Renault can take 'another step further forward' and continue to close the gap to the F1 2010 pace-setters in this weekend's European Grand Prix in Valencia, asserts Alan Permane – as he reflected that the Enstone-based outfit punched below its weight in Montreal last time out.
The team's star performer Robert Kubica – one of the undoubted stand-out drivers of the year to-date – ended the Canadian Grand Prix with six markers for seventh place, a solid outcome and the Pole's seventh straight points-scoring finish of the campaign, but a result that chief race engineer Permane argues could and should have been better had Renault not made costly mistakes in terms of tyre-management.
“We did come away disappointed and feeling that we probably didn't get the most from the weekend,” he candidly mused, “and it's the first race this season where we've felt that. Obviously a large part of our frustration was down to our tyre-management, because we suffered with such high degradation rate – that held us back and meant we couldn't meet our expectations.
“It was reassuring to come away with a reasonable result even though things didn't go our way. It's the first time this year that we've really seen the tyres play such an integral role in the strategy, because nobody was able to follow the usual one-stop routine. While we enjoyed the challenge of trying to make the strategy work, it's just frustrating that some teams got more out of it than us.”
Still, if Kubica was downcast about P7, then young Russian team-mate Vitaly Petrov had even less to cheer about, with the 'Vyborg Rocket' stumbling upon more of the inevitable rookie growing pains as he acclimatises to life in the top flight. A jump-start, contact with Sauber rival Pedro de la Rosa and a brace of drive-through penalties for his indiscretions left the 25-year-old a lowly 17th at the chequered flag, but Permane insists he is performing well.
“I think he should maintain the same approach that has worked for him so far this year,” stressed the Englishman. “In Montreal he did a very good job of learning the circuit and improving the car through free practice.
“Under the current regulations, though, qualifying is probably the most critical part of the weekend. He qualified 14th in Canada, which put him in the midfield battle and led to the problems he had in the race. Vitaly has already shown that he has the speed to qualify and race in the top ten, like we saw in Turkey, so it's now a question of steadily improving his consistency.”
Consistency has been something of a hallmark of Renault's season in 2010, with only one failure to score thus far as it doggedly chases down closest rival Mercedes Grand Prix for fourth spot in the constructors' standings. Whilst there is still a substantial deficit to be bridged, Permane contends that the nature of the harbourside Valencia Street Circuit and the upgrades being brought along for the race could just enable the Oxfordshire concern to make vital inroads this weekend.
“We have certainly seen an incredible rate of development this year,” he acknowledged. “If we take the gap to pole position as a measure of how much we've improved, we've seen it steadily reduce race-by-race as we've developed quicker than some of our competitors – and with the updates we have planned for this weekend, that trend will hopefully continue. We've got quite a nice upgrade coming, with a new front wing and a new floor, which we believe will take us another step further forward.