Fernando Alonso proved that Renault's confidence after Friday practice in Belgium was well-founded, as he delivered the French concern its best starting position in three races at Spa-Francorchamps this weekend – and gave the lie to suggestions that the Régie's
powerplant is not producing enough horses around one of Formula 1's most engine-dependent circuits.
Having topped the times on Friday afternoon – and lapped third-quickest on Saturday morning – the Spaniard entered the three-part, 60-minute qualifying session in buoyant frame of mind. In ending Q3 with the sixth-best time to his name, he duly delivered.
“I am satisfied,” the 27-year-old former double F1 World Champion reflected afterwards. “We know that in normal conditions it's very difficult to finish in the top four, and that to finish in fifth or sixth place is a good result.
“That means we have done a solid job today. We now have a real chance to get a strong result tomorrow, which is important for the championship. I'm quite confident.”
Alonso's rookie team-mate Nelsinho Piquet was less fortunate, falling in Q2 as he missed the Q3 cut-off point by less than two tenths of a second. Nevertheless, from twelfth on the grid and around a track on which it is far from impossible to pass, the young Brazilian is confident that he can still get amongst the points-scorers on race day.
“I'm disappointed not to make Q3,” the 23-year-old rued, “as I was in a position to be able to do that. I was on the pace, but my final run in Q2 just wasn't enough to get me through to the top ten. I am now going to work with my engineers to be well-prepared for tomorrow, and I will do my best to progress in the race and aim to finish in the points.”
Those sentiments were shared by both the Enstone-based outfit's executive director of engineering Pat Symonds, and Renault's head of engine track operations Denis Chevrier, as the squad bids to claw back some ground on rivals Toyota – who hold a ten-point advantage in the hotly-contested scrap over fourth place in the constructors' title standings, but whose cars will begin only eleventh and 13th in Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix.
“Our optimism from yesterday was fulfilled in qualifying with a very competitive session from Fernando,” asserted Symonds. “Nelson also looked strong, but he missed reaching the final part of qualifying by a very small margin. Spa normally produces good races, and we look forward to it tomorrow.”
“Once again, we saw that qualifying is challenging,” added Chevrier. “The first four places are still out of reach, but the sixth place for Fernando is a reason to be satisfied because it means we can hope to score some points tomorrow.
“Of course, we must not make any mistakes and look after our tyres because all the teams are close here, but I think it will be an interesting race on a circuit that is challenging for the cars and the drivers. Nelson must get ready for a difficult race, but we'll do everything to help him progress.”