The ING Renault F1 Team endured a challenging afternoon today during qualifying for tomorrow's Chinese Grand Prix. Although conditions today at the Shanghai International Circuit were hot and humid, heavy rain is expected tomorrow afternoon for...
The ING Renault F1 Team endured a challenging afternoon today during qualifying for tomorrow's Chinese Grand Prix. Although conditions today at the Shanghai International Circuit were hot and humid, heavy rain is expected tomorrow afternoon for the race.
The parc ferme rules mean no set-up changes are possible between qualifying and the race, and each team therefore had to decide this lunchtime on the best set-up compromise between today's dry conditions and tomorrow's expected wet weather, according to their level of confidence in their weather forecasts.
Furthermore, the qualifying session was one of the closest of the year, with just three tenths of a second covering seventh to eighteenth positions in first qualifying, and this severely penalised the team for its relative lack of competitiveness this weekend.
Giancarlo Fisichella failed to make it out of the first session after a small mistake in the final corner left him 0.02s shy of the cut-off, while Heikki Kovalainen missed out by just over 0.2s in second qualifying after also running wide in the final corner, while pushing to the limit to make it into the top ten.
While these grid positions are clearly a big disappointment, last week's race in Fuji was a timely reminder of how wet conditions can throw up unexpected results. Starting P14 and P18 will give both Renault drivers a mountain to climb, but if the conditions turn to their advantage, anything can still happen...
Heikki Kovalainen: 14th
"Clearly my final timed lap could have been better: I made a mistake by running wide in turn 13 before the long back straight, so I then had only one real opportunity to make the time back up, which was in turn 16. I tried to carry too much speed, and it went wrong: the car ran over the rumble strip, and the lap was gone. It was touch and go whether I could have got into the top ten, but I had to be right on the limit all the way round the lap to make it, and unfortunately a little mistake cost me."
"The times were very close today, and I would imagine there have been some different approaches in terms of set-up, although the top speeds are all quite close so perhaps the variation is not that big. But the car has a pretty neutral balance, it's just that the speed wasn't there today. Now, we need to see wait and see what happens tomorrow.
Giancarlo Fisichella: 18th
"This was a really disappointing and frustrating session. I have been struggling with the car since Friday morning, and we only started to find the right direction with the set-up on the final run in third practice this morning. That meant I went into qualifying quite under-prepared. After that, we ran the soft tyre for the second run, and I had some graining at the end of the lap. I made a mistake in the last corner which cost me two tenths -- and that meant I didn't make it. All we can do now is wait for the conditions tomorrow, and try to take advantage."
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering:
"Giancarlo has been chasing a problem with the car all weekend, and we only got fully to the bottom of it by qualifying. That meant we lost a lot of set-up time in practice and at a circuit where the R27 is not as competitive as we would like, that has cost us dearly."
"We could see in the first qualifying round that Heikki would be right on the cusp of the top ten, and in attempting to make it through he had to take some unusual risks with the car. Unfortunately, it didn't come off, and it meant neither car is in the top ten. All the local forecasts are predicting heavy rain tomorrow, and that is always an equalizer in terms of performance. Regardless, though, these are not good positions to be starting from."
Denis Chevrier, Head of Engine Track Operations:
"To qualify fourteenth and eighteenth is clearly a big disappointment that we must attribute primarily to a poor level of competitiveness today. While morning practice had suggested that Heikki might be a top-ten contender, the level playing field in qualifying proved this was not the case today. Of course, we are aware that conditions tomorrow afternoon are predicted to be wet, and we need to see what the race brings. But we have not made our job any easier with today's performance."