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 Régie
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.