Having earlier stated that he hoped Renault would be able to take the fight to current Formula 1 pace-setters Brawn GP and Red Bull Racing [see separate story - click here] in the Bahrain Grand Prix - the fourth round on the 2009 world championship calendar - Nelsinho Piquet has revised his opinion somewhat following the opening day of practice in Sakhir.

The Brazilian is running with the R?gie's new 'double-decker' split-level diffuser for the first time this weekend - used to spectacular effect by team-mate Fernando Alonso a week ago in Shanghai, in qualifying on the front row of the grid for the Chinese Grand Prix - but though the former double F1 World Champion was once again right on the leading pace in the desert kingdom, Piquet was not...

"I've had a solid start to the weekend," the 23-year-old contended after lapping respectively 13th and 15th-quickest in Friday's two practice sessions. "I ran with the new diffuser for the first time today, although it's difficult to know how much extra performance it gives the car.

"I think we still need to improve the car in the final practice session tomorrow, but we managed to get some good data today. I hope I can have a strong qualifying session, but I think it will be tough to reach the top ten shoot-out."

Alonso, for his part, has not started outside the top ten yet this year, and after languishing down in a lowly 18th place early on, the Spaniard worked hard to haul himself up to second by the close of play, just over two tenths shy of Williams' Nico Rosberg.

"We had very hot track and ambient conditions today - even hotter than we had in Malaysia," confirmed the man from Oviedo at the end of a busy day's preparations. "We therefore concentrated on evaluating the brake cooling for race conditions and also compared the tyre compounds to make sure that the tyres work well in these temperatures. We're happy with the work we have done today, and we managed to complete our programme."

"The Bahrain circuit is our first hard-braking circuit of the year," summarised the Enstone-based outfit's executive director of engineering Pat Symonds, "and ranks among the hardest for the total braking system. In view of this, we spent a lot more time today on heavier than normal fuel loads, concentrating on our set-up for Sunday.

"Later in the session, we seemed to get some competitive times out of the car. As always on a Friday, the timesheet is not a complete reflection of competitiveness, but we are confident that we have moved the car forward since the beginning of the year."