Renault Sport Formula One Team chief technical officer Bob Bell has worked in a technical or managerial role that has helped secure nine Constructors’ Championships and 10 Drivers’ Championships and believes that perfection is required to challenge for the Formula 1 World Championship.
Bell graduated from Queen’s University Belfast with an Honours Degree in Aeronautical Engineering in 1979, completing a PhD in Aeronautical Engineering in 1982.
From 1982-1988 Bob worked with McLaren International, with positions including Head of Aerodynamics, Head of Research and Development and Project Director Unlimited Land Speed Record Attempt.
His first spell at Enstone was throughout 1998-1999 as Benetton Formula Senior Aerodynamicist, before moving to Jordan Grand Prix for 1999-2001 as Head of Vehicle Technology.
In 2001 Bob returned to Enstone as Deputy Technical Director then Technical Director (2003-2009), He stepped up to be Acting Team Principal (2009) and Managing Director (2010) before joining Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd as Technical Director from 2011 to 2014.
Bob joined Renault Sport Racing in 2016 as Chief Technical Officer, overseeing the outputs of both the Viry and Enstone sites to provide a strategic approach to their endeavours.
The team released the following preseason Q&A with their technical chief:
What are the challenges for Renault Sport Formula One Team in 2018?
Bob Bell: Our greatest challenge is improving performance with the target of building on our Championship finishing position. In 2017 we set the aggressive target of fifth. Ultimately, we finished in sixth position, which was still a strong result. Our strength and development in the second part of the year showcased just how much we progressed. For 2018 we need to continue our upward trajectory. Whilst we’re aware that the closer we get to our goal, the tougher the competition will be.
What needs to be done to achieve this goal?
BB: We need a strong reliability record. That’s something we need to focus on, and we have worked hard on it over the winter. We need the car as reliable as we can make it. That’s a huge challenge, even more so than performance development, and it’s the toughest task we face. To improve reliability, we have to accept nothing less than perfection. Anything that ends up on the car needs to be designed and built to the highest standard; checked and rechecked as fit for purpose. All the issues which blighted us last year need to be eradicated by a fresh approach. It’s not something however that you can flick on like a switch, you need well established processes in place.
How much progression has been seen at Enstone over the past two years?
BB: It’s a very different place with many new facilities still in build. Working methodologies have moved on a lot, but we have retained the core Enstone spirit; that desire to be successful, not giving up and never accepting second best. Physically there have been large changes to the facilities, new staff and new functionalities within the buildings. That’s been added on top of a very good race team spirit and approach.
What are the resources of note heading into 2018?
BB: There are many areas where we have increased capability. We have a new state of the art CFD supercomputer and our wind tunnel received a sizable update last year. The new gearbox dyno will be online before the start of the season. These three elements give us enormous capability. The entire organisation is growing; there are more people to increase the rate of development. Enstone has moved on a long, long way since the Renault acquisition and is perfectly following a trajectory that stretches out for several years.
Over the past two seasons, how has the Enstone / Viry relationship evolved?
BB: It’s steadily getting stronger and stronger. We have been together a long time and it’s a well-established relationship. It’s still developing and more and more work is being done in harmony across the sites. It isn’t just about installing the engine in the car, but basic techniques in terms of engineering, methodologies and managing the supply chain between both sites. Most importantly, we work a lot closer with Viry in terms of looking ahead and agreeing together what is important for future cars.
What are the targets for testing?
BB: Laps and mileage. We want a trouble-free winter test programme so we can validate the performance of the car and move forward. To do this we need a reliable car and that’s one of the key goals for the Renault R.S.18.