By preparing the first winter session of the Renault F1 Team which will also feature a first taste of F1 for Robert Kubica, 2005 World Series by Renault champion, and the 2004 Renault V6 winner Giorgio Mondini, we wanted to know Pat Symonds’ feelings about the test of young drivers in Formula 1.
How does the team prepare that kind of testing session with young drivers who do not have a previous experience in F1 ?
“The first thing we need to do is to make sure the car they will drive is well set up. We don’t want to get them a too hard task for their first drive in Formula 1. Therefore the established race or test drivers of the team will set the car up just to make sure that it is working properly and that it is handling well.”
What is for them the best approach to take advantage of this experience?
“In term of what they need to do we are not just looking at lap times. It may seem obvious that lap times are important but I don’t think we can expect a young driver could be fast when he first get into the car. What we are looking for is continual improvements, consistency and above all we are looking for understanding of what is going on. So we don’t give them to much to do, we just let them run a few laps, then come back to the pits and try to understand what is going on, looking to some data, basically to ensure they understand how to drive efficiently a Formula 1 car.”
What are your expectations concerning this testing session?
“We hope to see that slowly their lap time improve, that slowly the number of mistakes they make reduces and that they have enough mental capacity left to describe what the car is doing, how it is on any particular corners.”
How do you plan to organize this session with Robert Kubika and Giorigio Mondini?
“Usually we ask the young drivers to drive for an afternoon then to think about it and to drive again the next morning but because we are a little bit tight on time for this first winter testing session we will give Kubika and Mondini each a half day to discover the car, one of them will drive in the morning and the second one will continue the tests during the afternoon. Then the engineers will write a report at the end of the test. An objective part of the report is basically the lap time the drivers have achieved relative to the other people testing that day, their consistency but we are also interested in the engineers’ feeling about the drivers’ application and understanding, the feedback they were able to give concerning the chassis and the engine, their physical fitness.
“If we feel that there is some signs of promise in what they are doing, it is very likely that we will invite them or maybe one of them back in a more intensive test.”
Have you ever been impressed by a young driver during his first test in F1?
“Fernando is an obvious example. Generally we don’t ask young drivers to do many laps because the Formula 1 driving is really tiring. There are lots of muscles you simply don’t build up in the other forms of racing but Fernando was really impressive for his first session. In fact so impressive that we found a reason to ask him to make quite longer runs. He was wonderfully consistent.
“So sometimes that happens and we can be impressed by the young drivers we are testing. But I don’t think we can take that one day testing to predict what the Formula 1 career of a driver could be. But I do think that first impressions are really quite important certainly concerning in terms of the approach and the intelligence that help us to get an impression in a really short time.”