Fernando Alonso made sure his recent stellar form in the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship carried on into the season finale in Brazil this weekend – by logging the quickest time in opening free practice at Interlagos.
The Spaniard has been by some margin the sport's highest-scoring driver over the last five races – thanks in no small part to his unexpected but magnificent and richly-deserved Singapore and Japanese triumphs – and though he may not expect to be able to fight for victory again in São Paulo, the backdrop to his two world title-clinching glories, out-pacing the rest of the pack in FP2 has given him hope of another strong podium push.
On a cool and overcast day interspersed with a scattering of light showers, both Alonso and rookie team-mate Nelsinho Piquet completed a large number of laps of the Autodromo Carlos Pace, each winding up comfortably inside the top ten in both sessions to end the morning respectively sixth and eighth on the timesheets and the afternoon first and seventh.
“The day has gone well,” affirmed the man from Oviedo, reflecting on a productive first day of set-up work and tyre evaluation. “We have been able to complete our programme without any problems, and we have recorded lots of interesting data. We still need to work hard to improve the car in time for tomorrow, but I'm pleased with my day.”
“I did lots of laps today,” added Piquet, competing in front of his home fans as an F1 driver for the first time, “which was what I wanted as I needed to find the limits of the circuit.
“The initial information we have is interesting, but the track was very slippery today so I think I can still find some more speed and I can still improve the set-up of the car with my engineers. On the whole the result from this first day of practice is encouraging.”
Having already sewn up the coveted fourth spot in the constructors' rankings, Renault has nothing to lose and equally nothing to gain this weekend – but it does see the race as a final opportunity to fire a warning shot that in 2009 it will be back with a bang.
“It was a typical Friday for us,” stated the French concern's executive director of engineering Pat Symonds. “We covered lots of laps and have been able to complete our usual programme, which included set-up work and tyre evaluation. The data looks encouraging, although the general balance of the car is not yet where we would like it to be.”
“We achieved our objective for today, which was to run as much as possible and to complete our technical programme,” added the Régie's
head of engine track operations Denis Chevrier. “It's difficult to understand the pecking order from today's sessions, but we are satisfied with the work we've done and we're in a good position heading into the qualifying session tomorrow, which will determine the rest of our weekend.”