by Rob White at Viry, so I don't need to get too involved in that. The state of play is that both of those organisations are still in negotiations with us and a conclusion will be reached. I can't tell you when but I think for their sake as much as ours, it needs to be pretty soon.
Q. Normally this time of year you would be at home and working on the new car so is this a distraction?
BB: It's not too bad. I would normally have done of two of these last four races anyway, including this one so it's not more of distraction to be honest.
Q. How important is it to have a French driver in the team and how important to have an experienced driver?
BB: I think the most important thing is to have a quick driver that is going to be able to deliver world championship points. There is no specific request on Renault's part to have a French driver. Their view is they want the best driver they can afford in the car and they are not too fussed what nationality they are. That is absolutely the sensible approach to go if you want to be serious about winning.