Double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso admitted to having plumped for an 'aggressive' strategy in order to steal pole position for the Hungarian Grand Prix from under the noses of Red Bull Racing Rivals Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber – and the Spaniard now has his sights firmly set on securing his and Renault's first podium finish of the 2009 campaign to-boot come race day in Budapest.
At the scene of his maiden victory in the top flight six years ago – when he had also sealed the top spot on the starting grid – Alonso has been in fine form all weekend, clearly buoyed by the upsurge in the competitiveness of the Régie's
hitherto underperforming R29, as first evinced with a string of fastest lap times set in the closing stages of the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring two weeks earlier.
With that progress clearly corroborated in the Hungarian heat, the 21-time grand prix-winner may confess that a second triumph around the Hungaroring remains unlikely, but a rostrum finish – his first in ten races, since the end of last season – is very much on the cars, he contends.
“The result this afternoon is fantastic!” enthused the Oviedo native, who turns 28 just three days after the grand prix. “We knew after Germany that we were more competitive and that the car had really improved with our latest updates, so we decided to take an aggressive strategy this weekend.
“Tomorrow, our aim is to finish on the podium – and starting from pole position gives us a good chance of doing that. Also, with three Renault engines filling the first three places on the grid, it's another demonstration of the superb work done by the whole team.”
There was considerably less joy, however, in the other side of the French outfit's garage, where the under-fire Nelsinho Piquet could manage no better than 15th place, more than half a second adrift of Alonso in Q2 despite now benefitting from the same aerodynamic upgrade as his team-mate.
The ninth time in ten outings in 2009 in which the young Brazilian has been out-qualified by the driver of the sister car, with suggestions that this race is his last-chance saloon to hold onto his seat, lining up on the eighth row of the starting grid around a circuit on which overtaking is nigh-on impossible – and one where this time twelve months ago he qualified tenth and took the chequered flag sixth – will scarcely have boosted his cause.
“I knew that qualifying was going to be difficult,” mused the son of triple title-winner Nelson Piquet of a miserable 24th birthday. “I managed to get a good lap in Q1, but in Q2 there was a lot of traffic and I couldn't repeat the lap time, so unfortunately I missed out on Q3. Tomorrow it's vital that we make a good start, and I will do my best to have a strong race.”
“I think after Germany we regained a lot of confidence in the car and the developments we had made to it,” summarised the Enstone-based concern's executive director of engineering, Pat Symonds. “We therefore came here intending to go racing aggressively, and by taking pole position we have accomplished the first part of our task. We now need to translate that into a good, solid finish tomorrow, hopefully on the podium.”