Renault have confessed that the gap separating them from the top teams in Formula 1 at the moment is 'significant' – despite both Fernando Alonso and Nelsinho Piquet lining up inside the top ten on the starting grid for only the third time in 2008 in Budapest this weekend.
The two R28s will take the start of the Hungarian Grand Prix from seventh and tenth positions respectively, a race in which the former achieved the maiden triumph of his career in the top flight with the Régie
back in 2003.
“We knew the qualifying session would be very close,” the Spanish former double F1 World Champion reflected, “and that proved to be the case. The first part was very competitive, but we managed to reach Q3 with both cars, which is positive. I think the race will be difficult, that's for sure, but I will try and do my best to be on the pace and hopefully score some points.”
“The session was very competitive,” agreed Piquet, “and more difficult than I had thought it would be. In the end I managed to reach Q3, and I am happy about that. It means we can approach the race sensibly, and I hope we can make the most of this grid position to score some points.”
Those thoughts were echoed by the Enstone-based outfit's executive director of engineering Pat Symonds, whilst Renault's head of engine track operations Denis Chevrier painted a somewhat more sober picture, insisting that much work remains if the French concern is to regain the type of form it displayed en route
to its back-to-back world championship successes in 2005 and 2006.
“As always, the homework done during our free practice sessions has paid off by getting both cars into the final part of qualifying,” Symonds affirmed, “with fuel loads that we believe can help us have a competitive race. As everybody knows, it is really difficult to pass on this track and so after a good qualifying session, pit-stops are now of extreme importance.”
“Our objective was to reach the top ten and we achieved that,” added Chevrier, “but the gap with the leaders is significant. As Fernando said at the start of the weekend, we had to fight hard to finish in the top ten because that is the situation we are in at the moment.
“With these places on the grid we are now preparing for a closely-fought race, but we have a sensible strategy. Each lap will count, and we must not make any mistakes.”