Mark Webber put Red Bull Racing firmly back inside the top ten on the starting grid for this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps – what he acknowledged as being an 'encouraging' showing as the energy drinks-backed squad bids to regain vital ground in the battle over fourth spot in the Formula 1 Constructors' World Championship.
The Aussie was quick throughout the 60-minute session, and his performance – coming as it does around a circuit renowned for favouring high horsepower – was a shot in the arm for engine-supplier Renault, which came under fire after none of its four cars could qualify any higher than twelfth last time out in the European Grand Prix.
“We've got more pace here than in Valencia,” Webber affirmed. “It was a stress to get into Q3; it was very tight as usual, and all the drivers were pretty evenly-matched so you had to find that extra few tenths to get into the final group.
“We'll see how tomorrow goes with the strategy, but we're in a reasonable position to mount an attack for some points. It's good to see Alonso and me up there today; it's encouraging for Renault and for our team, for everyone here and in Milton Keynes.”
Team-mate David Coulthard missed the Q3 cut by just over two tenths of a second, and will consequently line up just 14th for a race in which nine years ago he triumphed for McLaren-Mercedes.
“I'm not so happy with that,” rued the veteran Scot. “Fourteenth doesn't look good, but it's so tight in the midfield and we're separated by such a small margin. Let's see what we can do tomorrow.”
RBR currently sits 17 points adrift of Toyota and seven in arrears of the similarly-powered works Renault outfit in the constructors' rankings – with much work to do to catch its rivals up over the final six races of the campaign. The Milton Keynes-based concern's team principal Christian Horner is adamant those in-roads must begin on Sunday.
“That was a good qualifying session for Mark,” the Englishman reflected, “which sensibly places us on the grid for tomorrow. We dropped a bit of time at the Bus-Stop chicane, so we could have been even quicker. In such a tight qualifying session, David missed out by the smallest of margins. The field continues to be as competitive as ever.”
“It's a good result for Mark to finish in P7 on this very difficult track that demands a lot from the engine,” concurred Renault principal track support engineer Fabrice Lom. “It's good especially after our difficult experiences in Valencia. For David, it will be a bit more complicated; 14th is not so high up, and it's not easy to overtake on this track.
“It's a difficult race for everyone here, though, so let's wait and see, especially as changing weather conditions may affect things. We are beginning a cycle of two very difficult races for the engine, so even after this one we will still have to cope with Monza.”