The ING Renault F1 Team enjoyed mixed fortunes this afternoon during qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Heikki Kovalainen qualified in a strong seventh position, reflecting the team's current competitiveness relative to its rivals....
The ING Renault F1 Team enjoyed mixed fortunes this afternoon during qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.
Heikki Kovalainen qualified in a strong seventh position, reflecting the team's current competitiveness relative to its rivals. As was shown on the world broadcast, however, the Finn was lucky to make it through the second knockout round of qualifying when, between the two Lesmo curves on Heikki's timed lap, Rubens Barrichello's Honda was pulling back onto the circuit in front of him following an off-track excursion. This meant Heikki was unable to improve his time on his second lap, but he still qualified in P10 by just a few hundredths of a second.
Running behind his team-mate, Giancarlo Fisichella suffered even more from the Brazilian's actions, as the slow-moving car was on the racing line when Fisico approached the corner and forced him to take evasive action that compromised his lap. As a result, the Italian qualified only 15th. This will leave him with a mountain to climb during his home Grand Prix tomorrow afternoon on a circuit where overtaking is notoriously difficult.
Heikki Kovalainen: 7th
"This was another good qualifying effort from the whole team. The session went smoothly from my point of view, without any real problems. I was a bit lucky to make it through second qualifying by just a few hundredths of a second after I lost time when Barrichello went off track, but what goes around comes around and we have missed out by very small margins sometimes this year too. For the final laps, the set-up was working well and I was feeling confident with the car."
"I did a good first lap, and then went for broke on the second one and took a few risks. It didn't pay off, but I think Kubica was a bit too far in front today anyway, so I didn't lose any positions. We saw in Turkey that the picture can change between qualifying and the race, and hopefully we will see the same trend tomorrow. I will set my sights on trying to race with BMW."
Giancarlo Fisichella: 15th
"My qualifying session was ruined by Barrichello. He went off the track, and then pulled back onto the racing line as I was braking for the second Lesmo. I lost 0.27s there, and then more later on as I tried to make up the time. If you go off track, you cannot just pull back on at any point of the circuit without using your mirrors and ruin other people's laps. I am just so disappointed because the car was working well, and nobody wants to start their home Grand Prix from so far back. It is going to be tough but I won't give up, and hopefully we can use our pace to make up positions."
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering
"Heikki's qualifying position reflects precisely where we felt we were in terms of our relative performance. His car is quite nicely balanced, and using its tyres well, so we can expect a strong race from him. Giancarlo has been quick all weekend, and it was very unfortunate that he did not make it into the final part of qualifying through no fault of his own. One hopes that Barrichello's deliberate decision to pull back onto the racing line is recognised but even if it is, that is scant recompense for the victim."
Denis Chevrier, Head of Engine Track Operations
"Heikki's position on the grid is a fair reflection of our potential today. The times from practice this morning made it clear that the battle for places in the top ten would be very close, and that we would need everything to go perfectly to make it through with both cars. Unfortunately, that didn't happen today."
"We had hoped for better than seventh and fifteenth positions, but our challenge is now to make the most of them. The engines are performing well, and both cars are competitive in terms of top speed. Giancarlo will be hoping for some incidents ahead of him to make up positions, while Heikki will try and race aggressively against the cars in front."