Fernando Alonso is anticipating a strong performance from Renault in this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, as the French concern bids to fight back from a dismal European Grand Prix a fortnight ago and regain ground on Toyota in the fraught battle over fourth spot in the constructors' title chase.

Alonso was hit from behind by the Williams of Kazuki Nakajima on the opening lap of his second 'home' race of the campaign in Valencia, and with rookie team-mate Nelsinho Piquet failing to score into the bargain, the result marked one of Renault's worst of the season - and saw the R?gie slip to some ten points adrift of Toyota in the all-important constructors' scrap.

"I knew that my weekend would be difficult after qualifying," the phlegmatic Spaniard reflected of his European Grand Prix outing. "Starting so far down the field at a street circuit is never where you want to be. 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 was 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 a favourite track of most drivers on the Formula 1 grid, and former double world champion Alonso is no exception. He has finished two of his four races around the spectacular Ardennes circuit up on the podium, and though he acknowledges a similar result is unlikely on this occasion, he is nevertheless optimistic of adding to his points account.

"Spa is one of those exceptional circuits on the Formula 1 calendar," the 27-year-old, 19-time grand prix winner explained. "Like all the older circuits, there is always a very special and warm atmosphere.

"For the drivers, Spa is an unbelievable challenge and is a very enjoyable place to drive a Formula 1 car. I have never won at Spa, but I hope that one day I can add a win here to my list of achievements.

"It's a very long circuit, which generally emphasises the gaps between the cars. It requires a very complete car, so we will have to work hard on the set-up to make sure we are competitive in the quick sections as well as in the slower corners. The compression in Eau Rouge is still an impressive part of the circuit.

"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."

Those sentiments were echoed by the Enstone-based outfit's executive director of engineering Pat Symonds, who attributed the squad's European Grand Prix woes to its poor qualifying pace and remained confident that Spa should mark the resumption of normal business once again.

"We were certainly left disappointed," the Englishman admitted of Valencia, "and the source of our problems seemed to be qualifying, where we underperformed. If Fernando had managed a couple of clean laps in Q2, I think he would have been comfortably through to the final part of qualifying.

"As it was, the rest of the weekend was a direct result of our poor qualifying because starting in the midfield bunch always puts you at risk, just as Fernando found out. Nelson suffered similar trouble on the opening lap as he was held up with Fernando's accident and then tangled with [David] Coulthard.

"Spa is such a contrast with where we've just been. Valencia was a circuit where we were quite restricted with what we could do to gain performance, and I don't think the drivers found it particularly challenging, except maybe the final sector. Spa is the complete opposite - it's very much a drivers' circuit, and requires a car that has good stability through the quick corners.

"We'll be running with medium downforce, but overall you need good aerodynamic efficiency, because you have to find the right trade-off between straight-line speed and downforce through the quick corners. The more aerodynamically-efficient your car is, the more it pays you back."

Payback is certainly what Renault is seeking following a tough start to the 2008 campaign, but as they have increasingly managed to get a handle on the R28, so the former world champions have climbed back ever-nearer to the upper reaches of the pecking order. Symonds well recognises that such a trend must continue this weekend if the team's goal of fourth position is to be accomplished come season's end.

"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 pointed out. "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.

"It's a tough battle and we know it's going to be hard work. With six races to go [Toyota] have ten points' advantage on us, which is a reasonable lead, especially when you consider that we are fighting for the smaller points-paying positions. The nature of Formula 1 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.

"I think it has always been tight. It's not something new, and 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.

"We never underestimate anyone and we need to fight hard, but I do believe that we have what it takes, as a team, to beat them (Toyota). 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.

"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."


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