Renault has insisted that it is still very much in the fight for fourth place in the 2008 Formula 1 Constructors' World Championship - despite Fernando Alonso having endured the most miserable race of his season in front of his adoring home fans in Valencia.

The Spaniard entered the European Grand Prix weekend aiming to pull off much the same kind of impressive feat that had seen him plant his underperforming R28 on the front row of the starting grid in Barcelona four months earlier.

Though he displayed strong pace throughout both practice and in the initial phase of qualifying, that sadly was not to be, with the former double F1 World Champion - like rookie team-mate Nelsinho Piquet - paying the price for Renault's lack of engine power around the Juan Carlos I Marina circuit as he could manage only twelfth place, the first time since the season-opener in Melbourne all the way back in March that the 27-year-old had failed to make the top ten.

That added to the EUR10,000 fine he had been handed for having crossed the white line on the exit of the pit-lane during Friday practice, and was compounded by his opening lap retirement, after being assaulted by the Williams of Kazuki Nakajima just a matter of seconds into the 57-lap race.

"After qualifying, I knew my weekend was going to be difficult," the man from Oviedo confessed afterwards. "At the start I was touched by Nakajima and I lost my rear wing. My mechanics did everything to try and allow me to continue, but my race was already compromised.

"I am extremely disappointed, because I was hoping to have a special race in my second home grand prix - and for the supporters who came here this weekend to support me. I now want to concentrate on the rest of the season and the next race in Spa."

There was little better news for Piquet, who converted 15th place on the grid to eleventh at the chequered flag, after making his one-stop strategy eventually pay off - but not sufficiently to enable him to challenge for points.

"The first lap was rough," the 23-year-old Brazilian asserted, echoing Alonso's comments. "I was in the middle of the pack and lost several positions. After that I tried to fight back, but my front wing was damaged and it was difficult to overtake.

"It's a shame that we couldn't get into the top ten, but I hope we can have a better race in Spa for the Belgian Grand Prix in a couple of weeks' time."

Indeed, with Toyota getting both of its drivers into the points in Valencia, the Japanese outfit has opened up a ten-point advantage over its French rival in the hotly-disputed battle over fourth spot in the constructors' rankings - a fact far from lost on either the R?gie's managing director Flavio Briatore or executive director of engineering Pat Symonds.

"It's a weekend to forget," Briatore dismissed. "Our objective remains to fight for fourth place in the championship, and we must now stay focussed for the races to come and continue with our efforts to grow stronger."

"It's very disappointing to leave this wonderful new track with no points," agreed Symonds. "We are particularly sorry not to have had a better race with Fernando for his second home grand prix, but we must now move forward and think of the next race."


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