Renault F1 director of engineering Pat Symonds has revealed that he is targeting a similar turn-around in the team's performance to the one he oversaw in 2008, determined to raise the regie
to a top three position.
The Enstone team currently trails the likes of Ferrari, Williams and McLaren - outfits all deemed to have had a disappointing first half to the season - and languishes in seventh place in the constructors' championship with just eleven points, all scored by double world champion Fernando Alonso. Symonds admits that the situation is similar to last year, where Renault made a slow start to the campaign after struggling in pre-season testing, but remains determined to engineer an upturn in form so that the team is regularly ahead of the midfield pack.
A similar surge in 2008 saw Alonso turn from suggestions that he may be able to leave the team under various performance-related clauses in his contract to winning the events in Singapore and Japan, eventually re-signing for another season. Speculation that he may be on his way to Ferrari refuses to go away after eight rounds of 2009, but Symonds is keen to see Renault's form improve to the point where the Spaniard can again be a frontrunner.
"We are in a similar position to last year, when we said that we wanted to end the season with the third fastest car," he noted, "Doing that this year is probably more difficult as the middle bunch of teams is much tighter and we have limitations on where we can develop. But finishing the season with the third fastest car still has to be the target, although where that leaves us in the championship standings is difficult to predict."
As with the majority of its rivals, Renault continues to tweak its R29 between races although, with the testing ban, is having to do much of its evaluation during the opening day of grands prix meetings. That will continue at the Nurburgring this weekend, with Alonso and Piquet hoping to reap the rewards of the unusual three-week gap between races since Silverstone.
"We had certainly hoped for a better result [in the British GP]," Symonds admitted, "In free practice, we were more or less in our usual position but, in the third part of qualifying, we did not perform at the level we expected to. Then we had a poor start to the race and spent a lot of time stuck in traffic, which made it very difficult to recover. However, when we did have some clean air, the car's pace was about where we expected it to be and so, while the result wasn't good enough, it's perhaps not as bad as it appeared.
"As always, we are concentrating our attention on aero as it's still the fundamental element that brings the most speed to the car. But, rather than just putting parts on the car, we're also working on the usability of that aero, exploring the aero mapping so that we get the most from the car in every corner.
"New developments are introduced at every race and we've got a reasonable upgrade for the Nürburgring, which includes a further version of the new front wing that we evaluated at Silverstone. We're also hoping to have some new rear wheel fairings and an updated engine cover as well as some mechanical upgrades."
Despite scoring points on just four occasions in the opening eight rounds, Alonso remains optimistic that Symonds and his design team can find the key to unlocking the performance of the R29 as he seeks to improve on his current ninth position in the drivers' championship.