Renault F1's director of engineering, Pat Symonds, insists that the team's poor showing at the European Grand Prix was merely a 'blip', and that he expects to see it in the thick of the fight for fourth place in the constructors' championship at this weekend's Belgian round.

Neither Fernando Alonso or Nelson Piquet Jr were able to score points on the streets of Valencia, with the home favourite being taken out on the opening lap of the race when his rear wing was removed by the Williams of Kazuki Nakajima. Piquet came home eleventh amid claims that Renault's current engine has lost ground on its rivals, giving the regie its first point-less race since Montreal in June.

Symonds, however, claims that Valencia was a one-off and that Alonso, in particular, will be in the mix for 'best of the rest' points at Spa-Francorchamps, regardless of the demands the circuit places on engine performance.

"It's not really a question of bouncing back because we know that we have a very definite level of performance that is strong enough to allow us to run in the top ten," he surmised, "Spa is a circuit that both the drivers particularly like and where the car will be good, so I'm sure we will be back in our usual position.

"The whole team is hungry for fourth place in the championship. We recognise that our start to the season had far too much hangover from last year, but I think we recovered well from that and have shown that we can out-develop most of our rivals. We desperately want that fourth place and we are going to be fighting hard to try and get it.

"It's a tough battle and we know it's going to be hard work - with six races to go, [Toyota] has got ten points advantage on us, which is a reasonable lead, especially when you consider that we are fighting for the smaller points-paying positions. We never underestimate anyone and we need to fight hard with them, but I do believe that we have what it takes, as a team, to beat them. We know there's a lot to do and, of course, a freak result can make a big difference but, if all things are equal and we battle until the end of the season, I think it's an achievable target."

Despite the seemingly higher number of teams scrapping over the lower end of the top eight, Symonds insists that he does not think the battle is any tougher than previous seasons.

"I think it has always been tight," he claimed, "The nature of F1 and the scoring system means that the midfield teams are left to scrap over a small number of points, which generates a closely-fought championship. With the three dominant teams establishing themselves early in the season, it means that the rest of the teams are left to fight for fourth position downwards. It's not something new."

Alonso shares Symonds optimism, accepting that his Valencia retirement was a freak of timing and looking forward to making up for it at Spa this weekend.

"I knew that my weekend would be difficult after qualifying - starting so far down the field on a street circuit is never where you want to be," he admitted after missing the cut in the second phase of qualifying, "I was hit on the first lap and lost my rear wing. My mechanics did everything to try and get me back out, but my race was already compromised. I'm disappointed not to have been able to drive in front of my supporters as I wanted to give them a special race, but that's in the past now and I am looking forward to the race in Belgium.

"Spa is one of the exceptional circuits on the calendar. Like all the older circuits, there is always a very special and warm atmosphere and, for the drivers, it is an
unbelievable challenge and is a very enjoyable place to drive an F1 car. I have never won at Spa, but hope that, one day, I can add a win here to my list of achievements.

"Even though the European Grand Prix turned out to be a race to forget, we should not lower our aims. I am sure that the team is giving 100 per cent to achieve our objective and I will also give my maximum to try and get a strong result and score some points. At the beginning of the season, things were not easy, but we have improved and we are determined to continue in this direction."


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