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MAY 16, 2011

Allison predicts busy Barcelona as Renault targets better pit stops

Traditionally, the Spanish GP is one of the least entertaining of the season but this year could be different. It is difficult to overtake around the Circuit de Catalunya and F1's teams are well tuned into the track due to regular testing there. The race will likely be the ultimate test of the effectiveness of F1's 2011 regulations.

"We can expect another breathless race with a lot of on track action - not a traditional hallmark of the Spanish GP," predicts Renault technical director James Allison. "By far the biggest influence over the ease of overtaking in Turkey was the track being very tough on tyres. Barcelona is likely to be similar, with soft tyres that degrade up to 0.3 of a second per lap, meaning that small variations in strategy will yield very large differences in performance at different times in the race. Stopping just three laps different to another car will give almost one second per lap difference in performance. Set against that, DRS and KERS have only a second order effect on the ease of overtaking."

Emphasising the extra pressure on race teams in 2011, Allison says: "Making fast and reliable pitstops is as important as developing the car aerodynamically. Our aero upgrade for Barcelona will be worth around 10 seconds over the whole race - one bad pitstop and the value of that upgrade is entirely wiped out. Even if you avoid a single very poor stop, but make four stops around 1sec slower than the opposition, then it is the same as taking a reasonable upgrade off the car.

"So, pitstops are important and they are an area where we haven't been as strong as we would have liked this season. The race team, supported by several engineering functions back in the factory, is putting a big effort in to bring our stops up to the required level. We are not there yet, but we took a noticeable step forward in the last race."

Tyre degradation in Spain will come from a string of long, high speed corners and the abrasive nature of the surface. Teams will have a revised hard tyre from Pirelli at Barcelona, which may change the picture slightly, but it is likely that the race will feature multiple stops.

On that score, Renault team principal Eric Boullier says: "As long as the sport stays understandable for the fans, it's good. Everybody was asking for a better show and more overtaking manœuvres, so we shouldn't complain about the situation now! We have to balance things to make sure the sport remains understandable, but that's it. I think we have found a good compromise."

In days gone by, the standing joke about Spain was that spectator changes should be announced to drivers rather than vice versa, so sparsely populated were the grandstands in a country more devoted to its bike racing stars. Fernando Alonso changed all that, however, and now the race has one of the best atmospheres anywhere. Says Renault's Vitaly Petrov: "There are a lot of Spanish fans that support me and I hope they still will after what happened in Abu Dhabi!"