Renault technical director Bob Bell says he is becoming increasingly satisfied with the performance of the new Renault R29 following the latest Formula One group test in Jerez.
The team endured a disappointing start to life with the new car during its first on-track test session at Portimao, where poor weather conditions restricted the amount of meaningful running available.
However, this week's test at Jerez saw the new car begin to show its potential, with Fernando Alonso setting the third quickest time on the final day, beaten only by Sebastien Bourdais' 2008-spec Toro Rosso and the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton complete with a hybrid 2008-spec rear wing.
“It's still very early days, but I'm becoming increasingly more satisfied with the performance of the car,” Bell reflected. “Obviously the Portimao test was a disappointment to us as we only had one dry day and although the car ran well from a reliability point of view, we still had lots of unanswered performance-related questions. It's true that we didn't look great at that first test, but that was not really a surprise to us as we simply got the car out with an interim set of bodywork so that we could get miles on it, evaluate reliability and get the KERS system up and running.
“We didn't really expect to be that competitive, especially as we were learning about the set-up that is needed for this new generation of cars. Since then we've put a lot of things right at the Jerez test and I think we've made good progress. Overall I'm encouraged by what we've seen so far.
Bell added that, with further changes to come from the car as the team continues its development programme, he was confident of a strong start to the year in Melbourne next month.
“What matters is performance relative to other teams and at the moment it's very difficult to judge because everybody is running different programmes, interim bodywork and different fuel loads,” he said when asked of any underlying problems that have stopped the car topping the times. “I think things will become clearer when we approach the final winter test, but for now it's too hard to judge. However, from what we've seen in Jerez this week, I don't feel there are any fundamental problems with the car: it's well balanced and is responding well to changes.
“We're lacking a bit of grip, which is the same for everybody, but that will improve as we fit new parts to the car and continue our development up to the first race. Overall I feel we're on course to deliver a good performance in Melbourne.
“Yes, we may be slightly down in terms of relative mileage, but we had a strong end to the Jerez test and completed a race distance on Thursday and Friday without any dramas so it's not causing me any great concern at this stage.”