Considering that he propped up the timesheets on day one in Valencia – almost two-and-a-half seconds adrift of the front-running pace – Robert Kubica's pronouncement that Renault's new 30 is 'not much slower' than the Ferrari F10 might appear fanciful, but that is exactly what the Pole believes.
Kubica improved from eighth position to fourth on the second day of pre-season F1 2010 testing around the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in the Spanish city, narrowing the gap separating him from Ferrari's pace-setter Felipe Massa to just seven tenths of a second, and winding up sixth-quickest outright of the 15 drivers in attendance over the course of the three days.
Whilst over a single lap the strikingly-liveried R30 – whose design, critics have opined, looks rather too similar to its unloved and uncompetitive R29 predecessor – lagged behind a little bit, the former Canadian Grand Prix-winner is adamant that in the right circumstances, it can be a contender, as he similarly backed McLaren-Mercedes to shine.
“Perhaps it is because we have a shorter car than our competitors,” the 25-year-old Kraków native told German publication Auto Motor und Sport
. “With full tanks, we are in the running – I think in those conditions we are not much slower than Ferrari. [The R30] just looks like the old car, but it is new, and clearly the McLaren [looks good too]. At the rear area they have a few very interesting aerodynamic solutions.”
2010 Renault team-mate and grand prix debutant Vitaly Petrov took over inside the cockpit for the third and final day of running, with the highly-rated Russian – the first of his countrymen ever to graduate to the very highest level – completing 75 laps as he focussed upon getting himself acquainted with his new surroundings, having never previously driven an F1 car at all.
“I really enjoyed my first day in the car and everything went well,” reported the 'Vyborg Rocket' after successfully completing the technical programme entrusted to him and ending proceedings eleventh overall, just under seven tenths away from Kubica. “The car is very impressive compared with a GP2 car, and I enjoyed experiencing the power and braking performance. After about 30 laps I was starting to feel comfortable and understanding the limits of the car. It was also my first chance to work with my engineers and so far everything is going really well, so I was happy with the day.”
“This was Vitaly's first day in the R30 and we concentrated on getting him comfortable and familiar with the car,” corroborated the Enstone-based outfit's chief race engineer Alan Permane. “There's a lot for him to get used to in terms of the brakes, power and extra downforce, but he adapted well and did a good job. Overall, our first week with the car has been successful and we've come away with a lot of valuable knowledge. We're now looking forward to building on this work at Jerez next week.”