Giancarlo Fisichella has hailed his Renault team after securing the outfit's best qualifying position of the season so far with fourth around the streets of Monte Carlo, and insists it is proof the reigning double world champions are now finally moving back in the right direction once more.

The Italian loves the challenge Monaco presents drivers with, and has frequently excelled at the track, having twice finished on the podium there and invariably shone in both qualifying and the race.

"This was a very good day for us," the 34-year-old enthused, "and I am proud of the job we have done not only this weekend, but also during the last weeks at the factory. The team has been working night and day to improve the performance of the R27, and this is another concrete sign that we are getting there.

"The car wasn't perfect at the start of qualifying, but we made some small changes to the balance and it was handling really well during the final part. Starting fourth is very promising for tomorrow's race, but I think today also shows we will be stronger at the next races too. Monaco is an unusual circuit, and we are not getting too excited, but we are definitely moving in the right direction."

Team-mate Heikki Kovalainen, making his maiden Formula 1 appearance around the Principality's narrow, tortuous streets, was not quite so fortunate, coming across David Coulthard on his final flying lap in Q2 and being badly baulked in the final few corners, enough to drop him out of the top ten. The Finn will consequently start the race from down in 14th on the grid, a severe penalty at Monaco where overtaking opportunities are at a particular premium.

"It was a very frustrating qualifying session for me," Kovalainen acknowledged. "My laps in the first part were not great, but I was getting more and more confident with the car, and on my final run I thought I could have made it into the top ten.

"I came round the first corner on my flying lap and saw Coulthard's Red Bull coming out of the pits, and thought he would move over after Casino - or into the tunnel at the latest. But he just stayed there all the way round and ruined the lap. To say the least, I was very surprised to see that from the most experienced driver in the field.

"It was a session to forget, so now I need to focus on tomorrow. From P14 it will be a very tough race, but I am determined to attack as much as possible and try to make up positions."

The R?gie's Executive Director of Engineering Pat Symonds was happy and frustrated in equal measure at the end of the session, delighted by Fisichella's performance but unhappy that Kovalainen's race had had been compromised so badly through no fault of his own.

"This was a fantastic result for Giancarlo and the team," he enthused. "After our recent difficulties, a second row position feels like pole position, although we know there is still a lot of work ahead of us. The unique nature of the circuit certainly helped us, but the car is also improving rapidly - and Giancarlo was able to make full use of it.

"My sympathy goes to Heikki. It is a shame that the oldest driver in the field, and the one who is most voluble about problems with traffic, was unable to adhere to his own principles. Clearly, our two drivers will have very different targets for tomorrow, but they will both be racing hard and looking to make the most of the recent improvements to the car."

 

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