After a season which produced an unexpected victory in Hungary and countless other promising performances from Fernando Alonso and Jarno Trulli, Renault engineering director Pat Symonds is already looking ahead to an improvement in 2004.

The season-ending Japanese Grand Prix may not have been the best of the year for the Enstone team, with Alonso suffering another engine failure and Trulli having to start from the back of the grid after rain washed out his qualifying effort, but Symonds was happy with the way the revised R23B had rounded out the campaign.

"It was a disappointing result," he told Renaultf1.com, "Throughout the weekend, we believed we had the potential to win with either driver. Jarno took pole on Friday, and was quick on high fuel runs, while even Fernando's ultimate qualifying position gave us a chance of winning. During the race, we showed our confidence wasn't misplaced, but circumstances intervened to prevent us from achieving what we were capable of.

"We would very likely have switched Fernando to a two-stop strategy after we fuelled the car for a long second stint. He started the race on three stops, but we designed the stop points in such a way that he could switch to two if the weather, or the way the race unfolded, dictated so. His speed immediately afterwards justified the decision and, without a doubt - with one less stop to make than Rubens [Barrichello] - we could have beaten him by a safe margin.

"Jarno, meanwhile, put in one of his best drives of the year. He raced in very difficult circumstances from the back of the grid, but attacked all the way and made the best of every opportunity. Moving from nineteenth to fifth position in a race which saw just four retirements is quite an achievement, and the only way of doing so was with a strong, aggressive drive.

"I think the R23B has done exactly what we expected of it, to be honest. The introduction of the major update at Silverstone, as well as the continued development by the engine division, really helped us maintain an extremely competitive pace in the latter part of the year. In addition, our tyre partner Michelin continued to work very hard. With more freedom of choice on tyres this year, we were able to press home the innate advantage that our chassis has."

With Renault planning to ditch its radical 110-degree V10 in favour of something a little closer in specification to the engines the majority of the field are running next season, Symonds is confident that the regie will be able to pose a realistic threat to the likes of Ferrari, Williams and McLaren at any event.

"2003 has been a relatively satisfying season, but we don't underestimate the large amount of work that still has to be done in order to win the world championship," he admitted, "The key to success in 2004 will be to enhance the weaker areas of our package, while ensuring that the stronger parts do not suffer in any way.

"The wind tunnel figures for next year's car are promising, and we are confident the chassis will be as good as ever. By moving to a new engine architecture, which will better suit the demands of the 700km engine life regulations, I think we are putting in place the components required to a more successful year in 2004."

 

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