The ING Renault F1 Team's hopes for the 2008 reason rest on the all-new Renault F1 R28. The car ran for the first time in Valencia, on Monday 21 January. During the four-day test, the car completed over 1500 km, indicating strong early reliability in spite of numerous changes to the 2008 technical regulations, including the introduction of the Standard ECU and long-life gearboxes. The team also made encouraging progress with set-up and performance development, allowing the car's debut to be judged as promising.
The new car represents a shift in design philosophy from its predecessor, in order to extract optimum performance from the Bridgestone tyres that all competitors have used since the start of 2007. The new car features revised weight distribution and a new aerodynamic concept to match, which has been enabled by the introduction of a "zerokeel" front suspension mounting. The monocoque and bodywork to improve the packaging of the car's mechanical systems while under the skin, the SECU and new gearbox represent the biggest changes. As with all new designs, the team has worked hard to improve stiffness and remove weight throughout the car, to provide maximum setup adjustability from circuit to circuit.
Technical Director Bob Bell labelled the car "much less evolutionary" than its predecessor, continuing: "2007 was a very poor year by our standards. For 2008, there are high expectations inside and outside the team, and it is down to us to give the drivers a competitive car. We have put the problems from 2007 behind us and in terms of the car design, we have looked at the problem afresh. The team pushed very hard in all areas, and particularly on the aerodynamics. The front end of the car has come in for special attention with a brand new front wing and the front suspension. The rear end has also been heavily reworked, and we haven't neglected the basics. The car ran reliably in its first test, and we made encouraging progress on performance development last week. We are confident that the advances we have seen in the wind tunnel will be reflected on track."
The car will once again be powered by the RS27 V8 engine, which remains substantially the same as last year's unit, given the engine homologation rules currently in force. Engine ancillaries must be homologated by the first race of the year, while the team has also had a heavy workload adapting to the demands of the SECU. "The transition to the SECU was a big workload, and remains so," explained Deputy Managing Director (Engines), Rob White. "The unit itself is the most obvious change for the new season, but there are many new software tools and programmes that accompany it. We have had to adapt to them all, and learn how to get the most from them. While we are not allowed to develop the engine itself, there remains much to do to assure its reliability in-car performance. These V8's remain complicated and sophisticated, and we must be vigilant about component supply and quality, and concerning changes in the way the engine is used in the car. We are determined to return to the front, and we have worked tirelessly towards this goal for many months."
The ING Renault F1 Team's race drivers for 2008 will be double world champion Fernando Alonso and rookie Nelson Piquet. Alonso returns 'home' to the team where he won his two world titles after a sabbatical season with rivals McLaren-Mercedes, and has already reacclimatised to life at Renault. He has tested twice with the team this month, setting fastest time at the recent Jerez test with the old R27, before beginning the initial on-track development of the R28 last week in Valencia. The Spaniard scored 15 of his 19 career wins with Renault, and is the only man to have finished in the world championship top three over the past three seasons.
Company press release, last updated on February 04, 2008