Renault is capable of winning a grand prix or two in 2009, contends double Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso - but in order to do so, the team will need a bit of luck.

Alonso took the chequered flag sixth in the European Grand Prix on home turf in Valencia at the weekend, following a solid if unspectacular performance during which he pushed his R29 absolutely as fast as it would go. With just six races now remaining until the end of the season, time is running out for the R?gie to break its 2009 duck, but then the same situation existed last year too, and the Oviedo native went on to triumph in two of the last four grands prix. A repeat is not necessarily out of the question, he suggests.

"Sixth place is the best I could do for my home grand prix," underlined the 28-year-old, "and the three points are a good result considering that we started eighth. It was a very tough race, first of all because of the heat but also because it was a very competitive race and I had to push all the way, constantly fighting to keep my position.

"We were quick all weekend, though, and therefore I'm quite confident we can keep this pace and deliver an even better result in Spa. I think we need some help from the others [to win]. It is the same as last year in Singapore, where we had some help from the safety car and I took the benefits from a lucky moment in the race, and also in Fuji, where some cars went off track in turn one.

"Without those things I would not have been able to win any races last season, [and] this year is more-or-less the same. We still need a couple of tenths to be able to win a race, maybe three or four tenths to be competitive enough to win. At the moment we are just behind that first group."

Alonso's new team-mate Romain Grosjean's Valencia weekend, by contrast, was very much one of two halves, with the Swiss-born Frenchman impressing on his F1 debut throughout practice and qualifying by lining up 14th on the grid, less than four tenths of a second adrift of the sister R29 in Q2.

The GP2 Series graduate then went and blotted his copybook somewhat, however, with a 'rookie' error in running into Ferrari returnee Luca Badoer on only the opening lap of the grand prix, necessitating a trip back to the pits for a new nosecone and a long afternoon en route to an eventual 15th spot at the chequered flag - though notably, he did succeed in setting a better fastest lap time than Alonso along the way.

"Unfortunately the first lap didn't go well for me," confessed the 23-year-old, "but during the race there were a lot of positives and I gained some valuable experience. At the start of the race I had to really concentrate and pay attention to everything that was happening around me, and after that I just tried to be consistent and set some good lap times. It's clear that I must do better next weekend in Spa, and I will aim to put the experience I have gained in Valencia to good use."

Nonetheless, Grosjean certainly impressed Renault F1 managing director Flavio Briatore on his grand prix bow, with the Italian confident of an even better showing from both drivers in the Belgian Grand Prix at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit in just a handful of days' time.

"Fernando's race was compromised by qualifying," stated the 59-year-old, "but he did the best he could and brought home three points. Romain did a very good job throughout his first grand prix, and I'm sure he will improve rapidly during the rest of the season. The car is competitive, and we can hopefully do better next week in Belgium on a more 'traditional' track than here in Valencia."

"After the problem in qualifying, Fernando showed good pace during the race," concurred the Enstone-based outfit's executive director of engineering Pat Symonds, "but on this circuit it was difficult to do more than the result we've come away with and we certainly welcome the points.

"Romain was unfortunate to have an incident on the first lap, but from that point he just had to settle down to a steady race and see how the car behaved over a race distance. He did this very well, and we are really pleased that he finished his first race."

"I think we have come away with as many points as we could," added the French concern's head of engine operations Remi Taffin, "and considering the disappointment of qualifying, to finish sixth is a good result. Unfortunately Romain had an incident on the opening lap, but overall he had a strong race and showed good pace.

"We have now finished an engine cycle, which means that the engines have completed their third grand prix and they have worked very well for us. We will be able to use them again during certain sessions later in the year, but we will have new engines for Spa which should help us be competitive next weekend."


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