Following an opening test in which it lapped markedly off the pace of the leading 2009 contenders, Renault's new R29 could be struggling somewhat on the aerodynamics front, it has been surmised.
During the first real group test of the year at Portimao in Portugal last week, double Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso wound up more than two seconds shy of the Williams of Nico Rosberg, and the Spaniard is said to be unhappy with the car's potential. Moreover, grandprix.com
reports that the French concern has since headed to the 6,500ft runway at Kemble airfield near Cirencester to conduct aerodynamic mapping work with – unusually – no fewer than five team trucks in attendance.
technical director Bob Bell, however, insists he is 'proud' of all the work accomplished at both Enstone and Viry over the winter – and he stated that, despite the drastic regulation changes sweeping the top flight ahead of the 2009 campaign, the challenge was not massively greater than has been the case in recent years.
“It wasn't fundamentally different from the way we do any car,” he underlined. “We started working on the R29 earlier than we normally would have – we began the first wind tunnel tests back in February. It was a question of gradually building up the resources on that project without compromising what we wanted to do on the R28, which we developed quite late into the season.
“The only way we were able to do that was to ask more of our people and our facilities, and just work a little bit harder because the R29 has been a very demanding programme. First of all, we took the 2008 car and just did no more than to legalise it to the 2009 regs without any obvious development; that was the starting point.
“Then it becomes pretty obvious, when you start working on that programme, that the key areas for development and performance are the front wing and its interaction with the nose and then the diffuser. That falls into a front and rear emphasis on the design of the car. We've driven the aero department towards looking at those two important parameters – almost separately – but constantly checking what the interaction between the two is. These are two very important areas for the 2009 car.
“We've had to push the design of the car and incorporate new technology that we haven't had before – the KERS system, the adjustable front flaps [and] a completely new approach to the aerodynamics. Then there were the side-effects, especially of KERS because it uses up so much weight and eats up all your moveable ballast. We've really had to push taking weight out of the car. It's been a much more difficult and more intensive development programme and required a lot more effort than any car we've done recently.
“Also, the 09 regulations very much hamper what you can do to provide the cooling level required at all ambient temperatures for the car. Thus, we've had to be quite clever and have worked to make sure we can always find a cooling solution in any ambient condition. These are just examples of where we've put
a lot of our effort, and they're obvious things that I'm sure all the teams will be doing.
“The important thing with any new set of regulations, where it's all new territory for you, is not to overlook anything. You do need to work on every part of the car and be sure that you understand what the sensitivity change is, as it may be quite different from what it used to be.