Double Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso battled hard to finish inside the points in eighth position in the Bahrain Grand Prix at the weekend – and, due to a drink pump failure meaning he had been deprived of water throughout, subsequently came close to collapsing from dehydration after stepping out of his car at the end of the race.
The Spaniard had been eyeing a handful of points in Sakhir – a circuit at which he has triumphed twice in the past – but a lone point for eighth was the 'maximum' he could achieve, he argued afterwards, having fought energetically with the Toyota of former team-mate Jarno Trulli along the way.
“We did our maximum,” the 27-year-old stressed of his performance in the oppressive heat of the desert kingdom. “The start of the race was not perfect, and we lost a position which put me down to eighth. After that nothing unusual happened during the race and there were no retirements, so we were eighth-fastest and we finished eighth. We always aim to score points, but we only scored one point so we need to improve at the next grand prix.”
Just over twelve seconds behind Alonso in the final reckoning was Renault team-mate Nelsinho Piquet, with the under-fire young Brazilian producing inarguably his most convincing performance of the 2009 season to-date to take the chequered flag in tenth place, having spent much of the race successfully frustrating the ambitions of lighter-fuelled drivers behind him, in his heavy, KERS and double diffuser-equipped R29.
“I had a strong race and the car was good,” the 23-year-old summarised. “It would have been better if I could have made the first stint shorter and the second stint longer, but overall I'm happy with the day as we had a solid race, which is what we needed. Now we must to concentrate on improving our performance for the next race.”
Indeed, the next outing for the top flight's drivers and teams will be in front of Alonso's adoring home supporters in the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona – scene of the start of the Régie's
2008 turnaround twelve months ago. With a mere five points on the board – 45 fewer than championship pace-setters Brawn GP – the 2009 turnaround needs to be swifter and more dramatic still.
“We had higher expectations for this weekend,” rued a disappointed Renault F1 managing director Flavio Briatore, “but sadly we have come away with only one point. Fernando did not have a good start, and this compromised the rest of his race despite his best efforts. Nelson had an excellent race, moving up from 15th and driving aggressively and consistently. It's just a shame that he missed out on the points.”
“It was a very tough race,” agreed the Enstone-based outfit's executive director of engineering Pat Symonds. “The conditions were very hot and the race was intense all the way through the field. Fernando lost a lot of ground with a poor start, and in such a tight field it was hard to recover from that, but our final position probably is a reflection of our competitiveness.
“Nelson had a good race, consistently lapping close to Fernando's times, but for the upcoming races we need to improve the car to turn this sort of big effort from the whole team into solid points.”
“We scored one point, but it's not a great reward for our efforts over the weekend,” concurred the French concern's head of engine operations Remi Taffin. “Everybody has worked really hard in the team and both drivers drove good races, but we only finished eighth and tenth.
“I think that our race was determined at the first corner where we lost a lot of ground, and unfortunately that put us in a difficult situation. Nevertheless, we are still moving in the right direction and that's good to see.”