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.