Renault Formula 1 head of engine operations Remi Taffin describes the manufacturer's progress over the 2010 season.
The company's V8s were criticized for poor power output last season, but 2010 has been a great year for Renault so far, with its customer team Red Bull riding high and its own works squad mounting a resurgence.
Q. How do you feel 2010 is going for Renault after a tough 2009?
Remi Taffin: From the track point of view, we haven't really changed the way we work from last year, the only thing that we really changed is the way we make the car work and the job we have done at the factory. Our job here, whether we are working on the engine, chassis, gearbox whatever, is to make sure we get 100 percent out of what our factories are doing.
At the track, our main objective is to have all the parts available, which is sometimes quite tricky because we are developing the car in every area quite quickly and we tend to have some brand-new parts for every race, so that is just one of the difficulties we are facing.
Another part is to try and get the maximum out of the car. We have the chassis in Enstone and engine gearbox developed and tested in France at Viry-Chatillon. At every race, we have these 40 or 50 people working together to make sure that the engine, chassis and gearbox are working as best as they can.
I have to say, since the beginning of the year we have been doing a good job. We haven't got the quickest car, but in every race we are making 100 percent out of what we have. The situation now is that we are not so bad.
We've seen in Barcelona some teams bring in some big upgrades on their cars, our philosophy is to develop the car at every race. We don't have a target to say, 'OK, for race eight we will put one second on the car.' We try to bring every race a little bit, because obviously you have seen we have some quicker cars in front of us, but we're working on closing that by the end of the year.
Q. Do you think that the Renault engine lacks overall power but makes up for it in other areas? How do you rate the engine?
RT: I have to say it always quite difficult to assess what the overall level power of the engine is. We might not have the best level in terms of power, but you have to look overall; how you set up the engine in the car, how you can develop the engine in the car or the car around the engine. So, I have to say, overall maybe we are not in as bad shape as you hear people say about [us], but I am quite happy with this engine.
Q. One theory about Red Bull Racing's qualifying advantage in Q3 recently was that maybe they were saving their revs for the last session. Have you heard that, and is there any truth that this is what is happening?
RT: I think everyone is looking at Red Bull and saying stuff like that, but we can definitely say that no one is saving anything in qualifying. Just to tell you, there is no point in doing this. You have to get used to what you are running. Saving 500 or 1000 revs is absolutely a complete waste of time. So no, they just have a very good car.
Q. Could you supply any other teams with a customer engine deal next year? Do you have the capacity to supply anyone else, maybe Williams?
RT: We don't know which teams we will be supplying next year. We certainly have got the capacity to supply more than the two teams we have been doing this year, it's not a big problem for us. Obviously, we have to produce a few more engines and get some more people to do the job. As far as getting an engine ready and supplying two teams, it's then not a big problem to do so for three or four teams with an extra effort.
Q. What is your approach to working with young drivers such as Vitaly Petrov, and what sort of advice are you giving to test and reserve drivers like Jan Charouz about how he can get to Formula 1?
RT: It's very difficult, there is no key. The only answer that you can say is to do your best. It's always difficult when you get into F1. You have to drive fast, but you have also to put everything together to get the best of the car in order to get a good result. So it's not that easy.
With all of these development programs, you have to put everything together to get the most out of it, and talking with engineers or drivers who are already in Formula 1 is especially useful. You will always get something from them, and no one should hesitate to question them.
We can see that with Petrov. We spent a long time talking to him and explaining everything, because obviously it is difficult to get everything straight in your mind within one month. Our job at the beginning is to make sure that the driver understands everything, and gets every piece out of the car. Now after five races, Vitaly has got everything, and he is the one explaining to us what is wrong or right on the car and which direction we should go in.
Q. I know that they entered Formula 1 in completely different situations, but did you do anything different with Vitaly than you did with Romain Grojean in 2009?
RT: The only thing I would say is that Romain arrived midseason, so he had no testing – nothing. He had to get in the car and do well with no testing and not much running. I'm afraid to say it was very difficult. If you have a chance to go into Formula 1 the first time with a very good car maybe you are lucky, but for him it was different and he had difficult circumstances to get used to the car and drive.