Renault believes Nelsinho Piquet 'could have been on the podium' in the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne at the weekend – but admitted that its overall performance was not up to scratch or expectations and has vowed to do better in Malaysia in just under a week's time.
Despite only beginning the race 14th – following the penalties meted out to McLaren-Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and the two Toyota drivers – Piquet benefited from the chaos at the start to immediately leap up into the top ten, and from thereon in he performed solidly, lying in seventh position at the time of the first safety car period.
However, his race would soon rapidly unravel, as at the re-start the Brazilian went for a pass on Nico Rosberg ahead of him, only to find he had no brakes as he approached turn one at high speed, sending him spinning into the gravel trap and ending his challenge on the spot.
“I was really happy,” the 23-year-old admitted, “because we were lucky at the beginning of the race to gain some positions. The car was good and I was having a consistent drive, but when the safety car came out I started to have some problems with the brakes.
“I had a good re-start and overtook Nico Rosberg, but when I touched the brakes again they were gone. I spun out and I was lucky I ended up in the gravel, so there was no damage to myself or the car.
“The car was not as competitive as we wanted it to be in the race, but we were still running in the top eight. The Malaysian circuit should suit us better, and I'm sure that we can get a good result there next week.”
Former double Formula 1 World Champion team-mate Fernando Alonso, for his part, was one of those drivers caught up in the first corner mêlée – and the Spaniard spent the rest of the grand prix playing catch-up, ultimately being classified fifth following the demotion of Toyota star Jarno Trulli.
The 27-year-old was particularly critical of the benefits – or rather lack of – of the controversial new KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) technology that he was trialling for the first time in race conditions.
“Fifth place is not the best result,” he acknowledged, “but in a way we have to be happy because we started the race in a difficult position and I was pushed wide at turn one onto the grass and dropped to the back of the pack. After that it was difficult, so it's great to score points.