Who can been Ferrari?

Another Grand Prix, another victory for the Ferrari team. The domination of the Italian racing team and its champion Michael Schumacher has the public deserting [the sport]. The true fans are still faithful to their love, but everpone is hoping fo the return of a real race.

And no one wants that more than the members of the Renault team. They believe in victory… manly because they must believe in it. The driver Frank Montagny:

It is a barrier which can be crossed without any problem but you have to do some work, right, we cannot cross it right away. It is hours and hours and hours of work with a close-knit team of people who understand one another, who listen to one another and in the end get to achieve something.

But first of all it is a technical challenge. It is really the superiority of the Ferrari cars which makes the difference. Christian Blum is the manager of a team responsible for recapturing the lead.

If we were convinced that it is impossible I think that we would stop doing Formula 1 because the goal for our bosses, for Renault is general, is to be world champion because all that matters is being in first position, now, later in effect because of the situation each season, a second position, a first position well that takes a dimension absolutely different in this sort of race. Today it is true that Ferrari has got to a very, very high level of racing, but despite everything they are not invincible even if it seems difficult to make some mistakes, so we must be there, ready for any opportunity when Ferrari puts a foot wrong to take an extra risk, we are right behind and we’ll get the points to aim for that first place. I think that the objective which our bosses have given to us of being world champions in the very near future will depend on the struggle in our head and on the track, in effect we will not be able to spend years finishing the championship in second place 80 points behind or 100 points behind Ferrari, that’s not acceptable, but on the other hand if we are beaten by Ferrari by 10 points at the end of the championship perhaps we will not be the champion of the world but at least a serious fight will exist, I think that is what is important.

And how is it working out in practice?

Well, it is work every day with the programs on the “performance engine”, in any case that is what I know best. It is programs which are long term programs and medium term on which people are working at the factory and bit by bit when these things begin to show that they are a source of performance we include them, and we move on and I believe that there is rigour in the work. That is to say that it is fixing objectives, it is trying to achieve them because it’s… being given the means to achieve them because they must make sense. Saying that we want to be world champion is one thing, before you must put… you must arrange a little bit of money but you must also align your skills and you must do it with the skills of the people you have. I think that we have a very good example, that is that we had made an engine which was… the RS series of engines 21, 22, 23 an engine which was very daring technically, which unfortunately did not the required level of reliability and so we were prevented from taking the development further. And Flavio Briatore took the decision to return to a much simpler engine architecture that we know better and with the same people without changing one single person we got back to a level of competitiveness which was largely balanced with the position of Renault. So that shows that even with the same people that you must be directed well, have a locomotive behind which everyone hooks up and that everyone pushes in a good direction. It is a little bit the effort of each individual which accumulated form as many as 280 people on the engine and 350 people on the chassis, if each one makes a little effort every day, that makes an enormous effort at the end of the year and that is what pays.

Looking at others’ good ideas, you must do that when you can. But that will never be enough and so it is creative work which is most important.

There are two things, that is that we are very attentive to what the competition is doing, because in effect we see what can… some visible solutions, in any case, that they were trying but that is the tip of the iceberg, what we cannot see is all that there is below. It is important to know what the others are doing but it is not, it is not fundamental. I believe that you must not copy because if we copy the others, at worst we do like them, but if we do like them, as it was they who had the idea first, we will always be second. So the idea is to do things differently, it is to pay attention to what they are investigating not ways which could eventually show that there is something, but is especially having our own ideas. I think that that, that is important.

This season Renault has been for a long time in second place, a good performance by comparison to some difficult years that the team lived through recently… But you must keep a cool head and Christian put things into perspective.

So the performances of Renault this season can be explained by several things. Firstly we went back to an engine technology, older but better understood, which allowed us to overcome a bit all the reliability problems which prevented us from doing development last year, that’s the first thing. The second thing that is also related, you must recognise that McLaran and Williams [1] have not lived up to their claims and have not succeeded, at the beginning of the season anyway, in having the reliability and the performance and as we had very important reliability at the start of the season and that we finished with all the points practically from the first half of the championship, we finished all of the races with points, which allowed us to start and be positioned behind Ferrari and allowing us to score points each time over our direct competitors who were Williams, BAR and McLaran, and so to reinforce this position.

So today, it is clear that the situation is more complicated because this lead has melted away, we have had some problems on the way, we were out of some races, races where we were very competitive and where we would have been able to score big points. Unfortunately, that’s competition, and we are really hoping by the end of the season to turn the situation around getting back more to the level where we were then at the beginning of the season.

Frank Montagny is one of the big hopes for French Formula 1. At the age of 26 he is the third driver for Renault; that is ten years of driving to get there.

Lots of races, lots of competitions, lots of championships and at last a chance to do it, but it is not certain, right, it is not because you have won championships, it’s not because you have won races that you get to enter Formula 1.

But in Formula 1, only the first two drivers do the races. Frank must wait to fulfil his dream.

You have two possibilities, either it’s frustration or it’s good. Personally I rather take the positive side, I am one of the few people in the world who can get to drive a Formula 1 car, and I find that magic in itself, so while it lasts, well it will last, but my big objective is to do a race. Well there are twenty places for the whole world and you can’t just get one like that in Formula 1. So we’ll see, I am confident, I’m trying to do my work better and better.

There is all to play for in the transfers at the end of the season. Will this by the way out from Frank?

I don’t know unfortunately. I would really like to drive in a Grand Prix, but that’s not something I’ve won yet. There are still a few chances, but it is always difficult, so we’ll see.

And beating Ferrari?

One more year and we’ll be catching them up. Little by little we are coming to catch them but it will take time. Ferrari is a team which has been around for years and years and years and you can’t get there by snapping your fingers and overtaking everyone, right, that’s… otherwise we’d do it.

[1] McLaran, Williams and BAR are other teams in the Formula 1 championship.

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