Buoyed by his strong performance at the Monaco Grand Prix just over a week ago, Giancarlo Fisichella heads to another of his favoured circuits expecting Renault to be challenging for more points.

After a poor start to the season by the double world champion team's standards, Fisichella is confident that improvements made before Monaco will translate into the rest of the campaign, starting with the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal this weekend.

"I think that we can be optimistic," the Italian insisted, "Things have improved for us in the last few weeks - the car balance is better and the overall grip is higher too.

"From my point of view, I am pleased to have put in a good performance at Monaco, because it is a real driver's circuit and that shows I am performing well, but it's important for me and for the team to see we are going forward step-by-step, and that we are finding answers to the problems we have suffered since the start of the season. The team has worked night and day in the last weeks, and it is a boost to everybody's determination to see the first rewards on track.

"Both factories are working flat out to improve the car even more, and all the members of the team are pushing to the limit - they have done a fantastic job so far. That hard work will definitely pay off, and I am confident that, in Montreal, we will show we're back on form."

Chief engineer Alan Permane shares both Fisichella's enjoyment of the Monaco result and the optimism heading to Montreal, claiming that the regie should be closer to third-placed BMW from now on.

"Everybody in the team has been working very hard over the past few months to turn the situation around, and Monaco was the first sign of that work bearing fruit on track," he confirmed, "It has traditionally been a good circuit for the team, and the improvements we have made to the car showed their worth on Saturday and Sunday. But, although we finished fourth, we were still a lap behind the leaders, and that shows there is a still a long way to go....

"However, I believe that, on a more normal circuit, we will be within striking distance of BMW. Until now, we have been racing with one eye on our mirrors, looking out for the midfield pack that includes Williams, Toyota and Red Bull, but, with the developments we introduced in Monaco, and those we have planned for the next races, I think we have given ourselves a cushion to that midfield group - and added the performance that can allow us to race aggressively against the cars in front."

Permane also revealed that, despite the results not rewarding the Italian, he felt that Fisichella was producing some of his best performances in recent years.

"Monaco's a circuit he loves, it rewards his natural talent and he did a great job," he said, "Right now, Giancarlo is driving as well as I have ever seen him. Circumstances have been difficult, but he has worked hard on getting the most out of the car, pushed hard on every lap, and has taken advantage of each small performance gain. He is in a very confident frame of mind, and the next two circuits are places where he has always raced very strongly."

The Italian has traditionally been strong in Canada, no matter which team he has been racing with, and has taken four podium finishes there in his career. He sees no reason why he can't challenge again this season.

"The last test and race have given us some more confidence, and I think we will perform well this weekend," he insisted, "Of course, it's a street circuit, so it will be very slippery on Friday. But, as the weekend goes on and the cars put rubber down, the grip levels will improve. When I start running, my focus will be on finding the braking points, rediscovering the line and keeping momentum through the chicanes, which is very important for a good lap-time."



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