At the conclusion of sixty-five action-packed laps at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya, the ING Renault F1 Team's dominant feelings were of frustration, alleviated only by the glimmer of hope offered by the improved performance of the R27 thanks to the team's recent development programmes.
Both drivers were forced to drive seriously compromised races owing to fuel rig problems, which affected Heikki's first and second stops and Giancarlo's second stop as neither driver was delivered sufficient fuel to complete their planned stints. As a result, both drivers were forced to make one more pit-stop than planned in their race strategy, and this cost the team a double points-scoring finish. However, Heikki Kovalainen nevertheless salvaged a seventh-place finish, the best of his career so far, while Giancarlo Fisichella finished just outside the points in ninth position.
However, the basic performance of the R27 confirmed that the team has made a small step forward in competitiveness since the last race, and this promises well for the coming weeks as the team continues to work on its development programme, while pursuing an intensive phase of research and analysis to cure the problems that are currently masking the car's true potential performance.
Heikki Kovalainen: This is my best finish so far in F1, which is something positive for me on a personal level, but within the team, we know that I was quick enough to finish in fifth position today. I am still pleased though, firstly because I got everything out of the car today throughout the whole race, and secondly because the car handling felt much better all the way through the race. We had problems at the first and second stops, and it meant we had to convert our strategy to three stops, and run really aggressive short stints on the soft tyres. During that part of the race, the car was working really well, and that continued during the final stint on the hard tyres. So while we are frustrated about the problems, I am happy to get more points, and we have shown that we are moving in the right direction. The car is getting faster, and although there is still a long way to go, we are confident that we will get back to our true position.
Giancarlo Fisichella: It was a really tough afternoon for me, with my strategy compromised by traffic, and then the pit-stop problem at the end. I got a good start, but got squeezed out during the run down to the first corner. Then I ran wide when I had snap oversteer in turn 3 and lost three positions, which left me behind Barrichello. I was much faster than him in terms of lap-time, but didn't have the speed to overtake on the straight. I only got into clean air after the second stop, and the car felt really good – I was pushing to the limit to try and build a gap to Sato before the final short stop, but I lost out by a few metres. It is frustrating to finish so close to the points after a day like this, but we can find some positives from the fact that we know our car was quick enough to finish fifth today. That is an encouraging step after the first three races, and I believe we can continue making progress.
Flavio Briatore, Managing Director: Today, the team has to say sorry to the drivers for the problems we had. The car was better than at the first three races; Heikki had a very consistent weekend, that showed what he can do; and Fisico battled all the way in spite of some difficult circumstances. But now, we need to investigate the fuel rig problems, and ensure they don't happen again. We have made progress, and that is positive, but every point is still vital, and we need to ensure we take the maximum from every race at this stage of the season.
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: Our race today was severely compromised by problems with our refuelling. The problems occurred on both cars, and with both fuel rigs in various combinations, which is more than mere coincidence. We are currently investigating the source of those problems. With Heikki, he ended up with a very light fuel load after his first and second stops, meaning we had to convert our strategy to make three stops and run short stints in the middle of the race. For Giancarlo, the problem occurred on his second and supposedly final stop, which meant we simply had to stop before the fuel ran out, and were unable to optimise his strategy. To salvage two points from such a challenging afternoon is a bonus, but at the same time, we are all extremely disappointed. Moving on from the problems, though, our relative competitiveness shows we have made a small step forward, as our qualifying performance had suggested. We know that we should have been fighting closer behind the leading group this afternoon, and that is a small consolation.
To check out our Spanish Grand Prix gallery, click here