Japanese GP: difficult qualifying session for ING Renault 

Written by David on September 29th, 2007 at 2:23 pmLast Update: February 16th, 2008 at 2:11 pm

Giancarlo Fisichella Renault F1Renault had a difficult qualifying session this afternoon at Fuji Speedway, after wet conditions disrupted every team’s planned programme. Neither Giancarlo Fisichella nor Heikki Kovalainen made it into the final round of qualifying, but due to an engine change penalty for Nico Rosberg they gain one position and line up tenth and 11th.

Nobody completed more than a handful of laps during third practice, following the abandonment of the session because the medical helicopter was unable to fly owing to the poor visibility. This meant that the first laps in qualifying were a step into the unknown for all the teams.

The challenge of choosing the optimum set-up was complicated by the fact that the settings used this afternoon must also be retained for the race, regardless of whether conditions are wet or dry tomorrow, owing to the fact that the cars must remain in parc fermé until the race begins. While the compromise favoured by the team meant that the drivers were unable to make it into the top ten today in full wet conditions, the team has taken a calculated risk with the set-up that it hopes will pay dividends tomorrow. Furthermore, the team will be free to choose fuel loads according to the prevailing conditions, unlike the cars starting immediately ahead of them whose fuel load is now fixed for the first stint of the race.

Giancarlo Fisichella: “It was a very tough qualifying session for me. The car’s grip level was not great, but I could probably still have made it through if I had changed to my second set of tyres a lap earlier. But the main problem was the pace of the car in this configuration, which was not quite strong enough today. Tomorrow is another day though, and we have already moved up a position thanks to Rosberg’s penalty. If the conditions develop in the right way, I think we can have a strong race.”

Heikki Kovalainen: “The balance of the car was pretty good, and I did some good clean laps in difficult conditions, but the grip just wasn’t there: the car was sliding on all four wheels in almost every corner. There’s not much more to say, because our positions reflected our pace and we were not strong enough to get into the final part of qualifying. However, we know that we made some deliberate choices because the cars are now in parc fermé until the race, and hopefully they will pay off tomorrow.”

Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering:
“Realistically, the best we could hope for this weekend in qualifying was to finish seventh and eighth behind the three top teams. Instead, we will start from P10 and P11 on the grid, with the ability to choose our fuel load depending on the conditions tomorrow, which could be a real advantage as we see how the forecast develops. The level of downforce we ran was perhaps a little lighter than ideal for today’s conditions, which meant the drivers struggled for grip, but equally this could be very favourable tomorrow at a circuit where overtaking will definitely be possible.”

Denis Chevrier, Head of Engine Track Operations: “Clearly, we are not happy to find ourselves eleventh and twelfth after a qualifying session run in difficult conditions, which other teams managed to exploit to their advantage. However, we know that the lap-times also reflect the compromise that each team has found between being competitive in today’s wet conditions and putting in a strong race performance. Both cars were very competitive in terms of straight-line speed, which suggests that our set-up was perhaps not perfectly suited to the conditions today – but this may well prove an advantage in different circumstances tomorrow.”

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