Renault was left lamenting poor fortune in the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai at the weekend, after a front row grid slot for Fernando Alonso was unable to be converted into any points at the chequered flag – with the Spaniard revealing that 'everything turned against' the team when the heavens opened.
Having lined up alongside pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel in qualifying, Alonso was not unrealistic enough to contend that a podium position or even victory was in his sights, but he was certainly aiming to score points – something that in the conditions, similarly proved out of reach for the Régie
On light fuel, the double Formula 1 World Champion pitted under the initial safety car period, but the strategic gamble proved to be misguided after the race proper got underway sooner than his team had anticipated. That left the 27-year-old at the rear of the field, with as many pit-stops remaining as most of his rivals and with a heavy car to-boot. It was not, he confessed, an enviable task.
“It's a disappointing end to a weekend where we showed a lot of potential,” rued the man from Oviedo, just ninth at the chequered flag. “The team have done a great job to improve the car, which was very competitive, especially when we qualified on the front row. However, [in the race] we were unlucky and I think it was one of those days when you take decisions at the wrong moment and everything seems to turn against you.
“We thought that the safety car would be out for the next ten or 15 laps so we came in to get fuel, but at the same time the safety car came in so we found ourselves starting the race last. We were on the first row on the grid and all of a sudden we were last, so that was the end of our race. Bahrain will be another big test and then we have Barcelona, so we need to keep improving.”
Still, at least Alonso fared better than young team-mate Nelsinho Piquet, who for the third outing in succession failed to make much of an impression as he comes under increasing pressure to hang onto his seat at the Enstone-based outfit. Following a series of spins in the treacherous conditions, the 23-year-old eventually took the chequered flag 16th and last with a fastest lap time more than a second shy of that of the sister R29.
“The conditions were so difficult,” explained the son of former triple title-winner Nelson Piquet, “with really poor visibility and aquaplaning, so just keeping the car on the track wasn't easy. I had a few moments during the race but managed to keep the car going, although I lost a lot of time and dropped to the back of the pack.
“It was a disappointing weekend, but I'm now looking forward to Bahrain where hopefully we will have a dry race and some developments on the car.”
After the opening three grands prix of the 2009 campaign, Renault F1 sits just equal fifth in the constructors' title chase with a mere four points to its name – a far cry from pre-season expectations. The French concern's managing director Flavio Briatore admitted that improvements cannot come soon enough – to rescue the team's challenge before it is too late.