Fernando Alonso was second fastest in first qualifying at Imola, but is only a whisker away from pole. What will Renault do to give him the best chance of a hat-trick? Crash.net spoke exclusively to the team's engineering and strategy guru, Pat Symonds.

Q:
Fernando is only 0.003secs behind Kimi. How does that affect your thinking in terms of fuel loads for Sunday morning?

Pat Symonds:
I don't think the gap causes too many problems, to be honest. Yes, it's a really small gap. A lap of fuel here is a tenth of a second basically, so if it was a tenth of a second the same thing would be going through your mind. The fact that it's three-thousandths doesn't really matter. All you can do, and it's no different here to anyone else even though it's closer, is look at the patterns of what you think people do, and you respond to it. You can't read their minds. I don't know whether Raikkonen is stopping on lap two or lap 200. Nothing that they do in the whole weekend can give me that information, until possibly it's too late, to react to it. It doesn't alter the way I go about things. I do the same statistical analysis I always do. Equally, I don't think pole is everything. In fact with our starts you could argue that if you take pole you've wasted a lap of fuel or something. In some ways you might say the ideal place for a Renault to start is second or third. Really the fact it's close doesn't alter anything.
Q:
What are the key issues that you have to consider?

PS:
I tell you what's tricky here. I rank this circuit with Monaco and Hungary and terms of passing. It's much more tricky to make sure you get it right because you know there's no way through if you get it wrong. It all has to be done on grid positions and pit stops. I have to say I feel reasonably confident with what we've done with Fernando. He's done very few laps this weekend, and that's a pretty impressive weekend.

Q:
Is three stops the obvious choice, if you know you're going to start from the front?

PS:
The further up you are, the wider your choice is, there's no doubt about that. But no, I wouldn't quite put it as a no-brainer. To be honest it's very late in the night on Saturday before I make the final decision, but I've got a pretty good idea of what we're going to do!

Q:
Fisi had a big moment on his lap. What happened?

PS:
He did at first think he made a mistake, but in actual fact there was a little glitch as he was braking, which created a huge oversteer. Without that, it wasn't a bad lap, although it wasn't Fernando's lap. It was out of his control, and I can see how to sort it for tomorrow. I thought he'd made a mistake until we looked at it in a bit more detail, and I think he did as well.

Q:
He's had a bad run recently. What has that done for his confidence?

PS:
He's a much, much stronger character than he was a few years ago, and he'll bounce back. It is going to be difficult for him from where he is, but the circuit we're going to next in Barcelona, and he was incredible fast in testing. He'll get back. The rules are such that you can get into a bit of a rut. You have a bad race and then you're qualifying at the wrong time of day, and it does drag you down a bit. You need a half reasonable result to get out of it.

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