Renault’s pit stop calls

I have done so much blogging about that incident that I still haven’t got round to writing a full race review of Belgium yet, which I feel I should do. So that will have to wait until after the Italian Grand Prix.

In the meantime, I have just listened to the post-Belgium Renault podcast. As always, it was a great listen. Pat Symonds really is a joy to listen to. He is opinionated without being ranty, and he is usually forthright and honest in his opinions, even when it reflects badly on the Renault team.

I was interested in what he had to say about how the team decides when a driver should come in for a pitstop. It was reported immediately following the Belgian Grand Prix that Fernando Alonso was very frustrated with the Renault team. He claimed he wanted to switch to wet tyres earlier and that if he did he would have won the race.

I was therefore quite surprised to hear what Pat Symonds had to say about how the team decides when a driver should switch to wet tyres when it is beginning to rain.

…with what we had to deal with at the end of the Belgian Grand Prix [i.e. when a track is going from dry to wet conditions], we leave it entirely to the driver. He is the only guy who can really judge what it’s like. He’s the only one who knows if the car is aquaplaning, he’s the only one who knows whether he thinks he can keep it on the track and out of the barriers.

So if a car is on dry tyres and it’s raining and the driver feels he needs wet tyres, he comes in. He comes in as quickly as he can. He doesn’t even have to give us a complete warning. We have a system on the car whereby if he presses a button on the steering wheel it sends a signal to the pits. It’s superimposed over the TV picture that the mechanics are watching, saying which car’s coming in and how far away it is in seconds from the pitstop.

So [it was] Fernando’s decision there, and I think a very good one.

8 comments

  1. I dunno. This is not the first time this season that Fernando has been compromised by Renaults strategy/pit calls/tyre choices. Canada is a perfect example, as is Monaco.

    To my mind, why pay the $$$ out for the best driver out there, then override his opinions as to what they should be doing.
    No wonder Fernando is looking around at other options for next year.

  2. It does seem strange. It’s certainly not been the first time this year that Fernando Alonso has complained about Renault’s strategy. Now Pat Symonds says that Alonso has the full say in the kind of situation we saw in Belgium. Odd…

  3. sorry Dr V I’m not quite sure I get the end of your post. If Supposedly it’s all up to the driver, then Symonds is claiming the exact opposite to Alonso. If it’s supposedly all up to the driver then why is Alonso bitching about not coming in earlier????

    I’m very confused

  4. ’tis odd indeed, and probably the truth lies somewhere in the middle of what both men are saying.

    But I seem to recall some radio transmissions during Monaco from Alonso where he requested different tyres, and the team disagreed. Certainly in Canada they made a huge mistake about not pitting under safety car, and Alonso made it quite clear then he disagreed with the teams call.

    Possibly they are in differet mindsets. Renault want points & so are being a little bit cautious to bring the car home in a points paying position.
    Fernando however probably has a more do or die attitude, and is more open to taking a slightly audacious approach to push as hard as he can.

    In the interests of good racing, and a possible surprise result, I prefer Fernando’s approach.

    As bad as that car is, I think with better calls made from the team he could have made a few podiums this year at least, and remind everyone what he is capable of.

  5. Simply put: I do not believe Pat Symonds.

    As Pink Peril points out, this year Renault is making awful strategical decisions. The problem is that Fernando likes to bet all or nothing, while Renault wants to bring home some points.
    Even more, I can recall a team radio from ALO in the last laps, the problem is that with everything that happened I don’t remember exactly what was he saying.

  6. Josh — That’s why I posted it. 🙂

    Ponzonha — I actually disagree with your assessment of Alonso. Even though he is stunningly fast, I believe he is not a big risk taker and is naturally conservative. Renault have said in the past that back in the days when they were winning, they would go on the radio to ask Alonso to turn the engine down, only to find that he had already done it!

  7. I don’t believe Alonso critizised the team this time. Has anyone heard what exactly said?. For sure, he didn’t do it in the post race interview, just expressed some regret, but didn’t blame anyone, and was satisfied with the 4th place.

    About Pat Symonds words, I believe him at 100%, but probably things aren’t so simple. I remember that in Monaco Renault had to convince Piquet to change to dry tyres when Alonso had already do so. I vaguely recall that Piquet wasn’t sure about it(and rightfully so) Does anybody else remember if was something like that what happened?

  8. Actually, Samuel, I think it was the opposite case in Monaco. Piquet was begging with his team for ages to change to dry tyres, and Renault only reluctantly changed after several laps. As soon as he changed tyres, he crashed into the wall!

    Pat Symonds did say, though, that it is very different in the case where the track is drying. He said the driver has less say in those circumstances and the engineers are more more important in that decision.