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The ING Renault F1 Team endured a difficult qualifying session this afternoon at Malaysia's Sepang International Circuit. Under building clouds, in temperatures of 33°C in the air and 43°C on track, the team's drivers lost out in the second shootout phase of the qualifying session.
With P6 to P13 covered by just half a second, the competition was extremely close, and suffering from a lack of grip, neither driver was able to put their three fastest sectors together in the space of a single lap. Respectively, they missed out on the final phase of qualifying by 0.076s (HK) and 0.136s (GF).
While the overall level of performance is disappointing, the team must now focus on making the most of the situation – and racing for points in tomorrow's Grand Prix.
Heikki Kovalainen: The grip levels were improving with every run, and I think we had the pace to get into the top ten this afternoon. But I didn't manage to put my best three sectors together into one lap, so it's a little bit frustrating to end up eleventh – and outside the final shootout. From a personal point of view, though, this was a much better qualifying session for me compared to Melbourne. I think our race will be with Williams, Toyota and Red Bull tomorrow – and I am optimistic that I can do a good job.
Giancarlo Fisichella: The car has been tricky to drive all weekend: the balance is not too bad, but we are lacking grip, and that makes the handling quite unpredictable, which means it is hard to put a clean lap together. Just like in Melbourne, we are a long way from the leaders, and we know that we need to improve. Looking to tomorrow, it will be a tough race, as always – and we are starting quite far back. We need to make the right calls on strategy, and see how things unfold.
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: We felt we had made progress before this race but of course, the notion of competitiveness is always relative – and it is now clear that some of our rivals have made more progress on this circuit. Having said that, it is equally true to say that we didn't maximise our chances today. Clearly the overall level of performance is disappointing, but we now have to knuckle down and make the most of the situation we find ourselves in. We will look to take full advantage of our freedom to choose the fuel load for both cars, and race hard through the midfield pack tomorrow.
Denis Chevrier, Head of Engine Track Operations: From the team's point of view, the first thing we look for is equality of performance between the two drivers and, unlike in Melbourne, we clearly have that today. The midfield battle is exceptionally close, but we are not at the front of that group, and that makes life much more difficult. Starting from the second half of the field means we cannot realistically hope for a strong result, but we must nevertheless race well, and make the most of our opportunities. On the engine side, we were disappointed to suffer a recurrence of our fuel pump problems on Heikki's race chassis this morning, but qualifying ran smoothly – and we hope to see this continue throughout the Grand Prix.
To check out our Sepang qualifying gallery, click here
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