Following the official launch of the new Renault R24 in Palermo, at the end of last week, the Renault F1 team is now focused on optimising the car's performance with a view to the first race of the season - the Australian GP, on 7 March.

Time is precious: the three chassis destined for Melbourne will leave for Australasia at the end of the month. By then, the team will aim to know the R24 inside out.

"We have set up a very detailed testing schedule to best prepare ourselves," explains executive director of engineering Pat Symonds. "We know which tracks we will run on and when, which drivers will be testing and what parts will be evaluated. For example, we have already finalised out testing programme for 2004. We know exactly what needs to be done before leaving for Australia."

Testing during February will be conducted with three major points in mind. "The first will be reliability," continues Symonds. "We will conduct at least one race simulation per session. At Imola, the most demanding circuit, we will ask our two drivers to simulate a complete race."

The second aspect will be tyre development. "The majority of the preparatory work has been done with last year's R23, but this car had very similar dynamic characteristics to the R24," explains Pat. "Beginning this week, we will be able to pick up the tyre programme again with our new car."

Finally, the Renault F1 Team will begin tracking all-out performance. "We haven't yet had the time to concentrate on this area," concludes Pat. "Having said that, we will be reviewing many different set-ups, starting this week. That will be the point at which we start thinking about troubling the stopwatch."

The team will have a second R24 chassis available from the Imola test onwards, in two weeks' time. The third car will be ready just prior to departure for Melbourne.

Testing programme, February 2004:

3-5 February, Barcelona
Fernando Alonso (R24), Franck Montagny (R23)

10-12 February, Jerez
Jarno Trulli (R24), Franck Montagny (R23)

17-19 February, Imola
Jarno Trulli (R24), Fernando Alonso (R24)

23-25 February, Silverstone
Jarno Trulli (R24), Fernando Alonso (R24)



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