To come away from a qualifying session that had promised to deliver so much with just 15th and 16th positions was agonising for Renault in Singapore this weekend – particularly with pole position tip Fernando Alonso predicting it will now take 'a miracle' to regain ground on race day in the Far Eastern city-state.
The former double Formula 1 World Champion had not only gone quickest in both FP2 and FP3 around the all-new Marina Bay Street Circuit, but he had left the opposition – title contenders Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa amongst them – fairly trailing in his wheeltracks in the latter, sealing the top spot by the margin of more than six tenths of a second.
Great things were consequently expected of the Spaniard in qualifying, but having made it comfortably through Q1, a fuel supply issue on his first effort in Q2 spelt disaster for the 27-year-old – consigning him to a lowly 15th spot on the starting grid, one place ahead of rookie team-mate Nelsinho Piquet, who compounded the French concern's misery by failing to make it beyond the opening phase of qualifying for the sixth time in 15 races.
“It's a really big disappointment,” rued the luckless Alonso, “because we had a real chance to do something special today – perhaps not pole position, but to at least qualify in the top four. Our weekend was going really well and we had big hopes for this evening.
“I know that starting in the middle of the pack will make for a difficult race, and I will need a miracle with the strategy to be able to make progress on this street circuit where it looks difficult to overtake.”
“I'm disappointed with my session,” echoed the under-fire Piquet. “The car was working well and I was happy with the balance at the end of the final free practice session earlier this evening, but in qualifying we could not repeat that. The race tomorrow will be tricky, but once again I will do all I can to fight back through the field.”
Having looked set to take a quantum leap forward in its fraught battle with Toyota for the highly-prized fourth position in the constructors' world championship this weekend, the Régie
now sees both of its cars starting behind both of the Japanese machines – but executive director of engineering Pat Symonds insisted that the team would 'never give up' and would 'be creative' in its efforts to turn the tables on race day.
“All the way through practice Fernando has shown a potential on this wonderful new circuit better than we have had all year,” the Englishman underlined. “That makes it doubly frustrating to have this problem in qualifying which prevented Fernando and the team from showing what we could have done. As a team we never give up, though, and as it is apparently difficult to overtake here, we will have to be creative!”
“At the moment we can only look at the data on our systems,” added Renault's head of engine track operations Denis Chevrier, “and so we have to wait to recover Fernando's car to understand exactly what happened.
“It is of course an enormous disappointment, because we were in a position to aim for a great result this evening. We now have to decide our strategy for tomorrow, but we can be sure that our drivers will do everything to progress in the race.”