The Renault F1 Team experienced a frantic qualifying session this afternoon at the historic Monza autodrome ahead of tomorrow's Italian Grand Prix. The team's two cars will start fifth and tenth on the grid, but the numbers give only the bare ...
The Renault F1 Team experienced a frantic qualifying session this afternoon at the historic Monza autodrome ahead of tomorrow's Italian Grand Prix.
The team's two cars will start fifth and tenth on the grid, but the numbers give only the bare bones of a dramatic afternoon in Italy.
The R26 has demonstrated a strong level of performance during the weekend, combined with strong performance from the Michelin tyres, both in terms of first lap pace and consistency on longer runs. The team therefore went into qualifying with high hopes, and made it through comfortably to the final knockout session.
However, it was during the fuel burning phase of third qualifying that problems struck for Fernando Alonso. A punctured right rear tyre caught him out under braking for the first chicane, costing him a long lap at slow speed to make it back to the pits -- and inflicting severe damage on the right rear bodywork of the car.
In spite of this handicap, magnified at a circuit like Monza where aero efficiency is so important, he was able to complete two timed runs -- and only made it over the line by two seconds for his final flying lap. Fernando demonstrated a champion's composure to qualify fifth, less than half a second from pole.
Team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella will start from tenth position, and is counting on the consistency of Michelin's tyres in race conditions to help him vault up the field. An inconsistent balance on the heavier fuel load the drivers run in Q3 cost him performance, and he will be focusing on delivering consistent race pace as he climbs up the field tomorrow.
Fernando Alonso, 5th position:
"It was a day when I was lucky and unlucky. Obviously, the puncture cost me a chance to fight for the pole, with the damage it caused to the rear of the car. But equally, we had this problem at a circuit where we are competitive, and we can make up positions in the race."
"Things got very tight towards the end of Q3, and I had to really push to the limit on my out-lap to make sure I crossed the line in time. In the end, I did it with two seconds to spare. To qualify fifth after our problems is a strong start, and we know that our race pace is extremely competitive. Overall, once the damage has been fixed overnight, I think we can have a very strong race."
Giancarlo Fisichella, 10th position:
"I am only starting tenth, but I am still feeling confident. The car gets better and better on the long runs thanks to the Michelin tyres, and we know that will be of real importance in the race. I had a slightly inconsistent balance on my flying laps in the final part of qualifying, but it did not cost me a huge amount of lap time."
"Today's qualifying session was focused more on the race than on pure one-lap speed, and that makes me more optimistic that we can gain positions in the race."
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering:
"A difficult qualifying session, but one which showed everything that is good about the Renault team. We reacted quickly to Fernando's puncture, ensured the car was safe -- and some quick work by the pit crew meant he was able to cross the line for his last flying lap with just two seconds to spare. In spite of quite severe damage to the aerodynamics at the rear of the car, Fernando was able to put in an exceptional lap to qualify fifth."
"Giancarlo seemed to struggle with an inconsistent handling balance in the final session, and tenth place is a little disappointing. However, the excellent consistency of the Michelin tyres this weekend meant we were not obliged to make any compromises on our optimum race strategy to generate qualifying performance."
"Without his puncture and the damage it caused, Fernando clearly had enough pace in the car to take pole. This is a race where we may well see some variation in strategies, so even starting from the third and fifth rows, I think we can have a very good race.
Denis Chevrier, Head of Trackside Engine Operations:
"Naturally, we have mixed feelings at the end of a session like today's. Fifth and tenth are far from being the positions we had hoped for on the grid, but we know that in spite of the various on-track incidents today, the car has the pace to fight at the front of the field. Fernando showed remarkable composure to qualify fifth after such a disrupted session, and will certainly have high hopes for the race."
"Giancarlo struggled to show the same level of performance, but we need to see how the strategies unfold tomorrow. On the engine side, both V8s functioned faultlessly throughout the session -- and Fernando's D specification met out expectations with its performance. It will be a long race tomorrow, but one in which we fully expect climb through the field.